Jacob Bestebroer pens a weekly column for the Chilliwack Progress during hockey season focused on the Chilliwack Chiefs, the BCHL and goings-on around the junior A world.
The BCHL regular season is roughly 33 per cent done and when looking at the standings the most surprising thing is the lack of surprises. Usually there are a handful of teams whose record doesn’t jive with pre-season predictions. Not this season.
Looking at the mainland division, Coquitlam was expected to struggle and that’s exactly what they’ve done. They’ve won just three of their first 18 games and will likely finish where they sit now, in last place.
Predictions for the other four teams were varied but it was expected to be a tight race and that’s precisely what it’s been so far.
As of Wednesday Langley had built a five point cushion atop the division but Prince George, Surrey and Chilliwack were all within six points.
After struggling the last three seasons it’s nice to see Surrey back in the thick of things. Prior to the season’s start, I predicted the Chiefs would come out of this division in the playoffs. Right now I’m sticking with that prediction.
After a 78 point season last year and with 13 returning players, the Powell River Kings were the favorites to finish on top of the Island division. With 10 wins in their first 16 games that’s exactly where they are.
The Grizzlies of Victoria were the common pick for second place, with Nanaimo and Alberni fighting for spots three and four. So far those predictions are looking perfect.
Very little was success was expected from Cowichan Valley and they’ve won just two of their first 17 games. No change in my prediction, it still looks like the Kings are the team to beat there.
Over in the Interior division the Trail Smoke Eaters are the big surprise. While the team showed signs of improvement last year, making the playoffs for the first time in six seasons, nobody expected them to compete for first place.
Not only are they within a point of first place in their division, as of Wednesday their win percentage of 73.5 led the entire league. Penticton, the pre-season favorite is right on their tail at 73.3 per cent.
The Vernon Vipers sit third at 72.2 per cent. Not only are those the top three teams in the interior, they are the top three in the league. Wenatchee (63.9 per cent) and West Kelowna (61.1 per cent) rank fourth and fifth in the division and sixth and seventh overall.
That race is going to be an incredible one and a couple of very good teams are going to be out in the first round of the playoffs.
Prior to the season I agreed with most people in thinking that Penticton would once again win the Interior. I’m changing my pick to the Vernon Vipers.
The Chiefs have a pair of games this weekend, both within their division. Tonight (Friday) they are in Surrey. Saturday the Chiefs host the Coquitlam Express.
Including playoffs, the Chiefs have won 22 straight games against the Express.