Grizzlies overpower Black Fish in inaugural ALL West game

by Gary Ahuja

Grizzlies' goaltender Brandon Humphrey makes a save during his  team's season-opening 13-5 win over the Black Fish on December 11 at Langley Events Centre, in the first-ever Arena Lacrosse League West Division game. Garrett James photos

Some words of pre-game wisdom – combined with a deadly power play and lights-out goaltending – helped the Grizzlies go into the history books on Saturday night as winners of the inaugural Arena Lacrosse League West Division game.

The Grizzlies scored three times with the man advantage while their goaltenders combined to stop 43 of 48 shots in their team’s 13-5 win over the Black Fish as the Arena Lacrosse League debuted their new four-team West Division at Langley Events Centre.

Prior to the opening ceremonies and start of the game, Dennis Joseph (who is serving as the Grizzlies’ cultural ambassador) spoke to the players of the Creator’s game and the sport’s rich history, explained Tewanee Joseph, one of the Grizzlies’ assistant coaches.

It fueled a fast start for the team as they scored twice in the first 3:30 and took a 2-1 lead after one quarter before breaking the game wide-open in the second period with three straight goals and a 5-2 lead at the break. The three goals were as close as the Black Fish would get as they fell behind 11-3 early in the fourth quarter before the teams each scored twice to close the game out.

Grizzlies head coach Rob Williams said his team’s speed and defensive system were the keys, as was the fact the players they drafted delivered what they expected.

“Our guys bought into (our plan),” he said. “And I just liked the job my brother (Ryan) and Brian (Borkowsky) did in the draft. We got all the players we wanted and it worked out tonight.”

Mitch McDole scored four times and finished with five points while Brandon Humphrey stopped 23 of 26 shots in the first half to lead the Grizzlies. McDole’s five points were matched by teammate James Baker (two goals, three assists) while Pearson Willis wasn’t far behind, finishing with four assists. Andrew Gresham (three assists) and Jacob Patterson (two goals, one assist) each had three-point games while Kieran McKay (one goal, one assist), Cody Garrison (one goal, one assist) and Brayden Laity (two assists) also had multi-point games. Mathieu Jung, Erik Maas and Aaron Skye rounded out the scoring with a goal apiece.

“These boys came together and really connected with each other, that is what I was most happy to see. The winning is part of it, but the main part is to play for each other and play for a greater purpose and that is what these boys did tonight,” added Tewanee Joseph.

The Black Fish trio of Ryan Jones (two goals, one assist), Jon Phillips (one goal, two assists) and Nick Jensen (two goals) were responsible for their team’s offensive output.

Black Fish coach Rod Jensen liked his team’s start, noting that they hit the cross bar twice in the early going, but ultimately, too many penalties contributed to the loss. 

“You can’t win a game when you are in the penalty box that much. Quite a bit was on us. We had three too many men … in the WLA that is just a change in possession and here it is a penalty. And in this type of league, if you are in the box, you are going to get scored on,” he said.

He did also mention the play of his two goaltenders, as Geordie Bowden (five goals allowed, 35 saves) and Justin Geddie (eight goals allowed, 32 saves) combined to make 67 saves as they were outshot 80-48.

The Grizzlies are next in action on December 18 at 6:00pm when they face the Shooting Eagles while the Black Fish face the Sea Spray on December 19 at 6:00pm.