Tuesday, July 16, 2019

BCHL News & Trades:

I found these press releases off team websites, twitter accounts, blogs or online. All Vipers news-trades are posted on this blog as soon as released-announced.

BCHL News & Trades:

Freeborn Commits To Smoke Eaters:

The Trail Smoke Eaters Junior ‘A’ Hockey Club is pleased to announce forward Liam Freeborn (’99) has committed to the team for the 2019/20 season. Freeborn, 19, comes to Trail after playing the last two seasons in the Alberta Junior Hockey League, splitting games between the Spruce Grove Saints and the Calgary Mustangs. The 6’1”, 185-pound winger played with the Mustangs through the entire 2018/19 campaign, tallying 20 goals and 33 assists for 53 points in 58 games while also accumulating 77 penalty minutes.  Freeborn was made available to come to the West Kootenays after the Mustangs had to cease operations for the 2019/20 season. The Calgary, Alberta native has spent all of his hockey career within the Calgary area, playing his midget hockey with the Calgary Royals AAA program, amassing 18 goals and 18 assists for 36 points in 34 games played during the 2016/17 season before making the jump to play Junior ‘A’ hockey. “Liam Freeborn is a very important addition to our hockey team,” mentioned Smoke Eaters General Manager and Head Coach Jeff Tambellini, “He is a big, right shot right winger who has high end playmaking abilities that will complement our forward group.” “It is very exciting to add a veteran player who is coming off a 53pts season and going into his third year of junior,” Tambellini continued, “His 6’2″ frame will add to an already big forward group and we believe his character and professionalism will have just as much impact as does his physical size.” The Smoke Eaters would like to welcome Liam and his family to the City of Trail and the Smoke Eaters organization. Freeborn and the rest of the Smoke Eaters will be in Trail for the team’s Main Camp at the end of August

Cameron Commits To Prince George:

The Prince George Spruce Kings are pleased to announce the commitment of Defenseman Colton Cameron (02) from the Valley West Giants of the BC Major Midget League. Cameron, a 6’1”, 170 pound native of Surrey, British Columbia had 5 goals and 15 assists in 38 games last season in the BCMML.

Coquitlam-Milton Trade:

The Coquitlam Express have acquired the CJHL playing rights to Adam Trotman(00)(F) from the Milton Menace of the OJHL in exchange for future considerations

Schell Commits To Surrey Eagles:

The Surrey Eagles are very pleased to announce that goaltender Cal Schell has committed to the team for the upcoming 2019-20 BCHL season. The 2001-born Schell was the recipient of the Gus Crescenzi Award for being the GOJHL’s Most Valuable Goaltender this past season. He had a 16-5-0 record in 24 appearances with the Hamilton Kilty B’s, posting a 2.14 goals-against-average, a sparkling .922 save percentage, and 3 shutouts. At 6-foot-3, 195 pounds, the Burlington, Ontario native is a large presence between the pipes. He was also selected 29th overall by the North Bay Battalion in the 2018 Ontario Hockey League U18 draft. “The route that I’ve always wanted to go was school-based,” Schell told SurreyEagles.ca in an interview. “At the end of the day I just realized what I wanted my goals to be and I’m very happy to be able to come out to play in BC.” Although Schell is comfortable with his decision now, it did not come easy. He was heavily recruited, but knew that the opportunity to play in front of college scouts in the BCHL was too difficult to pass up. The decision was also made easier because of the fact that his father was a NCAA athlete, playing baseball for Canisius College in Buffalo. The attention from NCAA scouts that the BCHL receives is a major plus, but having NHL scouts in attendance at most games is an added bonus. This year’s NHL draft saw 8 current and 5 future BCHL players get selected – a feat that Schell says didn’t go unnoticed. “I’ve heard so many good things,” Schell explained. “There are obviously so many NCAA commitments and opportunities coming out of the league. I also checked in on the draft and noticed that quite a few players from the BCHL were picked. Seeing that builds you up a bit in terms of what to expect from the level of play from the league and how good the opportunity is. It’s very exciting.” Talking to Eagles head coach Cam Keith, there were certain things about playing in Surrey that stood out to him and helped make it easier to commit. One major perk was the area and the facilities, and the other was the make-up of the team. It’s going to be a young squad built from the net out, which is something that reminds him of his former team in Hamilton. “Last year in Hamilton, we were very young. We were one of the youngest teams in the GOJHL. I’ve been following along with some of the recent commitments and signings and it seems like the D-core in Surrey is going to be quite strong this year. That’s always good to see for a goalie.” With his bigger frame, Schell likes to use his size to his advantage. He describes himself as a patient goaltender who loves to handle the puck. Both of those are traits he feels should carry over to South Surrey Arena’s olympic-sized ice sheet very well. “I try to play almost like a third defenceman,” said Schell, further describing his playing style. “If I had to compare my style to someone, in terms of athleticism and being able to control the game, I really like Matt Murray. I like watching highlights and game tape of him and breaking down his game. When it comes to playing the puck, the faster I can get it up the bigger ice surface, the better.” Welcome to Surrey, Cal!

Victoria-Yorkton-Brockville Trade:

Recently signed 18-year-old netminder Joe Howe is the Victoria Grizzlies goaltender of the future. But to ease the workload of the talented rookie goalie from Upper Canada College in Ontario, Grizzlies GM and head coach Craig Didmon has added a veteran presence between the pipes. The Grizzlies on Friday acquired the services of 20-year-old Liam Souliere as part of a three-team trade between the Grizzlies, Yorkton Terriers of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League and the Brockville Braves of the Central Canada Hockey League. Didmon sent veteran centre Jordan Guiney to the Terriers, who then sent forward Cody Bruchkowski to Brockville, with Souliere leaving the Braves to come west. “It was a tough deal to make because Jordan had been with us for a while and was always a hard worker and great teammate, but we felt we needed a veteran in goal to take some of the pressure off Howe, who will likely need time to adjust to the B.C. Hockey League,” said Didmon. Souliere, who will head to Penn State on an NCAA scholarship in the fall of 2020, is coming off a season in which he was runner-up in the CCHL’s goaltender of the year voting, posting a 26-8-1 record in the regular season with a 2.13 goals-against average and .930 save percentage. He was named goaltender of the month twice. He also played five playoff games with a 2.75 GAA. Souliere, who hails from Brampton, Ont. and suited up for Team Canada East at last year’s World Junior A Challenge in Bonneyville, Alta., says he was looking for a little bit higher-calibre league to play in to develop his game for the NCAA. “The reputation of the BCHL speaks for itself when you see guys like [Grizzlies captain Alex] Newhook get drafted in the first round, so when I had the chance to go out there and play against the best Junior A players in the country, I jumped at it,” said Souliere, who stands 5-foot-11 and weighs 185 pounds. “If you want to become the best, you have to play against the best is the way I always look at it.” When he first got word of the trade, Souliere quickly asked around about Victoria, and the decision was easy. “I’ve had friends play in Victoria and play against the Grizzlies and they all said it’s a great organization with a great rink and they’re usually near the top of the standing so it seemed like a perfect fit for me,” he added. The 20-year-old Guiney spent two full seasons with the Grizzlies, picking up five goals and 21 assists in 56 regular season games last season. He also dressed for 15 playoff games last spring, recording three assists. “Jordan was looking for more of a top-six offensive role next season and he should get that in Yorkton so we wish him the best,” said Didmon. The Grizzlies open training camp on Aug. 20 at Juan de Fuca Arena.

Murphy-Johnson Commits To Trail Smoke Eaters:

The Trail Smoke Eaters Junior ‘A’ Hockey Club is pleased to announce defenceman Jackson Murphy-Johnson has committed to the team for the 2019/20 season. Murphy-Johnson, 17, comes to the Smoke Eaters after playing with the Vancouver North East Chiefs of the BC Major Midget League, where he played in all but two games over the course of his last two seasons. The 6’2”, 180-pound rearguard played in 78 career games with the Chiefs, tallying 5 goals and 22 assists for 27 points while accumulating 89 penalty minutes. The Burnaby, BC native brings a layer of physicality and strength to Smoke Eaters backend while also chipping in with offence, scoring 4 goals and 11 assists for 15 points over 40 games during the 2018/19 season while amassing 40 penalty minutes. “Jackson Murphy-Johnson is our final addition to our non-junior recruiting class,” said Smoke Eaters General Manager and Head Coach Jeff Tambellini, “He is a powerful young man who defends with contact and was regarded as one of most difficult defenseman to play against in the BCMML.” “Jackson’s leadership and character make me believe that he will have just as much impact within our group as he does on the ice,” continued the Smoke Eaters GM, “Our entire staff is looking forward to developing Jackson into an elite two-way defenseman.” The Smoke Eaters would like to welcome Jackson and his family to the City of Trail and the Smoke Eaters organization. Murphy-Johnson and the rest of the Smoke Eaters will be in Trail for the team’s Main Camp at the end of August

Barrett Commits To Spruce Kings:

The Prince George Spruce Kings are pleased to announce the commitment of Defenseman Nolan Barrett (00) from the Skipjacks Hockey Club 18U of the USPHL. Barrett, a 6’0″, 185 pound, native of Glen Ridge, New Jersey had 6 goals and 17 assists in 25 games last season. Nolan is committed to Merrimack College, where he will play for the Warriors after his time in Prince George

Kids May Lose Place To Play:

A decision by the West Kelowna Warriors to start home games at 6 p.m. on Saturdays could force minor hockey to turn away 30 or more players. West Kelowna Minor Hockey Association president Marnie Douglas says that's the potential trickle down effect of a decision by the Warriors to move 12 Saturday starts back an hour from the traditional 7 p.m. Douglas adds the decision was made after the city said no. "We confirmed our ice allotment with the city prior to opening registration in June, so we knew how many players and teams we could accommodate," she said. "As part of our registration package, we state the number of ice times and dollar value for our program. A change to 6 p.m. would change the amount and number of ice times for players this season compared to last season, yet families are still paying the same fee." Douglas says the potential of losing 12 home games means the association would likely be unable to give back any ice for BC Hockey's zone programming, meaning those teams would have no home dates in West Kelowna. "If we lose 12 home games, we will likely need to turn away 30-plus returning players based on not being able to provide a full schedule of games." She says minor hockey registration is expected to increase this year, but indicates the decision by the Warriors will squeeze what is already a limited amount of ice for all user groups. The city and minor hockey only learned of the change when the BC Hockey League schedule came out Tuesday. Warriors owner Kim Dobranski said he asked for the change to attract more young fans and families to games that would end at a reasonable time. He contends minor hockey really won't lose any ice time because the Warriors have fewer Sunday dates (two) than previous years. He says the additional Sunday ice times make it a wash. Douglas says this isn't the first decision Dobranski has made that has a negative impact on minor hockey. She says the association lost its ability to run 50-50 draws at Warriors games, resulting in a loss of $13,000. The City of West Kelowna is working with the Warriors and minor hockey to resolve the issue.

Silverbacks Sign Rybarik:

The Salmon Arm Silverbacks are pleased to announce the signing of 20-year-old Daniel Rybarik for the 2019-20 BCHL season. The much sought-after power forward posted 29 goals and 52 points last year with the Calgary Mustangs of the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL). The Calgary, Alta. product became available when it was determined that the Mustangs would cease operations for the 2019-20 season. “We are very excited to have Daniel join our organization,” Silverbacks head coach and general manager Scott Atkinson said. “He’s a high character individual who comes from a family background of high performance sport. From a hockey perspective, he’s a proven goal scorer, having recorded back-to-back 25-plus goal seasons in the AJHL.” “What is extremely impressive is his 25 even-strength goals last year,” Atkinson added. “Daniel fits nicely into our improvement plan, which has five-on-five goal production near the top of the list.” In 115 career AJHL games, Rybarik recorded 57 goals and 47 assists, for 104 points. His 29 goals last season led the Mustangs and ranked in the top-15 in the league, while his 25 even-strength goals were tied for the fourth-most in the AJHL. The winger also tallied five points in five playoff games. “I look forward to joining an organization with the history and fan support that the Silverbacks have,” Rybarik said. “After visiting Salmon Arm and meeting with the coaching staff, I was convinced that this was the best place for me to play my 20-year-old year. I feel that the combination of the facilities, staff and teammates the Silverbacks organization has assembled will help me improve my game and give me the best opportunity to continue playing at a high level.”

Shepard Expected To Leave Vees For Western Hockey League:

The Vancouver Giants are poised to announce the signing of F Cole Shepard, a source familiar with the situation has told Taking Note (Gregg Drinnan blog). . . . Shepard, 17, was a second-round pick by Vancouver in the WHL’s 2017 bantam draft. . . . Last season, he had seven goals and 17 assists in 53 games with the BCHL’s Penticton Vees. . . . Prior to that, he played at the Delta Hockey Academy. . . . Shepard made a verbal commitment to Harvard U on April 17, 2018, to start with the 2021-22 season. . . . Signing with the Giants will give him the opportunity to play with his brother Jackson, 19, who was acquired from the Lethbridge Hurricanes on May 25.

Major Shake-Up In WCHA? Seven Schools Explore Leaving Conference:

Bemidji State, Minnesota State Mankato and five other schools that are currently members of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association announced Friday the “exploration” of a new NCAA Division I college men’s hockey conference to begin play with the 2021-22 season. The seven institutions that made the announcement include Bemidji State, Bowling Green, Ferris State, Lake Superior State, Michigan Tech, Minnesota State Mankato and Northern Michigan. A news release from the schools sent by athletics consultant Morris Kurtz stated, “the group is comprised of institutions rich in history and tradition with a strong commitment to academic and athletic excellence. They are like-minded in their goals and aspirations for the potential new league with a focus on improving regional alignment and the overall student-athlete experience while building natural rivalries within a more compact geographic footprint.” Kurtz also stated the potential new conference is “committed to providing the best possible collegiate hockey experience for its student-athletes, fans, and all stakeholders,” and that the group “would plan to establish itself as an elite hockey conference that would have the highest standards for overall competitiveness and rigorous non-conference scheduling, along with a level of institutional investment that demonstrates significant commitment to their hockey programs and facilities, while also establishing relationships with corporate partners and others that create a high degree of visibility and positive media exposure for the league.”  The seven schools have independently submitted formal Letters of Notice to the WCHA office to initiate the withdrawal process in accordance with WCHA Articles of Incorporation and Bylaw. They will continue to play in the WCHA during the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons, according to the release. WCHA president and men’s league commissioner Bill Robertson also released a statement Friday. “Late this afternoon, the WCHA office received communication from several of our Men's League institutions that they intend to explore the creation of a new Division I men's hockey conference that would begin play in 2021-22,” Robertson said in the release. “The institutions have indicated they intend to compete in the WCHA during the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons. While this news is disappointing, the WCHA will work to assure that any members that do withdraw do so in accordance with WCHA Bylaws.” WCHA bylaws require a 25-month period in order to withdraw, and that process was initiated Friday, Kurtz said in a phone interview. Kurtz’s release stated that no further comment would be made by the seven schools during the initial stages of developing the potential new conference. Kurtz is a former athletic director at St. Cloud State.  Bemidji State head coach Tom Serratore declined comment and directed reporters to contact athletic director Tracy Dill. Dill deferred to Kurtz.  Kurtz said he was brought onboard several weeks ago to assist the schools as they explore creating a new league.

Future in question for UAH, Alaska schools

Three WCHA member schools were notably absent from the release: Alabama Huntsville, Alaska Anchorage and Alaska Fairbanks. The three programs could be left without a conference to call home following the 2020-21 season if the WCHA’s seven other schools move forward with their plan for a new league. The new conference would consolidate the seven Midwestern schools, while doing away with the WCHA’s farthest-flung members. The current WCHA alignment took shape following the 2012-13 season when the college hockey landscape changed dramatically with the creation of a Big Ten hockey conference, kicking off a wave of conference realignment. The remaining WCHA teams not to leave for the Big Ten or the newly created National Collegiate Hockey Conference -- Alaska Anchorage, Bemidji State, Michigan Tech and Minnesota State -- were joined by Alabama Huntsville, Alaska Fairbanks, Bowling Green, Ferris State, Lake Superior State and Northern Michigan to form a “new” 10-team WCHA ahead of the 2013-14 season. “If you look around the country, certainly the entire college sports landscape has been shifting in recent years,” Kurtz said. “The same could be said for college hockey. It’s probably an ongoing discussion that institutions all around the country are having on their campuses.” League membership had held firm since 2013-14, though questions emerged about the long-term future of the Alaska programs due to the state’s budget issues. Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy vetoed $130 million in state support to the University of Alaska system Friday. In May, UAA announced it was moving home games from Sullivan Arena to a smaller on-campus rink beginning with the 2019-20 season due to increasing financial constraints caused by state budget cuts. UAF also plans to shift home games from the Carlson Center to a smaller on-campus rink in two years due to concerns regarding the Carlson Center’s aging ice plant, KTUU-TV reported last week. The UAH program has experienced its own troubles, including nearly folding a decade ago. However, inn April, the school proposed a new on-campus arena be built for the school’s hockey, basketball and volleyball programs. Representatives from the three schools could not be reached for comment Friday.

Other questions linger

The potential new conference would have only seven schools, which raises the question of who might be a potential eighth member. Arizona State has been an NCAA Division I independent since 2015-16, and would be a logical choice to bring the new league to an even eight teams. ASU is the only NCAA Division I program without a conference. “Due to the ever-changing college hockey landscape, we will continue to assess all opportunities for conference affiliation with the best interests of our university and program at the forefront,” ASU head coach Greg Powers said in a statement Friday. “Our ability to continuously construct an elite schedule each year maintains our stance as an independent as of right now.” Kurtz, Robertson and WCHA spokesperson Todd Bell said the WCHA women’s league would not be impacted by Friday’s news. Bemidji State and Minnesota State field teams in both the WCHA men’s and women’s leagues. A name for the potential new conference has been discussed, and Kurtz said the schools hope to have that matter settled in the “very near future.” In the meantime, the seven teams will begin taking the necessary steps to establish a new league. “The first thing we do is we’re going to establish our constitution and bylaws,” Kurtz said. “And once those are set, that’ll obviously give us a platform from which to move forward and deal with all of the issues and logistics that need to be taken care of in creating a conference.”

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