BCHL Today: Island division previews and West Kelowna’s Harrison commits to Michigan

BCHL Today is a (near) daily look at what’s going on around the league and the junior A world.

Welcome to the Feb. 28, 2018 edition of BCHL Today, a (near) daily look at what’s going on around the league and the junior A world.

We start today with happy scholarship news out of West Kelowna, as Jake Harrison commits to the Michigan Wolverines, an NCAA Div-1 team playing in the Big 10 Conference.

The 18 year old will head to Ann Arbor after spending another year in the BCHL.

I was talking to someone in the press box the other night about college commitments and the choices players make about when to stay and when to go. Most are impatient and choose to make that jump soon as they can, even if it appears they’re not ready, and that’s often to their detriment.

A player rarely suffers from another year of development at an appropriate level, but things can go off the rails at the NCAA level if that player isn’t prepared for the physical and mental leap that comes with playing against grown men. I have no idea what discussions were held in the Harrison camp, but good on Jake for recognizing that an extra year of junior A might be good for his development.

It’s hard to believe he’s already finishing up his third year in the BCHL.

Harrison debuted as a 15 year old, logging five games during the 2014-15 season. He’s donned the Warrior jersey for 164 regular season games in total, registering 18 goals and 83 points.

He was also part of West K’s memorable Royal Bank Cup run in 2016.

“Jake has been a great player here from day one,” said Warriors head coach and general manager Rylan Ferster. “He played key minutes for us when we won the RBC Cup and that hasn’t changed over the last two seasons. His competitive nature is what makes him special.”

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Moving on, we’ve got some playoff series to look at.

The Island division leading Victoria Grizzlies open their first-round set at home Friday night, hosting the Alberni Valley Bulldogs at the Q Centre.

Alberni Valley is a heavy underdog in this one, but looking at the season series, I wouldn’t expect the Dawgs to be swept.

Alberni Valley Bulldogs defenceman Sami Pharaon passes to a teammate during an October BCHL game against the Victoria Grizzlies. ELENA RARDON PHOTO

The teams played eight times and Victoria won seven. But, the largest margin of victory in any of those games was three and three of the games were decided by one goal. Alberni Valley has shown they can hang with the Grizzlies, and the equation has changed a little bit with Victoria losing captain Lucas Clark. I wrote about that in yesterday’s BCHL Today.

Taking a gritty 40 point man out of the lineup is a problem for the Grizzlies.

The good news is Victoria figures to get superstar forward Alex Newhook back in the lineup. The team went 5-1-1 in his absence, but it’s always nice to add a guy who put up 22 goals and 66 points in 45 regular season games. Newhook and the No. 1 ranked Grizzly power play should be a major factor in the series, going up against Alberni Valley’s 11th ranked penalty killers.

The Dawgs are also ranked 11th on the power play, going up against Victoria’s seventh ranked penalty killers.

The scoring depth of the Grizzlies and the lack of it on Alberni Valley will be another factor. Keaton Mastrodonato leads the Bulldogs in scoring with 20 goals and 42 points. Both totals would rank him sixth on the Victoria roster.

The biggest underdog in the first round by far is the Coquitlam Express versus Penticton.

Alberni Valley would be second on that list and I expect a short series. I’ll give the Dawgs one game and say this one’s over in five.

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For my money, the most fascinating first round series should be the second-seed Nanaimo Clippers versus the third-seed Powell River Kings, and Nanaimo radio play-by-play man Dan Marshall sent over a boatload of info on this one.

The regular season series between these two teams was dead even at four wins apiece, with two of the Clipper wins coming in overtime. Powell River led 27-18 in goals for/against, skewed heavily by a 9-1 Kings win way back in mid-September.

Curiously, the road teams fared better during the regular season. Nanaimo won three of four games at the Hap Parker Arena in Powell River. The Kings won three of four at the Frank Crane Arena in Nanaimo.

If you’ve got time, here’s the video of a full game from mid-January.

Jonny Evans was the Clipper killer, recording two goals and seven assists. Carter Turnbull has two goals and five assists. Kevin Obssuth had five goals and two assists.

On the Nanaimo side, Tristan Crozier had a goal and five helpers. Jordan Wharrie and Cal Babych each posted two goals and three assists.

Neither side has a dominant special teams unit. Nanaimo’s power play ranks seventh while Powell River’s ranks ninth. Nanaimo’s penalty kill ranks ninth while Powell River’s ranks 12th, so you can give a slight edge in special teams to the Clippers.

Where you can probably give them a major edge is goaltending.

Taz Burman is healthy and ready to roll, bringing with him a 2.60 goals-against average and .920 save percentage.

On the Powell River side, the Kings are keeping a tight lid on info, but starter Mitch Adamyk is likely to remain sidelined by injury. That would leave the crease to backup Matteo Paler-Chow and backup-to-the-backup Alex Rolfe. That should be a huge advantage for Nanaimo and the reason I would choose them to win this series in five hard-fought games.

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Continuing farewells to the BCHL’s departing 20 year olds, it’s off to the Interior division.

The Merritt Centennials will soon say good bye to Zach Zorn (F), Chase Bell (F), Henry Cleghorn (F), Zach Court (F), Tyrell Buckley (D) and Jacob Berger (G).

After what they anticipate to be a long playoff run, the Penticton Vees will bid adieu to Jackson Keane (F), Dakota Boutin (F), Owen Sillinger (F), Wyatt Sloboshan (F), Chris Klack (F) and Jordan Henderson (D).

Rhett Kingston of the Salmon Arm Silverbacks carries the puck up the ice as Vernon Viper Chris Jandric checks him during a BCHL game December 8. JIM ELLIOT/ SALMON ARM OBSERVER

The list of graduating Salmon Arm Silverbacks includes Rhett Kingston (F), Tanner Campbell (F), Logan Mostat (F), Brandon Whistle (F) and Joseph Leahy (D).

Trail’s departing vets are Ryan Murphy (F), Kale Howarth (F), Blaine Caton (F), Jeremy Lucchini (D), Connor Welsh (D) and Troy Ring (D).

Vipers wrapping it up are Derek Brown (F), Jimmy Lambert (F), Michael Ufberg (D), Cameron Trott (D), Shane Kelly (D) and Anthony Yamnitsky (G).

The Wenatchee Wild are saying goodbye to August Von Ungern (F), AJ Vanderbeck (F) and Zak Galambos (D).

The West Kelowna Warriors are graduating Ryan Steele (F), Jared Marino (F), Tyler Jutting (D), Stephen Kleysen (D), Michael Ryan (D) and Nik Amundrud (G).

Side note: I was surprised yesterday to see the Cowichan Caps having so many 20 year olds (five) on a roster that finished 10-41-5-2. The flipside of that is the Wild, who produced a record of 37-16-4-1 with only three of them.

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Finally, a feel good story out of Surrey.

The Eagles are holding a ticket drive with a goal of selling 500 season ticket packages for the 2018-19 season. If they hit that mark, the team has announced it will donate $50,000 to the Peace Arch Hospital Foundation.

Nick Greenizan of the Peace Arch News wrote about this on Feb. 22, and at that point the team had sold 200 season ticket packages.

Surrey general manager Blaine Neufeld said the Eagles already have 100 per cent renewal from existing season ticket holders.

Read more about the initiative here.

Eric Welsh is the sports editor at the Chilliwack Progress and has been covering junior A hockey in B.C. and Alberta since 2003.

Email eric.welsh@theprogress.com

 

Rhett Kingston of the Salmon Arm Silverbacks carries the puck up the ice as Vernon Viper Chris Jandric checks him during a game at the Shaw Centre on Friday, Dec. 8.-image credit: Jim Elliot/Salmon Arm Observer

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