Roberts buries OT winner as Black Fish extend Grizzlies slump

by Gary Ahuja

Despite five goals and nine points from the Grizzlies' Kyle Brunsch (left), Nick Jensen and the Black Fish prevailed 15-14 in overtime in week 11 action of the Arena Lacrosse League West Division action at Langley Events Centre on Jan. 30. Ryan Molag photo

Sports can be cruel.

Despite trailing for less than three minutes over the entirety of the game, the Grizzlies wound up on the losing end of a 15-14 score to the Black Fish on Tuesday night at Langley Events Centre.

The Grizzlies trailed just three times over the course of the Arena Lacrosse League West Division game – 1-0 for 45 seconds in the first quarter and then twice in the fourth quarter 13-12 for 66 seconds and 14-13 for another 56 seconds. But the game would go to overtime and Jordan Roberts buried the winner, ending the game at the 2:24 mark of sudden-death overtime.

It marked an eight straight defeat for the Grizzlies who now sit at 2-9 on the season. Their last five losses have come by a combined six goals.

Grizzlies coach Justin Doucette knows the team is getting closer and closer to earning a victory.

“We want to be able to play 60 full minutes and not take off five or six minutes, which really cost us,” he said.

“It is like the batter who is at the plate and keeps striking out, but once he gets that first hit, things will start to roll. It is the monkey on our back/”

Black Fish coach Rod Jensen said his team has changed their mentality since returning from the holiday break and it has paid off with four wins in the past five games to improve to 6-5.

“We know these games go back and forth, so we’ve told the guys don’t worry if we are up or down and just be prepared for every game to be tight,” he said. “We hung in there and waited; we know we have a pretty good offence, even though we are missing some lefties.”

The Grizzlies took an 8-4 lead to the locker room at halftime but penalty problems allowed the Black Fish to get back into the game as they scored two power-play goals in 14 seconds on consecutive two-man advantages and then added a third power-play goal 37 seconds later to make it 8-7.

Despite that lapse – which included the Grizzlies coaches getting whistled for a bench minor after a Black Fish which gave their opponent another two-man advantage – Doucette liked how his team responded to the adversity.

“But the players themselves picked themselves back up, which is a testament to where we have been. I think in the early games, we would put our head down and they would keep going down and that’s where scores would separate a bit more. And now we are fighting to the end and keeping the games tight,” he said.

Ultimately, the teams would need overtime and after each side had multiple possessions in the sudden-death period, only the Black Fish were able to get the ball on net with Roberts burying the winner on his team’s fourth shot.

For the second consecutive game, Connor Watson earned first star honours as the Black Fish captain had a hat trick and seven points. Laszlo Henning (the third star) finished with four goals and six points.

The pair lead the ALL West with 27 and 24 goals, respectively.

“They have such good sense of the floor and good finish,” Jensen said.

The rest of the offence came courtesy of Roberts (3-1), Chase McIntyre (2-1), Nathan Roseborsky (1-3), Ethan M’Lot (1-2) and Nick Jensen (1-1). Both the team’s goalies saw action with Dave Mather stopping 22 of 30 shots while Brandon Humphrey made 21 saves on 27 shots.

Kyle Brunsch was the second star after his five-goal, nine-point performance while Sekawnee Baker also had three goals and three assists. Drew Kask (2-3), Pearson Willis (2-2), Jack Margetson (1-0) and Toru Morimatsu (1-0) had the other goals. Brayden Wandler stopped 36 of 51 shots.

For Brunsch, this marked his third straight game where he has finished with five goals and nine points.

“He is doing things with the ball and off the ball. He has energy every shift, he is focused every time he steps on the floor and guys are starting to follow suit. He has been unreal,” Doucette said.

The coach also credited the play of Baker, the team’s leading scorer with 56 points in 10 games. While Baker has always been a threat at the offensive end, Doucette said Baker has been playing with more energy and more responsible defensively, as well as getting to loose balls and that has been contagious.

Up next: The Grizzlies are next in action on February 6 against the Shooting Eagles while the Black Fish play the Sea Spray on February 7. Both games are at Langley Events Centre with 7:00pm start times.