Welcome to the Feb. 27, 2018 edition of BCHL Today, a (near) daily look at what’s going on around the league and the junior A world.
The regular season is over, the 986 game slate wrapping up with four Sunday games.
The playoff matchups are set for the Fred Page Cup race that begins Friday night. I’ll take a deeper dive into the eight series later this week, but there are a couple items of interest to touch on today before switching into playoff mode.
Let’s start with Powell River, which stumbled badly on the final weekend.
|Forward Jackson Doucet takes a shot on goal during a Sunday, Feb. 25 game against the Powell River Kings. ELENA RARDON PHOTO|
Over the past few weeks I’ve been getting regular notes from Kings play-by-play man Alex Rawnsey talking about the various goalies who’ve kept the team afloat whilst regulars Mitch Adamyk and Matteo Paler-Chow were injured.
Derek Krall is so unheralded his stats don’t even exist on the Powell River goalie stats page, but he posted a 2.08 goals-against average and .947 save percentage over four appearances, winning three of them. Midget goalie Cam Stevenson came off the bench when Adamyk went down, turning in a 21 save performance in a huge win over Alberni Valley.
Well, Paler-Chow returned to the net Friday, suiting up for a road game Friday vs the lowly Cowichan Caps, and Powell River lost 3-2.
The Kings turned to Alex Rolfe for a Saturday nighter at Alberni Valley, and they lost 5-4 at the Weyerhauser Arena.
Paler-Chow was back in goal Sunday afternoon for a 4-2 loss at Alberni Valley.
Three games against two teams with a combined record of 17-73-10-6. Three losses and now Powell River is the road team for their first round series versus Nanaimo.
Now, don’t think I’m pinning all of this on Paler-Chow, because I’m not. First, I credit the Caps for fighting hard even though their season has been a lost cause for months, and I credit Alberni Valley for dialing it up in two games that, standings-wise, meant nothing to them.
I do find that teams will often relax (consciously or subconsciously) when injured players return to the lineup, and maybe that’s what happened here.
Maybe Powell River played extra disciplined in front of their unknown goalies and breathed a sign of relief when Paler-Chow returned. Who knows. I’m playing amateur psychologist here. But I do blame the Kings collectively for not taking care of business with a schedule that left them playing three games against lower rung teams, needing just three points to finish second in the Island division.
They fell flat in a big spot.
They have a four days to hit the reset button before heading to Clipperville for the start of round one.
Speaking of teams you need to worry about, the Trail Smoke Eaters capped off their regular season Saturday night with an 8-3 loss to Vernon at Kal Tire Place.
The Smokies won just two of their last nine games, both against the seventh place Salmon Arm Silverbacks.
They can’t be the most confident bunch heading into a first-round series against a tough West Kelowna Warriors squad.
The Vipers didn’t need the win against Trail, but you wouldn’t know it from the scoresheet, which shows Vernon holding a 46-22 edge in shots on goal.
The game was 2-1 Vipers 1:13 into period two after Trail’s Andre Ghantous beat netminder Anthony Yamnitsky. But Vernon responded rapid-fire style, with three goals in 3:35 to blow the game open. Brett Stapley scored two of them. Keyvan Mokhtari scored the other. Stapley added the hat-trick goal in the third period with Jimmy Lambert and Mitch Andres also lighting the lamp behind Trail netminder Tanner Marshall.
To be fair, this game didn’t mean anything standings-wise to the Smoke Eaters either, hence starting their backup goalie.
But no matter what’s going on, you always want to put up a tough fight against a division rival.
It looks like Trail mailed this one in.
Side note: Do they like being called the Smokies? I’ve never asked.
Have I underrated the Prince George Spruce Kings as a BCHL title contender?
I watched them twice over the weekend, and nothing jumps off the page at me. They’re not loaded with elite talent beyond Ethan de Jong, who ranked 10th in league scoring this season. Ben Brar (57-25-29-54) and Ben Poisson (53-22-29-51) are good pieces, but after them PG’s scoring drops off dramatically. Eleven of the BCHL’s 17 teams scored more goals than the Spruce Kings.
Defensively, this team is very good in a boring kind of way. They are disciplined and they play Adam Maglio’s system to perfection. Only the Penticton Vees and Vernon Vipers gave up fewer goals than Prince George, which finished the season with back-to-back shutouts of Chilliwack (2-0, Saturday) and Langley (1-0, Sunday).
Evan DeBrouwer, PG’s main man in net, is the biggest reason to fear the Sprucies in a best-of-seven series. The Mainland division’s nominee for the BCHL Goaltending Award posted a 2.24 goals-against average and .920 save percentage in 45 appearances.
There is plenty of grumbling about the way the Spruce Kings play.
One person I talked to on the weekend said ‘it’s coaches like that who are killing hockey.’
They draw comparisons to the National Hockey League’s mid-2000s New Jersey Devils for the way they forecheck passively, clog up the neutral zone and collapse around their net. But Maglio’s dead-puck tactics led PG to its first ever division title.
He’s not going to change things now. Why would he? Opponents will have to figure out a way to deal with it.
The Chilliwack Chiefs handed out team awards at a Sunday brunch, with goaltender Mathieu Caron needing help to carry out all of his trophies.
The 17 year old won three of them as he was named the team’s most improved player, scholastic player of the year and most community-minded player.
Team captain Will Calverley shared the MVP award with Tommy Lee. Calverley also took home the Joey Potskin Top Scorer Award while Lee snagged the Fan Favourite Award.
Hard-working Anthony Vincent was an easy choice as the most dedicated player.
|You never have to doubt the effort being put forth by Chilliwack Chiefs winger Anthony Vincent (left in white). JENNA HAUCK PHOTO|
Matt Slick was named the team’s top defenceman and top rookie while gritty winger Jared Turcotte was named the unsung hero.
I have no arguments with any of those choices.
With the regular season over, I wanted to take time to recognize the veterans who are aging out of the league, starting today with the Mainland division.
Some fans will love to see them go. Some fans will miss them dearly.
I’d just like to thank them for choosing to play in the BCHL and make this league so much fun to cover.
From the Chilliwack Chiefs, players who won’t be back next season are Anthony Vincent (F), Tommy Lee (F), Jared Turcotte (F), PJ Marrocco (F), Adam Berg (F) and Bryan Allbee (D).
The young Coquitlam Express have just two departing veterans, William Lawrence (F) and Brock Hamm (G).
The Langley Rivermen will say goodbye to Eric Butte (F), Trevor St. Jean (F), Nicholas Ponak (F) and Colin Bernard (D).
The Surrey Eagles bid adieu to Matthew Campese (F), John Wesley (F), Connor Sundquist (F), Ty Schultz (D), Jackson Ross (D) and Mario Cavaliere (G).
From the Prince George Spruce Kings, the list includes Jarod Hovde (F), Tyson Slater (D), Chays Ruddy (D), Oliver Lester (D) and Evan DeBrouwer (G).
Eric Welsh is the sports editor at the Chilliwack Progress and has been covering junior A hockey in B.C. and Alberta since 2003.