Welcome to the March 3, 2018 edition of BCHL Today, a (near) daily look at what’s going on around the league and the junior A world.
The Chilliwack Chiefs did something Friday night that they couldn’t do in seven regular season tries, beating the Prince George Spruce Kings.
I wrote yesterday that I didn’t think the Chiefs had much of a chance in this series, and I can see Chilliwack head coach Jason Tatarnic standing in the locker room, waving around a printed out copy of BCHL Today in his hand saying, ‘Did you see what Eric said about us?’
A roster of Chiefs angry at the disrespect shown by your friendly neighborhood sports then take to the ice at the CN Centre, outshoot the Spruce Kings 27-18 and win 3-0.
In short, I am giving myself 100 per cent of the credit for last night’s victory.
I might give a smidgeon of credit to Chiefs goalie Daniel Chenard, who was flawless earning his third career BCHL clean-sheet. Flashing back to the preseason, many people told me Chenard had the potential to be a better goaltender than Mark Sinclair, another Caledonia Corvairs grad who backstopped Chilliwack to the Fred Page Cup final last year.
It never materialized in the regular season as Chenard was dogged by a nagging groin injury and couldn’t get on a roll.
Consistent goaltending is the biggest element the Chiefs have lacked this year, and if Chenard can start to fulfill some of that preseason promise, it changes the equation for Chilliwack. But the key word is ‘consistent.’ Chenard and teammate Mathieu Caron have both shown glimpses of greatness as 17 year olds. But great starts have often been followed by disasters. Chenard needs to string together a series of solid efforts.
Chenard got offensive support from Adam Berg, Will Calverley and Tommy Lee.
Calverley scored shorthanded just 35 ticks into the middle frame to give Chilliwack a 2-0 lead and the Chiefs power play came through with a (rare) big goal 50 seconds into period three to give Chilliwack the three goal lead.
Speaking of teams flipping the table, the Alberni Valley Bulldogs are up 1-0 on the Victoria Grizzlies after a 5-4 overtime victory Friday night at the Q Centre.
In a couple recent columns I’ve questioned the validity of the Dawgs as a playoff squad.
I can see Alberni Valley head coach Matt Hughes in the Alberni Valley locker room, waving around one of those BCHL Today columns saying, ‘Did you see that some clown in Chilliwack said we don’t belong in the playoffs?’
Yes I’m taking credit for this one too, with a small nod to ex-Chief Cole Poliziani, who was so mad at me he went out and scored the overtime winner.
Poliziani scored two goals with Michael Sacco, Oliver Mitchell and Dawson Tritt adding singles. Sacco’s was a dramatic tally with 5:41 remaining that sent the game to extra time.
AV goalie Brock Hawthorne stopped 34 of 38 shots. Victoria netminder Zachary Rose stopped 32 of 37. This wasn’t a game that the Dawgs stole on the back of great goaltending. Alberni Valley was full value for the win.
The Coquitlam Express put up a much tougher fight than anyone expected in game one of their first round series versus Penticton’s vaunted Vees, but the end result was a 2-1 loss at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
Fans expecting a rout were disappointed by Coquitlam keeper Brock Hamm, who stopped 37 of 39 pucks.
A Christian Sanda goal 56 seconds into the second period had the game tied 1-1, but Penticton’s Jack Barnes collected the game winner six minutes and 12 seconds later. Penticton goaltender Adam Scheel was good when he had to be, stopping 18 of 19 shots. Coquitlam had a five minute power play midway through period three when James Miller was booted from the game for a check from behind.
Backed by Scheel, the Vees’ top-ranked PK unit came through with the kill.
Side note: Maybe it says something about the opponent and expectations that only 2,539 fans came out to see game one. I say ‘only’ because Penticton topped 3,000 fans per game this year, setting a Canadian Junior Hockey League mark for attendance.
A wild game in Trail saw Kale Howarth score the winner as his Smoke Eaters escaped with a 6-5 overtime triumph over the West Kelowna Warriors.
I wrote yesterday that this was the most intriguing matchup in the Interior division, and it met expectations in game one as two defensively-suspect teams went head to head. I also wrote that star power would make the biggest difference for Trail, and it did.
Howarth led the way with two goals and an assist while Ross Armour had three helpers. Blaine Caton, Tyler Ghirardosi (whose name always makes me think of chocolate), Andre Ghantous and Jeremy Lucchini also scored for the Smoke Eaters, who showed they can get offence up and down the lineup.
On the other side, Chase Dubois had a five point night for West Kelowna with two goals and three assists. Ryan Steele had two goals and an assist and Warrior captain Jared Marino had one and one.
West K can thank goalie Nik Amundrud for getting the game to OT, though there’s no single point for losing in the playoffs. The veteran stopper turned aside 49 pucks as his Warriors were outshot 55-28. Trail’s Adam Marcoux struggled at the other end, making 23 stops on 28 shots.
Something to keep an eye on as the series moves on. Trail’s Carter Jones was chucked from the game midway through the second period after delivering a blow to the head, and such things are often followed up with supplementary discipline. Losing the 18 year old Spokane native for any length of time would be a big hit to the Smokies.
I talked yesterday about how the Merritt Centennials turned away from red-hot stopper Austin Roden and turned to veteran Jacob Berger in game one versus Wenatchee, losing 4-0.
Maybe Powell River coach Brock Naylor took note.
The surprise starter for game one of the Kings series versus Nanaimo was Derek Krall, an 18 year old with 231 minutes of previous BCHL experience. But the Crofton native’s three most recent outings saw him stop 25 shots in a 4-1 win over Alberni Valley, 46 shots in a 2-1 win over Vernon and 39 shots in a 7-1 win over Chilliwack.
Krall was the dictionary definition of a ‘hot hand,’ and got the nod over more established goalie Matteo Paler-Chow. He rewarded Naylor’s faith with a 31 save effort in a 4-1 win over the Clippers.
A scoreless first period was followed by a wild middle frame where the teams combined for 34 shots on goal (20-14 favouring Powell River). Krall stood tall at his end but Nanaimo’s Taz Burman couldn’t hold back the tide, giving up goals 48 seconds apart to Neal Samanski and Carter Turnbull at 8:59 and 9:47. Josh Coblenz added a third Kings goal at 17:08 and Kevin Obssuth put the game out of reach with a snipe 1:08 into period three.
Nanaimo’s only goal came at the 10 minute mark of the final frame off the stick of David Silye.
I have no idea if Krall can maintain his performance going forward. His numbers up until this season were meh, but he was good with the junior B Nanaimo Buccaneers and has now been very good in four BCHL starts.
Maybe he figured something out this season, or maybe not, but it’s a great story while it lasts.
And it makes the BCHL’s most fascinating first-round series even more interesting than it already is.
The other two Friday night games saw Surrey get goals from Desi Burgart, Ty Westgard and Connor Sundquist in a 3-2 home ice win over the Langley Rivermen.
In Vernon, a four-point night from Derek Brown powered the Vipers to a one-sided 5-2 win over Salmon Arm. Brown had one goal and three assists. Cameron Trott, Jagger Williamson, Mitch Andres and Josh Latta also scored for Vernon.
Seven series resume tonight. The only teams not in action are the Victoria Grizzlies and Alberni Valley Bulldogs, who resume their series tomorrow afternoon.
Eric Welsh is the sports editor at the Chilliwack Progress and has been covering junior A hockey in B.C. and Alberta since 2003.