The Grizzlies’ Friday night tilt against the Summerland Steam was the one of the best games at the Forum this season. The home team kept the lead throughout, but had to fight off challenges, including a last-minute nailbiter.
Heading into the homestretch, the Grizzlies have struggled in the divisional basement for the past two seasons, but that only encourages the home crowd. The Forum was nearing full on Friday and the beer garden was very full, with tons of enthusiasm for the home team.
The Grizzlies took the lead in the first with a power play goal from Steven Fiust.
A flurry of scoring in the last three minutes of the second period defined the game.
Brady Mende made it 2-0 with 3:20 left, but the Grizzlies messed up a change and got docked for too many men on the ice.
In the ensuing powerplay, Summerland’s Wyatt Gale scored with just over a minute left in the second period, setting up what looked to be a tight third.
The Grizzlies top forwards answered in just 12 seconds, when Steven Fiust assisted Tyler Chavez Leech in a beauty of a goal. Cutting to the right of the net under heavy pressure, Fiust lifted a backhander over the netminder’s shoulder, and raised the crowd back into it.
The Grizzlies maintained their lead in the third, but got into trouble when Summerland yanked their goalie with two minutes left.
Summerland star Jack Mills showed great poise and put it in the net with just 39 seconds left.
The Steam actually had another two great chance to tie it with 20 seconds left, including two unscreened shots from close. Grizzlies Goalie Aidan Doak turned them away and looked solid in his play all night, including a gutsy head-first poke challenge against a streaking Steam forward.
Unfortunately for the Grizzlies, the 100 Mile House Wranglers wrapped and slapped the Sicamous Eagles 5-1 on Friday, meaning the Grizzlies are still six points back of the Wranglers with seven games to go.
The Grizzlies are back in action Saturday in a Hockey Day game versus the 100 Mile House Wranglers in Salmon Arm. The 3 p.m. matchup will be absolutely key for the Grizzlies; a win bringing them closer to striking distance, and a loss setting them almost too far back.
Expect a Revelstoke contingent to make the 100-kilometre drive to Salmon Arm.