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A St. Louis Surprise For The Grizzlies

Missouri is the Show Me State and Anthony Bonner has definitely displayed to the Victoria Grizzlies' hierarchy that he's worth a longer look.

The St. Louis product, who played [Tier III Jr. A, NA3HL] last season in the United States after taking a handful of years off from hockey to concentrate on football, has prolonged his stay as one of 40 remaining candidates with the B.C. Hockey League club.

Bonner survived first cuts on Monday and remains in play for pre-season action with the Grizzlies which begins Friday night at the Island Savings Centre in Duncan against the Cowichan Valley Capitals before the two teams return to Bear Mountain on Saturday at 5 p.m.

"He's quite the athlete," Grizzlies general manager and assistant coach Victor Gervais said of Bonner.

"His coach called and said, 'I have this player for you.' I said, 'OK, we'll bring him in. I'm not guaranteeing him a spot.'

"He's been a surprise," added Gervais. "I'm not saying he's going to make our team, yet, but he's close."

Bonner, a 1991-born defenceman, stands sixfoot-three and has focused on football the last handful of years, as a receiver.

"He's lanky," said Gervais. "Not real thick, but you can tell he's really athletic and he's a good kid, an awesome kid."

Aside from the St. Louis surprise, the Grizzlies have also witnessed expected results from the likes of veteran forwards Wesley Myron and Wade Murphy.

"Myron, we talked about him gaining an extra gear this year and he went out and did that. He's like a man playing against boys. I really like the way he's playing," said Gervais.

"Wade Murphy and Nick Buchanan have both stepped up as well."

The Grizzlies did lose Carter Rigby, who was traded from the Prince George Cougars to the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League Saturday. Rigby did not want to return to Prince George and was in Grizzlies' camp awaiting an outcome.

"We expected that from the time we picked him up. We knew he would go to the WHL, for sure," said Gervais. "It would have been a huge bonus if he'd stayed."

In goal, Garrett Rockafellow was outstanding all weekend, said Gervais as the team looks for a backup for expected starter Jamie Tucker.

Gervais and coaches Len Barrie and Rob Doyle have trimmed the original group of 56 down to 40 with final cuts to come following some pre-season play.

"I think next year's camp should run after the Labour Day weekend," suggested Gervais, who hopes to change it to a TuesdaytoThursday camp, followed by games Friday and Saturday to make it easier.

"Here, we had a lot of kids for a long period. I think this has been an excellent camp for the intensity, for the young kids trying out and the futures. It's been great hockey, very competitive, and that's what we asked for."

The team's schedule, after the weekend camp, changes to fitness workouts in the mornings with two groups, then on-ice sessions later in the afternoon.

The Grizzlies are in Duncan on Friday at 7: 30 p.m. and home the next day at 5 p.m. Victoria then concludes the exhibition schedule with two games against the Nanaimo Clippers on Sept. 16 at Frank Crane Arena and on Sept. 17 at the Sooke Arena, with a 7 p.m. start.

mannicchiarico@timescolonist.com

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