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:
Berrettoni Commits To Coquitlam:
The Express are excited to announce the signing of Burnaby Forward DANTE BERRETTONI to the Express Roster! Dante played his previous season for the NE Chiefs and is looking forward to joining us here in Coquitlam! Welcome Aboard Dante!
Top 10 Merritt Centennials Goals of 2019-20
The Merritt Centennials had seven players reach double digits in goals this season, which included help from some mid-season additions and lineup shuffling.
Smoke Eaters Owner Awaits Word On BCHL Future:
Trail Smoke Eaters owners Rich and Annie Murphy may be out of the country, but they certainly aren’t out of touch, as they patiently await a plan of action for a return to play this season. “Obviously we are planning on playing this next year, when that start will be, we don’t know that yet,” Rich Murphy told the Times from his home in Minnesota. “But I’m in contact with the league every week with meetings, and we’re waiting for Hockey Canada to give us some direction.” Hockey Canada issued an open letter to all hockey organizations last week, however, it contained few details regarding a return to action in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. “As provinces and territories phase in a plan to reopen in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are questions about when hockey will return, and how it will look when it does,” read the release. “Hockey Canada and its Members are diligently working on a multifaceted return-to-hockey plan that will happen when, and only when, provincial and territorial governments and health authorities deem it safe to do so.” Meanwhile, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman says the league and the NHL Players’ Association have agreed on a return-to-play format in the event the 2019-20 season can resume. The 24-team plan would see the top-4 clubs in the Eastern and Western Conference play two mini round-robin tournaments to determine seeding for the playoffs. The other eight teams in each conference would play best-of-five “play-in” series – No. 5 versus No. 12, No. 6 versus No. 11, No. 7 versus No. 10, and No. 8 versus No. 9 – to determine the 16 clubs left standing in the playoffs. As the COVID curve flattens, particularly in BC, organizations like the BCHL, KIJHL, and Greater Trail Minor Hockey are looking for guidance on how to proceed come September. “We’re starting to open up here in the U.S. so we’re excited to get back and get going,” said Murphy. “We’re looking to get the office there in Trail back open in June and sell some souvenirs. Hopefully we’ll get some news from the league, from Hockey Canada of what we can do and move towards a season here.” Hockey Canada says it is pursuing a plan that, “includes everything from health and safety regulations to communications, seasonal structure, customer engagement and national teams.” Although the Murphys are unable to travel across the border due to the pandemic, they are directing the Smoke Eaters organization from their home in Minnesota. The team is coming off one of its best seasons in franchise history, going 36-17-2-2-1, and averaging over 2,000 fans per game. Trail also committed a dozen players to NCAA Div. 1 hockey this past season, and just announced the hiring of the Smokies new head coach and GM, Tim Fragle. “The reality is Trail’s the place to be,” said Murphy. “People want to be here, players want to be here, and coaches want to coach here, universities want kids that play in Trail. So from that aspect, we don’t have any problem getting players or coaches to come here.” The NHL/NHLPA Return to Play Committee hashed out details of what the game will look like when and if it’s allowed to return this summer. The league announced Monday it hopes to move to Phase 2 of its return-to-play protocol, including the opening of team facilities and allowing groups of up to six players on the ice at one time under strict guidelines, early next month. Phase 3 would be training camps starting no sooner than July 1, while Phase 4 would be the resumption of play. Other professional sports, like NASCAR, Major League Baseball, UFC, and the PGA, have already started or set a date and have produced very specific guidelines. As for the BCHL and similar organizations, the NHL template for protocol and testing is something for Hockey Canada to consider, and will leave teams like the Smoke Eaters a little more optimistic for a return to the ice in the fall. “Canada is quite a bit more conservative than the U.S. right now, so that’s my concern,” said Murphy. “But the Murphy family is dedicated to providing hockey in Trail and when we get the go ahead we’re going to move forward.”
Catching Up With Wenatchee Wild General Manager Bliss Littler:
Recently, I caught up with Wenatchee Wild general manager Bliss Littler. He touched on various items from the past season to their development teams and more. While the team didn’t make it as far as everyone in the organization hoped, Littler thought that head coach Chris Clark did a nice job after taking over with three months left in the season. He thought Clark dealt with quite a few challenges including the injury bug that hit the team. Littler attributed the first round loss against the Vernon Vipers to injuries and the Wild being a young, inexperienced team. However, he thought the team came a long way. “I think a lot of kids got better and a lot of kids overachieved,” Littler said. The Wild’s recruiting for the upcoming season is complete but without a spring camp, the roster might be a slightly larger come pre-season. Once the pre-season wraps up, they’ll make final cuts and begin the regular season. The Wild had a handful of young players who got to play significantly more quality minutes due to so many injuries affecting the team. The Wild also had six affiliate players from its developmental teams who played with the big club throughout the 2019-20 season. Littler said the Wild’s record this past season was the weakest since joining the BCHL in 2015. “Hopefully we can get back to that position where we’re challenging to win the Fred Page Cup.”
Exit interviews and player expectations
After the last game of the first round series against Vernon, Clark conducted exit interviews with players before they headed home for the summer. Littler explained that he usually joins Clark in talking to each player. They go over the player’s strengths and weaknesses and what they want to see him work on through the off-season. They also touch on how the host family was for the player. “The families are always great,” Littler said. They’ll ask the player everything about playing for the Wild, including how he likes the hotels when they travel, meals, practices, video sessions, constructive staff criticism, and even the bus. When it comes to expectations of players, the word rookie is considered off-limits for the Wild organization. “We don’t even use the word rookie, we don’t even use the ‘R’ word,” said Littler. Expectations are a lot different for a kid just coming in knowing they’re going off to college after one season compared to a 16 or 17-year-old just walking in the door for the first time. “Kids that are here for two years, the college tells us you can have him for two years versus a college telling you, ‘Hey we want this kid out with you this year, but he’s only staying for a year’. It’s just putting together that puzzle and trying to make it work,” expressed Littler.
A new Interior Conference rival for the Wild
On the addition of the Cranbrook Bucks, Littler thought it was a great move for the upcoming season by the BCHL. “They’ve got a great building to play in, (it) looks like they have a very good organization,” he said. “I expect them to come in and be a real good program right off the bat.” During this off-season, the BCHL provided teams with the ability to opt out of the upcoming 2020-21 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Littler said every team is planning to play in the upcoming season. The Wild joined the BCHL for 2015-16 playing as part of the Mainland Division for two years before switching over to the Interior Division, which Littler stated they much prefer saying it was a good move for them. As for recruiting and players coming to Wenatchee, Littler explained that six players must come from the Wolves or Wilderness, two of the Wild’s development teams. He said they can use four players from their territories as affiliate players. Littler mentioned that they used that more during the 2019-20 season than they have in the past. Meanwhile, the team must have a minimum of fifteen regular players from their territories including Washington, California, Colorado, and Arizona. In addition to those requirements, they’re allowed to have four Canadians and four Americans who are considered imports from outside their territories as long as they’re 18 or older. With the calibre of returning players and incoming recruits, the Wild once again look to field a strong team to contend for the Fred Page Cup in 2020-21, whenever the season gets started.
Taylor Commits To Rivermen:
The Langley Rivermen front office is continuing to work hard during the offseason to improve their roster for 2020-21. Since COVID-19 has canceled spring prospect camps they have had to rely heavily on their scouts and connections throughout the hockey world to find high-level players. And it looks like they found another, on Sunday they announced they have received a commitment from 2003 born forward Ashton Taylor. The 17-year-old from Kamloops, BC is excited to make the jump to the BCHL. “I am honored to sign a commitment to the Rivermen. I played for Bobby Henderson in the past and it was a great experience. It’s a privilege to play in the BCHL, it is one of the best junior A programs in North America. I can’t wait to play for and be part of the Langley community.” Taylor is a 5’10” 170-pound forward who played for the Okanagan Hockey Academy Red Prep team last year in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League. During his time with OHA, Taylor had a point per game, scoring 14 goals and adding 21 assists in 35 games. Prior to playing prep hockey in the Okanagan, Taylor played bantam with the Yale Hockey Academy and a year in the British Columbia Major Midget League with the Thompson Blazers. Last season he was also affiliated with the Rivermen and suited up in two BCHL games. Langley head coach Bobby Henderson is impressed with what he saw when Taylor entered the lineup. “Rivermen fans got a small sample of what Ashton’s capable of this past season in the two games he dressed. He was able to jump into the lineup midseason and contribute each shift with his speed and grit. Ashton has continually improved offensively each season and we’re excited to watch him as he continues to grow as a player.” The connection between the Rivermen and Taylor started back in peewee spring hockey when he played on a team that was coached by Henderson. “We’re really excited to add Ashton next season,” Henderson said. “I had the pleasure of coaching Ashton as a peewee in our Jr. Rivermen program. I was immediately impressed with Ashton’s desire to succeed. He loves to win and is motivated to play at the highest levels." The Rivermen pride themselves on finding not only great players but great people in the community. The hope is for Taylor to buy into the program Henderson wants to see happen on the ice, which shouldn’t be a problem according to his new coach. “His team-first approach fits right into what we are continuing to build on. We are confident Ashton will represent Langley and the Rivermen organization to the highest standards.” As of right now, it is unclear as to where Taylor will fit in the lineup. But if he is able to build off of the season he had last year and chip in some offense, he will be a great addition to the Rivermen. Especially since he has already proven he can compete at the junior A level with his two games as an affiliate player last season.
Prince George Spruce Kings: Graduating Players And Eligible Returnees:
The Prince George Spruce Kings are smarting after a first-round playoff sweep at the hands of the Trail Smoke Eaters. After a season that saw no fewer than nine rookies play a regular role for general manager Mike Hawes and head coach Alex Evin, the future looks bright in PG as there is a solid core of players eligible to return for the 2020-21 season. Up front, there are ten players available to come back and don the red, white, and blue of the Spruce Kings. Top returning scorer Corey Cunningham tries to build on his 26-goal and 44 point season while 17-year-old University of Michigan commit Finlay Williams put up a solid 11 goals and 20 assists in 40 games as a rookie in 2019-20. Mason Waite is a big piece returning on the blueline for Prince George as he had seven goals and 22 assists in his first BCHL season after being acquired from the Lloydminster Bobcats of the AJHL in late September last year. Overall, the defense corps features five players eligible to return, including sophomores Colton Cameron, Brendan Hill, and Amran Bhabra. 19-year-old Carter Woodside is the incumbent in goal, with Jett Alexander aging out after playing his 20-year-old season in 2019-20. Since joining the Spruce Kings in late November, Woodside posted a 5-11 record with a 3.08 goals-against-average and a .900 save percentage. The depth chart is based on coaches going with a 23-man roster of 13 forwards, eight defencemen and two goaltenders.
*All college commitment years are collated from each player’s profile on the Spruce Kings roster on the BCHL website.
Nicholas Poisson (Providence College)
Nick Bochen (Quinnipiac University)
Chong Min Lee (University of Alaska-Anchorage)
Nolan Welsh (aged out)
Preston Brodziak (aged out)
Jarin Sutton (aged out)
Jett Alexander (aged out)
(* indicates an open spot – assuming the team goes with 13 forwards and eight defencemen)
Jackson Zloty (00)
Thomas Richter (00)
Haydn Delorme (00)
Will Kushniryk (00)
Andrew Seaman (00)
Corey Cunningham (01)
Kolton Cousins (01)
Mason Reeves (01)
Carter Cochrane (02)
Finlay Williams (03)
Mason Waite (00)
Brendan Hill (01)
Evan Orr (01)
Colton Cameron (02)
Amran Bhabra (03)
Carter Woodside (01)
Penticton Vees 2019-20 Year In Review: