Welcome to the Feb. 17, 2018 edition of BCHL Today, a (near) daily look at what’s going on around the league and the junior A world.
If you’re watching Olympic hockey lately and find yourself thinking, ‘I wonder if that guy ever played for the Quesnel Millionaires,’ you’re A) not wrong and B) need to step away from the BCHL for a while.
The Team Canada roster is littered with players who spent time in the Canadian Junior Hockey League, including three who played in the BCHL.
Remember Gilbert Brule? He spent 48 spectacular games with Quesnel in 2002-03, scoring 32 goals and 57 points. Always a feisty player, the Edmonton native added 71 penalty minutes. Brule went on to play for the Western Hockey League’s Vancouver Giants. He was picked sixth overall in the 2005 National Hockey League entry draft and became, sadly, one of the more underwhelming top-10 selections in recent memory.
If I set the over-under on Brule teams since leaving the Columbus system at 11.5, you’d be wise to take the over.
He’s played for 12: the Edmonton Oilers (NHL), Springfield Falcons (AHL), Oklahoma City Barons (AHL), Phoenix Coyotes (NHL), ZSC Lions (Switzerland), Portland Pirates (AHL), Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg (KHL), Medvescak Zagreb (KHL), Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk (KHL), Traktor Chelyabinsk (KHL), Kunlun Red Star (KHL) and now Team Canada.
Andrew Ebbett was a Salmon Arm Silverback for 60 games during the 2001-02 season and moved on to college hockey at the University of Michigan before embarking on a similarly nomadic hockey journey. He’s spent the last three seasons with SC Bern of the Swiss league.
Here he is, looking like he should be a coach and not a player.
Chay Genoway was a Vernon Viper during the 2005-06 season before moving on to five years at the University of North Dakota, the last two as the captain of the Fighting Sioux… ahem… Hawks. Genoway can claim to be a career point-per-game player in the NHL. The Manitoba native collected an assist in his one and only big-league game, during the 2011-12 campaign with the Minnesota Wild.
Not quite a Moonlight Graham scenario, but close.
Finally, former Viper and Merritt Centennial Luke Pierce is an assistant coach for the Canadian mens’ sledge hockey squad.
There were seven games in the league last night and we’ll start in Chilliwack where the underwhelming Chiefs… underwhelmed.
Chilliwack hosted a very beatable Merritt Centennials squad at Prospera Centre and fell 5-2 in a crucial game for both teams.
The Chiefs needed the two points to solidify their hold on the second seed in the Mainland division while the Centennials are trying to track down the Salmon Arm Silverbacks for the sixth seed in the Interior.
Chilliwack followed a familiar and maddening pattern.
Harrison Blaisdell opened the scoring just nine seconds in, and his crew looked liked the juggernaut they were always supposed to be in a dominant first period. They looked like the thoroughly average team that they are in the second period and were somewhere in between for the third.
Tyrell Buckley had a three-point night for Merritt with a goal and two assists. Zach Risteau scored the game winning goal in the third period and had an assist. Rylan Van Unen, Nicholas Wicks and Zach Zorn also scored for Merritt.
Tommy Lee scored the second Chilliwack goal.
If ever there was a team that might be able to ‘flip the switch’ come playoff time, the Chiefs may be it. At their very best, they look like they’d be a handful for Prince George or Penticton or Vernon or Wenatchee. At their worst, which is way more likely, they’ll be out in the first round and be one of the least impressive Royal Bank Cup hosts in recent memory.
On the Merritt side, a round of applause for goaltender Austin Roden, who stopped 38 of 40 Chilliwack shots.
The netminder hasn’t been talked about, but he has been sneaky good since coming over in a trade from Nanaimo Oct. 28, posting a 2.23 goals-against average and .938 save percentage in 18 outings for Merritt. The best news for the Cents is the 19 year old has another year of BCHL eligibility and no college commitment (yet).
The Surrey Eagles took advantage of Chilliwack’s stumble, beating the Prince George Spruce Kings 5-2 at the South Surrey Arena.
Ty Westgard and Matthew Campese each had two-point outings with a goal and two helpers. Ryan Brushett, Jeffrey Stewart and Desi Burgart also scored for the Eagles, who snapped a seven game losing streak.
Blake Hayward and Liam Watson-Brawn scored for PG.
Surrey moved two points ahead of Chilliwack and Langley for second place in the Mainland division. Both teams hold a game in hand in this turtle derby.
If you’re handicapping this race, give the edge to the Rivermen. Though they’ve struggled mightily lately, four of their final five games are on home ice at the George Preston Arena. Meanwhile, the Chiefs have three on the road (Alberni Valley/Powell River/Nanaimo) followed by two at home vs Prince George. Surrey has a home game against Penticton followed by an Island road trip through Nanaimo, Cowichan Valley and Victoria.
Getting back to Prince George for a moment, with the Chiefs losing, the Spruce Kings have officially wrapped up the division title.
This is PG’s first division title in their 21 years in the BCHL. The Sprucies were strong second-place finishers in 2003-04 and 2013-14, but have been a middling lower-end team for most of their existence. Congrats to the long-suffering Prince George fans.
The Nanaimo Clippers stretched their win streak to eight, bombing the Cowichan Capitals 7-1 at the Frank Crane Arena.
Cowichan netminder Michael Corson will have PTSD after facing 50 Nanaimo shots, including 24 in the second period alone. Lucas Vanroboys and Vincent Millette scored two goals apiece with David Silye, Brandon Marinelli and Preston Brodziak adding singles. Ty ‘Soda’ Pochipinski scored the lone Caps goal.
Nanaimo netminder Taz Burman pulled out a lawn-chair to relax and watch the show at the other end of the ice. Cowichan only bothered the ‘Tasmanian Devil’ with 16 shots.
Unfortunately for Nanaimo, they didn’t gain ground in the Island division standings because the Victoria Grizzlies and Powell River Kings also won. Victoria blanked Salmon Arm 3-0 and Powell River scored a huge 2-1 win over Vernon.
And that’s where we jump next.
Hosting the mighty Vipers at the Hap Parker Arena, the Kings got another memorable performance from a goalie you’ve never heard of.
Until last weekend, Derek Krall had 51 minutes and 12 seconds of experience in a BCHL net, and hadn’t seen any action since early December. Stepping in for injured regulars Mitch Adamyk and Matteo Paler-Chow, Krall got the nod last Monday and stopped 25 of 26 pucks in a 4-1 home-ice win over Alberni Valley.
He was back between the pipes against Vernon, and one-upped himself.
Forty seven shots against. Forty six saves and the easiest first-star selection of the season. Jimmy Lambert was the only Viper to beat him, collecting his 19th of the season midway through the final frame.
Ben Berard scored Powell River’s goals, one in the first and one in the second.
Huge props to the Kings for keeping this season on track. Between the firing of long-time head coach Kent Lewis and the crazy-bad luck with goalies, Powell River was a perfect candidate to go in the tank. Instead, they’re one point out of first place in the Island division.
Finally, some Interior division titans were in action.
Penticton took down the Express by a 5-1 count in Coquitlam, led by a pair of Owen Sillinger snipes. Unsurprising result.
Trail fell 5-2 in Wenatchee.
Wild forward Jasper Weatherby scored twice in the win over the Smokies to move two ahead of Surrey’s John Wesley for the BCHL goal-scoring lead. Weatherby is up to 37 while Wesley has 35, and Weatherby is also starting to run away in the points-race, where he holds a 72-67 lead over Surrey’s Ty Westgard.
Some clarification is coming to the Interior standings, where the first place Vees now have a four point cushion over the second place Wild and Vipers.
The Smoke Eaters have fallen well off the pace thanks to a difficult schedule that has seen them play Penticton, Penticton, Salmon Arm, Prince George and Wenatchee.
They stay in Wenatchee for another game tonight. Trailing Vernon/Wenatchee by eight points and leading West Kelowna by 13, consider Trail locked into the fourth seed.
Eric Welsh is the sports editor at the Chilliwack Progress and has been covering junior A hockey in B.C. and Alberta since 2003.