BCHL Today: Victoria Grizzlies working on epic comeback

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

Welcome to the March 10, 2018 edition of BCHL Today, a (near) daily look at what’s going on around the league and the junior A world.

There were two games in the league last night and we start in Victoria where the Alberni Valley Bulldogs are suddenly in a heap of trouble.

Two straight losses by a combined score of 9-1 have their 3-0 series lead over the Grizzlies down to 3-2.

It feels like a superior team got their act together, flipped the switch and are ready to go, and Alberni Valley can’t handle a Victoria team at the top of its game. They certainly can’t handle goaltender Kurtis Chapman, who has stopped 101 of 106 pucks since checking into this series in game three. Even more troubling for the Bulldogs is young Alex Newhook appears to be rediscovering his offensive touch. After posting one point (a goal) through the first four games of the series, the 17 year old scored twice and added an assist in game five.

Ethan Nother, Lach Hadley and Jamie Rome also scored for the Grizzlies while Christian Simeone replied for AV.

What’s interesting about last night is the Bulldogs actually outshot Victoria 34-24. As the series has turned, so have the stats of Alberni Valley goaltender John Hawthorne, who posted a .792 save percentage in a game where he faced the least amount of shots in the series. Hawthorne saw 24 pucks last night after seeing 38, 52, 54 and 40 through the first four games.

The Bulldogs host game six tonight (7 p.m. at the Weyerhauser Arena), and you could fairly describe it as a must-win.

If Victoria takes this one and gets game seven at home, you can almost pronounce the epic comeback complete.

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Meanwhile, the Langley Rivermen became the fifth team to exit the BCHL playoffs with a 5-4 loss to Surrey Friday night at the South Surrey Arena.

Matthew Campese scored the winner just 34 seconds into overtime as his Eagles dispatched the Rivermen in six games.

It was another big night for Desi Burgart, who scored three more goals to give him eight in the first round. The Penticton native is over a third of the way toward matching the 22 goals he scored in 53 regular season games.

Eighteen year old Chase Danol also scored, collecting his third of the series, while Eagles netminder Mario Cavaliere stopped 37 of 41 shots.

Angus Crookshank, Tanner Versluis, John Wojciechowski and Nicholas Ponak scored for Langley. Versluis lit the lamp at 15:55 of the third period to send the game to extra time. Goaltender Braedon Fleming struggled again.

His save percentages over the six games were .875, .857, .963, .886, .821 and .861.

A Rivermen team that looked so good for the first half, even two thirds, of the season crashes down with a thud. But with 17 year old Brendan Buddy and 18 year old Angus Crookshank eligible to return next year, Langley should be back in the thick of the mix in the Mainland division.

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Interesting news out of Wenatchee as a perennial league powerhouse gets a new recruiting edge.

The Wild issued a press release Wednesday announced the addition of Arizona as part of their ‘territory.’

This means players from Arizona now count as ‘territory players’ and not ‘American import’ players. The only U-S based team in the BCHL is required to fill its roster with at least 15 players from California, Colorado, Washington and now Arizona.

Four of the remaining eight roster players can be allocated to ‘American import’ players from any state, and four can be allocated to Canadian skaters.

“This is a great step forward for the Wild. Having another territory with a more geographic connection to the West only helps us improve our brand and provide more opportunities for players to reach the NCAA,” said Wild coach Bliss Littler. “Arizona is a state that continually produces talented players, and we are excited for the potential to have them in a Wild uniform in the future. We would like to thank BCHL Commissioner John Grisdale and the BCHL Board of Governors for the approval of our request.”

Here, by the way, are the highlights from the final game of the Wenatchee vs Merritt series.

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The Salmon Arm Silverbacks saw their season come to an end earlier this week with a 1-0 overtime loss to Vernon in game four of their first round series, but the team did announce some good news with the winners of 13 team awards.

Rhett Kingston and Tanner Campbell won two awards apiece. Kingston was recognized as the team’s top scorer and MVP.

Campbell was the fan favourite and won the Score for School award.

Akito Hirose was named the top defenceman. Nick Unruh was named rookie of the year. Goaltender Kyle Dumba was the unsung hero and Julian Timba the most improved player. Trevor Adams was named the most dedicated player while Grayson Constable was named the most sportsmanlike.

Austin Chorney was recognized for academic excellence. Demetri Kambeitz won the Hitman of the Year award and hometown kid Logan Mostat won the 7th Man Award.

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The Cowichan Capitals are making moves to make sure they’re not as bad next year as they were this year.

The team has announced the commitment of two players.

Kolton Cousins, a 2001-born forward, played four games for the Caps this year and will join the team full time in 2018-19.

Cousins has spent most of this year with the Delta Hockey Academy midget prep team where he collected seven goals, 20 points and 28 penalty minutes in 34 regular season games.

“I’m beyond excited to start my junior hockey career with the Cowichan Capitals,” Cousins said in a team press release. “During my visit in early February, I felt at home as all the coaching staff and team made myself feel welcome. I’m looking forward to being apart of a team that the community can be proud of on and off the ice.”

The Capitals have also landed 2000-born blueliner J.J. Berdal.

An offensive-minded defenceman who stands five-foot-eight and weighs in at 141 pounds, Berdal posted video-game numbers with the D.C. Everest Evergreens of the Wisconsin Prep Hockey League.

Berdal produced 24 goals and 50 points in 24 games, accumulating a plus/minus rating of plus-42.

Berdal played four seasons of high school hockey, rolling up 56 goals and 120 points in 94 regular season games, plus eight points in seven playoff games. The Wisconsin native already has a college commitment in his back pocket. He will eventually suit up for Colorado College, the same school that current Cap Ty ‘Soda’Pochipinski is slated to join next fall.

It’s good to see Cowichan being proactive, making some nice moves to bolster their 2018-19 roster.

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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