Thursday, January 3, 2013
BCHL Team Reports:
BCHL Team Reports: Penticton, Victoria, Chilliwack Lead Way
December 21, 2012
Posted in BC Edition, Junior A
By / Brent Mutis
Just ahead of the Christmas break, Penticton, Victoria and Chilliwack remain the leaders in the Interior, Island and Mainland Divisions respectively but of the three, Penticton’s lead is the most solid as they’re 11 points up on Merritt. Just seven points separate second from sixth in the Interior and it’s also tight in the Mainland among the teams chasing Chilliwack.
Currently boasting the top powerplay in the BCHL, the Cents are an opportunistic bunch that will never lead the league in scoring but continue to find ways to win. They get good contributions from the blueline with Richard Sabourin and Dylan Chanter leading the way. Tyler Steel has been a workhorse in net.
Not the dynamic offensive powerhouse of a season ago, the Vees still lead the BCHL in goals scored. Recent in-division moves to bring in Sean Flanagan from Salmon Arm and Jedd Soleway from Vernon have paid dividends. The Vees will miss Ryan Gropp for a few games after Christmas as he joins Team Pacific at the World U17 Challenge.
Salmon Arm SilverBacks
With the offence firmly in gear after a woeful start, the ’Backs are in the thick of the playoff chase in the Interior. Defenceman Shane Hanna continues to lead the team in scoring and is the highest scoring blueliner in the league while Steven Iacobellis, Evan Anderson, Brandon Mistal and Alex Gillies balance the attack, up front.
Trail Smoke Eaters
They’ve allowed 36 more goals than the next closest team but a four-game win streak has them holding the final Interior playoff spot. The Smokies are deadly in overtime with seven wins versus one loss in the extra session but will have to work hard to stay there as each of their division rivals has games in hand on them.
A four-game tailspin has the Snakes looking up at the rest of the division, an unfamiliar place for this franchise. A recent transaction with Penticton brings talented young Dexter Dancs into the fold and he’s had four points in his last two games. His record doesn’t show it but Austin Young has provided good goaltending.
West Kelowna Warriors
The Tribe finally got captain Max French back and he’s responded with five assists in three games since the return. Injuries have prevented the Warriors from gaining real traction in the first half but coach Rylan Ferster hopes to ice a full lineup in 2013 and push for a home ice playoff spot.
Alberni Valley Bulldogs
They’ve scored the second most goals in the league but still have a negative goal differential. But they are in second place, trailing Victoria by just five points. An improved penalty killing effort could shore up the goals-against; they’re currently allowing opponents a 20 per cent success rate with the man advantage.
Cowichan Valley Capitals
If Salmon Arm’s offence continues to click, they’ll soon overtake the Caps in goals leaving Cowichan Valley as the lowest scoring team in the league. One mystery is the powerplay, which is second best in the league at home but last on the road. Derek Dun is a gamer in net and gives the team a shot most nights.
This Jekyll-and-Hyde offence has been buoyed recently by increased production from Brendan Forbes and the arrival of Matt Grant but more moves will be made to this roster as they prepare for the Western Canada Cup. The Clippers blueline produces almost zero scoring though Josh Bryan has been decent in that regard.
Powell River Kings
Square on the .500 mark is where the Kings sit after 32 games and an effective powerplay has produced more than a third of their goals this season. The Kings have a balanced attack but just one player, Evan Richardson, above a point per game. Backup goalie Braden Ostepchuk has had bad luck, winning just twice despite decent numbers.
The Grizzlies haven’t made a misstep this season and have opened up a five-point lead over second place Alberni Valley. The powerplay is second best in the league and five players have 20 or more points. Gerry Fitzgerald has three hat tricks in his last eight games. If you’re nitpicking, the penalty killing could be better.
When you combine three Top 15 scorers, a nasty bunch of blueliners and the goaltending Mitch Gillam has put forth this season, it’s a great recipe. The Chiefs have ridden this formula to a 20-8-1-1 record and top spot in the division. They’ve gone shorthanded more than any other team but have the BCHL’s best penalty killing.
Nobody is hotter than Philip Zielonka, right now. He’s on a 17-game point streak that includes goals in 10 straight. But they’ve lost three straight and injuries have cost them Alex Kerfoot from almost half the games they’ve played so far. A three-game skid plus a lopsided loss to Langley should have this team on alert.
Losses in seven of eight games from mid-November to early December put Langley at the bottom of the pile but with struggling Coquitlam within four points, the playoffs are certainly not out of reach. Mario Puskarich, Evan Campbell and James Robinson each had six points in a recent 8-3 win over the Express.
Prince George Spruce Kings
Wins in three straight salvaged what had been an ugly homestand but the Spruce Kings first game on the road after that was a 7-0 loss to Victoria. Justin Rai’s return to the lineup should help the offense after he missed most of November. An improved penalty-killing unit would help.
Mediocre penalty killing and power play results have not hindered the Eagles as they’ve been one of the hotter teams the last month.
They missed an opportunity recently while Chilliwack was idle with two losses on Vancouver Island. Drew Best has been dialed in of late with 10 points in his last six games.