Grizzlies forward Lucas Clark drives to the net during a 2017 playoff game against the Powell River Kings. The second-year forward has been named the club’s captain. (Gazette photo).

Grizzles looking forward to ‘exciting’ season

Number of veteran players return to lead the charge

With the Victoria Grizzlies firming up its starting roster for the season opener against the Vernon Vipers this week, head coach Craig Didmon expects it will be an exciting season for the junior A hockey club.

“We have a lot of speed, a lot of skill and some size,” said Didmon. “There’s a lot of real good qualities coming at the opposition and I think it’s a really driven group of guys. It’s an exciting year for sure.”

Returning this year, include veteran forwards Jamie Rome and Lucas Clark. The six-foot-two-inch, 197-pound Rome put up 20 goals and 23 assists last season, along with 60 penalty minutes in the regular season.

Twenty-year-old Clark, who is in his final year with the Grizzlies, takes over the captaincy from fellow Ontarian Cody Van Lierop. The six-foot, 205-pound forward produced 17 goals and 26 assists in the regular season and was a key player in the Grizzlies’ run to the semi-finals last season.

“It’s a big season for him personally. He’s going to be an offensive player for us, as well as he’s a big, tough player. He creates a lot of space for other players,” said Didmon. “He’s great defensively and great offensively.”

On defence, the Grizzlies will benefit from the return of Carter Berger and Nico Somerville, who last season tallied 11 points and five points, respectively, as well as Victoria native Drayson Pears, who produced five goals and 20 assists in 58 regular-season games.

The Grizzlies are coming off a successful 2016-17 season, claiming the B.C. Hockey League’s Island Divsion crown. But the team’s campaign came to an end, following a 4-2 loss to the Chilliwack Chiefs in the semi finals of the Fred Page Cup playoffs.

This season, Didmon has lofty goals for the young players, which include claiming the Island division for a second year in a row and another run at the Fred Page Cup.

“Both those are goals we put in front of ourselves. We have a lot of really great teams in our division, so it’s not an easy task,” Didmon said. “We feel a league title is something that’s at grasp and something we can really work for.”

The team wrapped up the last of its exhibition games on Sunday against the Alberni Valley Bulldogs in Sooke.

The regular season kicks off with back-to-back games against the Powell River Kings, Sept. 8 and 9 at Hap Parker Arena.

The Grizzlies’ home opener goes Friday, Sept. 28 against the Vernon Vipers.

kendra.wong@goldstream gazette.com