BCHL Today: Are power plays down in the BCHL playoffs?

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

Welcome to the March 6, 2018 edition of BCHL Today, a (near) daily look at what’s going on around the league and the junior A world.

There were four games in the league last night and we start with the game I watched live in Chilliwack.

Prince George fans seem to be a little salty this week about their team being called boring, but after sitting through 70 minutes and 40 seconds of a 2-1 Spruce Kings overtime win, I’m ready to double down on that notion.

They are a tough watch. I was reminded of a time long ago when I was a teenager and I went to watch the Vancouver Canucks and New Jersey Devils play at the Pacific Coliseum. The Devils limited the Canucks (who, to be fair, were dreadful) to eight shots on home ice, and I vividly recall some dude with a big voice yelling, ‘Borrrrrrring!’ the entire game.

He wasn’t wrong, nor were the Chilliwack fans I could hear fairly well last night.

There were three moments during the game that were entertaining for all the wrong reasons. Three dump ins to the Chilliwack zone, collected by a Chiefs defenceman behind the net. On all three occasions the D-man was able to wait while his team completed a full line change, then wait 20 or 30 seconds longer because no one in a blue jersey was coming in.

In the first period Jarod Hodve just stood at the blueline, waiting, with his teammates waiting behind him.

A few years back in the playoffs, the Coquitlam Express employed this tactic throughout an entire series because they didn’t have the firepower to compete with the Chiefs. Chilliwack head coach Jason Tatarnic mocked the strategy, placing one man behind the net and one in each of the corners. They passed the puck between them for about a minute as boos rained down from the Prospera Centre faithful, until the referees had enough and told them to move it.

How tempted Jason must have been to do the same last night.

But I also wrote in last night’s game report that I don’t blame PG for playing this way, because it’s led to the first regular season division title in franchise history and may lead to a deep playoff run. The New Jersey Devils may have been bad for hockey, but no one took away their Stanley Cup rings.

Prince George leads this series 2-1 heading into game four tonight, starting at 7 p.m. at Prospera Centre.

Side note: The teams have played 170 minutes and 40 seconds and combined for eight goals. Total.

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Staying here for a moment, there were only five power plays handed out the entire game, four for the Spruce Kings and one for the Chiefs.

As the Chilliwack crowd booed referees Stephen Campbell and Bryan Bourdon, I felt a sense of deja vu.

Every year come playoff time, there’s a perception that the standard of officiating changes and more things are allowed to slide. I use the word perception there because I’m entirely sure it’s true, or whether it just feels like it’s true.

I went to the BCHL website this morning and added up all of the power play opportunities from the regular season (4611) and divided that number by the amount of games (493) to get 9.35 power play chances per game. The totals for the playoffs so far are 160 power play opportunities divided by 20 games played to get eight chances per game.

So there is a decline of almost one and a half power play chances so far, with the small sample size caveat attached.

I went back to last season to check the same numbers.

Over 493 regular season matchups in 2016-17 there were far fewer penalties handed out overall (4125), resulting in 8.37 power play opportunities per game.

And yet the power plays still decreased markedly in the playoffs, with 506 chances in 73 games resulting in 6.93 per game.

Again, a difference of almost one and a half chances per game from the regular season to playoffs.

So what I’m perceiving and the fans are perceiving is accurate. There is a looser standard of officiating once the post-season starts.

Why? It probably comes down to the old school mentality of refs not wanting to decide a game. Let the players play and all that. But the flipside of that thinking is that when you don’t make a call you’re also potentially deciding a game, aren’t you?

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I looked at the Powell River/Nanaimo score this morning and prepared to write about another Derek Krall goaltending gem, but it wasn’t Krall who backstopped the Kings past the Clippers Monday night.

Matteo Paler-Chow made his BCHL playoff debut in game three, stopping 28 of 30 shots in a 3-2 overtime win. As they did late in the season as Powell River made its playoff push, unheralded goaltenders are keeping the team alive in the absence of starter Mitch Adamyk.

Paler-Chow, normally Adamyk’s backup, was injured himself late in the season and had some rough outings when he returned, but this was a nice return to form.

Ben Berard had the overtime winner for Powell River, one of two goals for the Duncan native who also collected an assist on a Josh Coblenz snipe.

This is the second OT winner Berard has scored this season. He lifted the Kings past Merritt by a 3-2 score in January.

If you’re looking for another reason why Powell River was able to bounce back from a 4-3 loss in game two, look no further than the penalty count. The Kings handed the Clippers 10 power play chances in game two, giving up two goals.

Nanaimo only had one power play in game three.

This series resumes tonight with a 7 p.m. start at the Hap Parker Arena.

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West Kelowna looks to be about done after another bad loss. The Warriors were blanked 4-0 by Trail Monday night at Royal LePage Place as the Smokies took a commanding 3-0 lead in that best-of-seven series.

Nineteen year old goalie Adam Marcoux stopped 30 pucks to record his second career BCHL shutout and Trail got goals from Troy Ring, Tyler Ghirardosi, Spencer McLean and Kale Howarth.

West Kelowna’s RJ Murphy wreaking havoc in the goal crease of Trail netminder Adam Marcoux. JULIE PRINGLE/SNAP PHOTOGRAPHY

This series has been disappointing to me. In a desperate search for compelling first-round matchups, I figured fourth-seed Trail and fifth-seed West Kelowna would be fun. I believe I had it pegged as a seven gamer.

But the Smoke Eaters apparently finished 10 points up on the Warriors in the regular season for a reason and even though Trail struggled down the stretch they are clearly a step above and belong in the Interior division’s top tier alongside Penticton, Vernon and Wenatchee.

If Marcoux can find consistency, the Smokies have the star power and depth to be a very dangerous second round opponent.

I don’t think they’d beat the Vees or Vipers, but I wouldn’t be shocked if they did.

Trail could eliminate West Kelowna tonight in a game that starts at 7 p.m. at Royal LePage Place.

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A series that I’ve barely talked about has Surrey up 2-1 on Langley.

The Rivermen earned a big win on the road Monday night, scoring twice on the power play to beat the Eagles 2-1 at the South Surrey Arena. Eric Butte and Brendan Budy did the damage for Langley with Aaron White replying for the Eagles.

The Rivermen held a 36-27 edge on the shot clock with both goalies, Braedon Fleming for Langley and Mario Cavaliere for Surrey, turning in solid outings.

The Rivermen are a team you can’t figure out. They couldn’t win a road game to save their lives down the stretch and were very tough to top at home. So of course, they lose games one and two of this series at the George Preston Arena and then play lights-out on the road.

Who knows what they’ll do as the series resumes tonight with a 7 p.m. start at the South Surrey Arena.

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

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