With their victory on May 9, the Victoria Grizzlies pod season came to an end. The Grizzlies finished with a record of 14-6-0-0, earning them 28 points. They were also the number one team in the Port Alberni pod.
Many surprises emerged during the season. Several players stood out on the team with stellar seasons. Some teams in the Port Alberni pod fared better than others. And several Grizzlies played their final games with the team.
Many of these players have college commitments waiting for them. Players like Alex DiPalo and Jake Veilleux start in the NCAA next season.
With this article, I want to talk about the pod season as it’s actually the most successful Grizzlies season in years.
It was incredible for the BCHL to have any season during the COVID-19 pandemic. In total, 160 games were played across the sixteen teams that participated. Every team was able to play their allotted games before the season concluded.
With many people starting to get the COVID-19 vaccine, there is hope for the future. The hope that a more traditional season can occur this September.
Starting off, we have the emergence of Carter Woodside as the Grizzlies starting goaltender. Woodside was acquired by the Grizzlies before the trade deadline in February. In April, I wrote about Woodside after the pod season started.
Initially, I thought that Woodside and Justin Easter would evenly split games between them. I was wrong as Woodside filled the number-one role of former Grizzlies goalie Blake Wood.
Wood was the workhorse for the team. He was the veteran who backstopped the team during the exhibition season. Woodside has since filled that role well. His final record for the pod season was 9-6-0 in fifteen starts.
Another emerging player is Isack Bandu. After the pod season, Bandu finished second in total points with five goals and 18 assists. He beat out team captain Brady MacDonald, Devon De Vries, Eddie Yan, and Schreifels in total points. Only super rookie Ellis Rickwood had more points than Bandu.
Luckily for the Grizzlies, Bandu is listed on the BCHL website as heading to Northern Michigan University in September 2022.
Rivals new and old
During the exhibition season, the Grizzlies finished second in the Island Cup after dropping the final 5-4 against the Nanaimo Clippers. In the pod season, the Grizzlies finished number one among the four teams on Vancouver Island. Interestingly enough, their main rival wasn’t Nanaimo, it was Alberni Valley.
The host of the pod was the Grizzlies’ primary challenge for the Port Alberni pod championship. Going into the games on May 7, the Grizzlies and Bulldogs were actually tied for number one in the pod.
With the Grizzlies winning back-to-back games against the Bulldogs, they secured the top spot and Alberni Valley finished in second place.
The Victoria Grizzlies finish their season as the Island Division Champions with a 7-2 barn burner over the @AVBulldogs tonight! https://t.co/rYUN8KGfO9@BCHockeyLeague #Allin | #WeAreGrizzlies | #IslandChamps
— Victoria Grizzlies (@BCHLGrizzlies) May 10, 2021
In a past article, I wrote about the rivalry between the Grizzlies and Bulldogs. This season is another chapter cementing that rivalry.
While the Bulldogs were the Grizzlies’ main rivals during the season, something else started to develop. I’m talking about the slow emergence of the Cowichan Valley Capitals. The Caps were a team the Grizzlies dominated during the exhibition season.
The Capitals played Victoria seven times during the pod season In those seven games, the Grizzlies won four times and one of them was a 10-0 blowout victory on Apr. 16. Despite that lopsided result, the series was close.
Compared to the exhibition season, the Capitals were a better team during the pod campaign. I believe they’ll continue to improve come next season.
After clinching the Port Alberni pod championship, several Grizzlies move on before next season. Many of these players are aging out with college commitments waiting for them.
Jake Veilleux has committed to the University of Connecticut, MacDonald is off to Dartmouth College, while DiPaolo heads to Colgate University.
Then there’s Schreifels, who slated to head back to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in the fall. He rejoined the Grizzlies after RPI canceled its season because of COVID-19.
Also leaving are Yan and Reid Lindsay, who age out as 20-year-olds. Yan will most likely join the Chinese national team and as of this writing, Lindsay doesn’t have a college commitment.
These players were part of the most successful Grizzlies team in a number of seasons. There may be no playoffs this season, but this team leaves the Port Alberni pod as champions.