Welcome to the Feb. 24, 2018 edition of BCHL Today, a (near) daily look at what’s going on around the league and the junior A world.
There were seven games in the league last night and we start in Nanaimo.
The Clippers needed overtime to do it, but their winning streak is up to 10 after a 4-3 home ice win over the Surrey Eagles at the Frank Crane Arena.
Other than the score, this game wasn’t close at all, and Surrey netminder Mario Cavaliere is the only reason it made it to extra time. Nanaimo outshot Surrey 52-31, but the Mississauga native was at the top of his game, turning aside 48 pucks. Cavaliere has been an up-and-down adventure since arriving from the Georgetown Raiders (OJHL) in a trade deadline day swap, but when he’s on he seems nearly unbeatable.
Meanwhile, Taz Burman had a rare tough night in the Clipper net. He left after one period, having given up three goals on 14 shots. Surrey led 3-0 through 20 minutes on goals by John Wesley, Aaron White and Jeffrey Stewart, but backup goaltender Noah FeatherStonhaugh-Gowe shut the door the rest of the way.
Brady Lynn and Joshua Bourne scored second period goals, and a Jamie Collins power play snipe 5:16 into period three tied it up.
Collins’ second of the game 47 seconds into three-on-three OT ended it and put the finishing touches on Nanaimo’s regular season. The Clippers were one of two teams finishing their 58 game slate Friday night (along with Coquitlam), rolling into the playoffs with a 32-20-3-3 record. Remember that on Jan. 21, Nanaimo lost their seventh straight game by a 1-0 count to… Surrey! Their record after that defeat was 22-20-3-2.
It’s been an amazing turnaround and the Clippers are one of the last teams I’d want to face heading into the playoffs.
Side note: Remind me to ask Nanaimo play-by-play man Dan Marshall how he handles the call when Noah FeatherStonhaugh-Gowe is in net.
The Clippers must now rely on the stumbles of others to maintain their grip on one of the top two seeds in the Island division standings, and they got help from an unlikely source Friday night as the Cowichan Caps upset Powell River.
The most dreadful team in the league led 2-0 after 20 minutes on goals by Ty (Soda) Pochipinski and Jonathan Stein, and led 3-1 early in period three when Stein scored his second of the game. Then, the Caps hung on for dear life.
Cowichan goalie Michael Corson faced 16 shots in the final frame and the only one to beat to him came off the stick of Jonny Evans on a Powell River power play, with 1:50 to play.
Here’s Evans scoring his 20th of the season.
I’m sure there are psychological studies out there about the bad things bad teams do to lose games, and the Caps almost threw this one away when they took a bench minor for too-many-men with 1:06 to play, giving the Kings another power play. Matteo Paler-Chow came to the bench for an extra attacker, but Powell River couldn’t slip another puck past Corson before time ran out.
The loss probably cost the Kings a shot at first place.
Victoria finishes up Sunday with a highly winnable home game versus Surrey that will probably give them 72 points. Powell River gets Alberni Valley tonight and tomorrow, and it would be a letdown if they didn’t win both. That would leave them at 72 points, which would move them past Nanaimo for the second seed. They’d be even with the Grizzlies, but the first tiebreaker is wins, and Victoria would have the edge.
In an otherwise dismal season, the Caps can may end up depriving Powell River of first place.
That’s some good spoiling!
On to the game that I was at last night as the Prince George Spruce Kings topped the Chilliwack Chiefs by a 2-1 count at Prospera Centre.
I wrote in my game recap that one of the mini-themes with the Chiefs this year is their ability to outplay opponents for long stretches at a time and come away with nothing. Against PG, they dominated the first period and trailed 1-0 through 20 minutes. They dominated the second period and the game was tied 1-1 through 40.
The way this season’s gone you just knew the Spruce Kings were going to pull out a victory, and sure enough, a Dustin Manz goal with 3:57 remaining stood up as the winner.
Another mini-theme with the Chiefs this year is a punchless power play that is particularly ineffective when it’s needed most.
Back to back minors to Jay Keranen (tripping) and Ethan de Jong (slashing) gave Chilliwack a two-man advantage for a minute midway through the third period, and the Chiefs produced nothing.
So many times this season a power play goal might have tilted a game in Chilliwack’s favour, and now those small failures have added up to a big problem because the Chiefs look like they’ll be the team that has to travel to Prince George in round one.
There’s all sorts of reasons why that’s a bad thing, but here’s the biggest one.
In seven head to head matchups vs the Spruce Kings this season, Chilliwack has managed six losses and a tie.
Parm Dahliwal scored the winner 30 seconds into overtime as the West Kelowna Warriors earned a huge 2-1 road win over Merritt.
I talked yesterday about the Centennials pushing for the fifth seed in the Interior division and the right to not play Vernon or Wenatchee. Merritt needed to beat West K in regulation time to keep those hopes alive, and with the loss they are locked into the sixth seed.
But the Centennials didn’t go down without a fierce fight.
Merritt outshot the Warriors 41-28, and only the lights-out goaltending of West K’s Nick Amundrud prevented a better fate. Christian Sabin was the only Centennial to beat him.
Austin Roden had another strong outing at the other end, stopping 26 of 28 shots, and nothing from this game takes away from the notion that Merritt is going to be a tough out in the first round.
A note on West K before moving on, from the desk of Warrior play-by-play man Trevor Miller.
“Ryan Steele is currently on an 11-game point streak with 11 goals and 23 points, including a five-point night with a pair of goals and three assists against Wenatchee on Wednesday. He has factored in on 23 of the Warriors 51 goals during the streak, good for 45 per cent. He is also is also at 25 points in 16 games with the Warriors since being traded, just three points of his total amount of points with the Alberni Valley Bulldogs through 38 games this season.”
Steele almost saw the streak end last night, but he picked up the second assist on Dhaliwal’s winner, pushing it to 12 games.
Here’s a recent interview between Miller and Steele.
And now we come to the last undecided seed in the division and a titanic clash between Wenatchee and Vernon.
A 4-3 home ice win by the Vipers at Kal Tire Place settled the last two seeds up for grabs in the Interior as Vernon locked down second place and a playoff date with the seventh-seed Salmon Arm Silverbacks. The Wild are locked into the third seed and a series with the Centennials while the fourth-seed Trail Smoke Eaters will face the fifth-seed West Kelowna Warriors.
The first place Penticton Vees draw the Coquitlam Express, who cross over from the Mainland division as the eighth seed.
Back to this game, where the Wild jumped out to an early lead on goals by AJ Vanderbeck and Zak Galambos (great name!). But Vernon had it evened up before the first period was done on goals by Niko Karamanis and Jimmy Lambert.
Another Karamanis strike gave the Vipers the lead late in the second period and defenceman Michael Ufberg added insurance early in period three. A Lucas Sowder snipe with 7:31 to play set up a frantic finish, but Vernon was able to hang on for the win.
The other two games in the league saw the Coquitlam Express and Langley Rivermen tie 2-2 and the Trail Smoke Eaters outlast the Salmon Arm Silverbacks 8-5.
If Langley picks up a single point in either of their final games against Merritt or Prince George, the Rivermen will be locked into the second seed in the Mainland division.
Eric Welsh is the sports editor at the Chilliwack Progress and has been covering junior A hockey in B.C. and Alberta since 2003.