Sunday, July 12, 2020

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:

Penticton-Powell River-Notre Dame Trade:

The Penticton Vees Junior ‘A’ Hockey Club announced Wednesday the team has completed a three-team trade including the acquisitions of defenseman Ben Wozney (’01) and forward Ryan Upson (’01). In the trade, the Vees acquired defenseman Olivier Lepine (’01) and forward Ryan Upson from the Notre Dame Hounds of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL) in exchange for forward Liam Noble (’01) and defenseman Carson Hemenway (’02). The Vees then acquired defender Ben Wozney from the Powell River Kings in exchange for Lepine and future considerations. Wozney, 19, has played each of the last two seasons in Powell River, suiting up in 86 career BCHL games including a contest as an affiliate player with the Prince George Spruce Kings. The 6’2”, 170-pound rearguard has tallied 4 goals and 29 assists for 33 points in that span. Wozney also secured his collegiate future in committing to Bowling Green University for the 2021/22 season during the year. The Richmond, BC native spent two seasons with the Burnaby Winter Club prior to his time in the BCHL, playing in 86 games split between the Elite 15 and Midget Prep divisions. Wozney collected 8 goals and 36 assists for 42 points in that stretch. Upson, 19, played last season with the West Kelowna Warriors in his first season of junior hockey, registering 3 goals and 9 assists for 12 points in 54 games after making the transition from the West Van Academy in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League (CSSHL). The Vees would like to welcome Ben and Ryan, along with their families, to the team and the South Okanagan and thank Liam and Carson for their time and contributions to the organization as well as the City of Penticton.

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Top 10 West Kelowna Warriors Goals of 2019-20

The roster of the West Kelowna Warriors is filled with exciting young talent, like the crafty John Evans, who did something highlight reel-worthy almost every night.

The Victoria Grizzlies Are A Team In Transition:

March 3, 2020, was the day the Victoria Grizzlies 2019-20 season ended after they were swept in round one of the playoffs at the hand of an unfamiliar playoff opponent in Salmon Arm. It was a strange season not just for the Grizzlies but for the entire BCHL as well, with the cancellation of the remainder of the 2020 playoffs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the Grizzlies managed to clinch a spot in the playoffs for a fourth consecutive year the entire season felt like a blur. Throughout the last decade, expectations in Victoria have always been to be a top team in the Island Division and go on a deep playoff run. It’s an expectation fostered by many successful seasons over the last 10 years and successful graduates of the team who have been drafted to the NHL, moved on to NCAA Div. 1 and beyond.

Pre-season expectations

The Grizzlies lost many star players who either aged out or moved on to college hockey at the end of a successful 2018-19 season. Among them were NHL draft picks Alex Newhook (Colorado 2019 first round pick), Carter Berger (Florida 2019 fourth round pick), Alex Campbell (Nashville 2019 third round pick), and Riley Hughes (New York Rangers 2018 seventh round pick). The expectation from many in Victoria was that the Grizzlies could remain a top three team in the Island Division with signings and commitments from players last offseason such as Joe Howe, Liam Souliere, Brendan Bowie, Cody Monds, Isack Bandu, and James Davenport. But, after a not ideal start in September with a record of 3-5-0 and underperformance of some of the signings from the offseason, it was clear this was not the same Grizzlies team from the previous year that reached the third round of the playoffs.

What went wrong for the Grizzlies

With the rise of teams in the Island such as the Cowichan Valley Capitals and Nanaimo Clippers and the underperformance of the Grizzlies, Victoria finished with the worst record in the division at 24-33-1 for a measly 49 points. The Grizz still managed to clinch a wild card playoff spot due to the 2019-20 BCHL post-season format, with only one team in the league missing out. The main reason for the Grizzlies struggles this past season was their inability to score as they finished with the least amount of goals scored in the division and fourth-least in the entire league. Only three players on the team scored more than 40 points this past season. Cody Monds had 59 points, Henri Schreifels picked up 45 points, and Marty Westhaver posted 44 points. Add a struggling defense to the offense and you shouldn’t expect much success, with the Grizzlies finishing with the highest goals-against on the Island and third most against in the entire BCHL. Bad luck comes into effect as well for a poor season for many junior hockey clubs, as Victoria was no different. Included in that is a long-term injury to Liam Souliere, a goalie from Blainville, Quebec who the Grizz acquired in the offseason and was expected to be the starting goalie for the season. But, he was limited to only fifteen games in the regular season. Souliere didn’t make his Grizzlies debut until January 4 in a loss to the Penticton Vees. During those fifteen games, Souliere put up a very respectable .917 save percentage in the high-scoring BCHL and a Grizzlies team that struggled to keep the puck out of the net. Souliere isn’t back with the Grizzlies next season as he is committed to playing Div. 1 hockey at Penn State this fall.

Transition into the future

Although last season was a forgettable one for the Grizzlies, it is the circle of life for every team in junior A hockey. For a few years, a team can be a contender, but players age out and move on and teams are back in transition mode looking to recapture the magic of a previous championship or streak of contending seasons.As of right now, the Grizzlies are a team in transition trying to recapture the magic of the Alex Newhook years wearing the black, gold, and white, and bring a Fred Page Cup championship back to the city of Victoria for the first time since 2001.

Merritt-Lloydminster Trade:

The Merritt Centennials have acquired goaltender Josh Dias (00) from the Lloydminster Bobcats of the AJHL in exchange for forward Chase Nameth (00). Dias, a Surrey, BC native, shouldered a heavy work load with the Bobcats getting into 42 games, sporting a record of 8-30-3 with a 3.77 GAA and a .900 SV%. The Bobcats finished the season as the last place team in the AJHL’s North Division finishing with a record of 11-41-6. Dias spent the previous season with the Fort McMurray Oil Barons and was 8-8-3 through 20 games of action while putting up a 3.08 GAA and a .896 SV%. Head Coach and General Manager Derek Sweet-Coulter says Dias has all the qualities to be a starter. “Josh is a proven starting goalie at the Jr. A level and a work horse who started 40 games last season. The experience he will bring to the team will be a welcome asset.” Nameth was a regular in the Centennials line up last season getting into 54 games. He was able to supply 8 goals and 14 assists while providing some sand paper with 53 penalty minutes. The Centennials would like to thank Chase for all his hard work and passion in the Merritt community this last season, and wish him all the best in his future endeavors.

Bernier Commits To Capitals:

The Cowichan Capitals are excited to announce the commitment of 2001 born forward Vincent Bernier for the 2020/2021 season. Bernier, from St-Hyacinthe, Quebec spent the past two seasons with the Sorel-Tracy Rebelles of the Quebec College Hockey League. Last season Bernier finished 4th on the team in scoring with 13 goals 22 assists for 35 points in 34 games. “I’m beyond excited to join a good organization like this one. I can’t wait to meet the coaching staff as well as my new teammates. It’s a whole new and exciting challenge for me and I look forward to it. I can’t wait to wear the Cowichan Valley Capitals jersey.” said Bernier. Over two seasons with the Rebelles, Bernier totalled 44 points. Prior to that he spent two seasons playing U18 high school hockey where he recorded 51 points in 55 games at École Verbe-Divin. “We really expect Vincent to be able to come in and have a big impact on our team. He hits hard, competes, goes to the net, and overall plays a really committed game with a lot of jam. He will quickly become a fan favourite with his playing style and personality” said Capitals Head Coach Geoff Grimwood. Welcome to the Cowichan Valley Vincent!

When Outlaws Became Spruce Kings:

On February 12, 1999, Rocky Mountain Junior Hockey League commissioner Bronco Horvath penned a letter to the BCHL Board of Governors. Details of the letter were recounted by Doyle Potenteau during his coverage of the Quesnel Millionaires. In the letter, Horvath suggested that the BCHL absorb Fernie, Creston Valley, Kimberley, and Nelson as new expansion teams. He also suggested that each team pay $25,000 in franchise fees. “We feel we are not new franchises, we are existing junior franchises of a league.” His proposals were rejected by the BCHL Board of Governors for several reasons, and one of the reasons was the franchise fees, Horvath suggested. BCHL President Ron Bolieau stated that it would be unfair to the newest BCHL team, the Burnaby Bulldogs. “You can’t see a franchise for $100,000 and then let somebody in for cheaper,” Boileau said at the time. Horvath’s letter was written three years after the Trail Smoke Eaters, Quesnel Millionaires, and Prince George Spruce Kings left the RMJHL for the BCHL. The league was unravelling. It would not survive past 1999 after the Kimberley Dynamiters lost the Mowat Cup to the Vernon Vipers. While they weren’t accepted into the BCHL, the four surviving RMJHL teams live on as members of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League. In 2011, the Quesnel Millionaires relocated to become the newest incarnation of the Chilliwack Chiefs franchise. Only Trail and Prince George survive to this day. As for how the Spruce Kings entered the BCHL, it had to do with a team from New Westminster. The Royal City Outlaws were one of three expansion franchises that entered the BCHL in 1994. Their home was Queen’s Park Arena in New Westminster. They joined the BCHL with the Langley Thunder and the Victoria Salsa. Victoria changed its name to the Grizzlies in 2006 and Langley left for West Kelowna that same year.

The Outlaws struggle at Queen’s Park

The Outlaws were the latest attempt to have a junior hockey team operate at Queen’s Park Arena. In past decades, the storied rink had played host to several incarnations of the New Westminster Royals. It also was home two separate versions of the Western Hockey League’s New Westminster Bruins. After the Bruins left for good in 1988, another version of the Royals set up at Queen’s Park, followed by the Outlaws. To put it mildly, the Outlaws struggled on the ice. In their first season, the team won four games total. In their second season, the team won sixteen games. Meanwhile, the Spruce Kings had just won their eleventh RMJHL title against the Fernie Ghostriders. They had joined the league in 1975 when it was junior B. In 21 years, the Spruce Kings were the most dominant team and won the most titles. However, things were about to change in the RMJHL. In 1995, the Trail Smoke Eaters jumped ship to the BCHL by purchasing the franchise rights to the Bellingham Ice Hawks and relocating them to the Kootenays. This started an exodus of teams that the Spruce Kings would be a part of. The ownership group purchased the franchise rights of the Royal City Outlaws. They then received approval to operate the team out of Prince George. The Spruce Kings chose to buy an existing franchise rather than pay expansion fees like the Burnaby Bulldogs had to. Since joining the BCHL, they have become one of the most competitive teams in the league, making it to the playoffs in 19 of the past 24 seasons. In 2019, the Spruce Kings won the Fred Page Cup, Doyle Cup, and were the runners-up at the National Junior A championship. After 1996, no junior A team has operated out of Queen’s Park Arena since the Outlaws left. The junior B Queen’s Park Pirates played three seasons there from the late 90s to early 2000s before relocating to North Delta.

Adapting to survive

The 1990s were a decade of rapid change for junior hockey in BC. The arrival of the Prince George Cougars had changed things for the Spruce Kings. Most cities don’t have major junior and junior A teams co-existing, with Prince George and Langley (where the Vancouver Giants play) as the only communities in BC to have both levels of hockey located within the same city limits. After the Smoke Eaters changed leagues, the writing was on the wall for the RMJHL. The BCHL was always able to recruit better players. They always dominated in the Mowat Cup and a BCHL team actually never lost a game to an RMJHL team in the series between 1981 and 1999. If there are two competing leagues in a single territory, really only one league can survive. Prince George and Quesnel knew this when they exited to the BCHL. Just like the World Hockey Association in the 1970s when faced with the threat of the NHL, the RMJHL didn’t last. The success that Prince George has had since arriving proves that it deserves to be in the BCHL. The Spruce Kings may be the most isolated team in the league but they are one of the best-run franchises. As for the Outlaws, they were the last junior A team to play at Queen’s Park. Only the Western Lacrosse Association’s New Westminster Salmonbellies continue to play in that historic arena.

Salmon Arm-Notre Dame Trade:

The Salmon Arm Silverbacks have made a pair of trades, sending 20-year-old defenceman Devan Newhook to the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s Notre Dame Hounds in exchange for Jayce Nikbaht, and then subsequently moving Nikbaht and future considerations to the Manitoba Junior Hockey League’s Winnipeg Blues in exchange for 17-year-old forward Braden Fischer. Fischer, from Winnipeg, Man., was named to the MJHL All-Rookie team this past season, after tallying 45 points (19 goals, 26 assists) in 58 games. The year prior, he attended the RINK Hockey Academy, playing for their prep program in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League, where he produced 15 goals and 15 assists for 30 points in 30 games. “Acquiring a dynamic player like Braden who competes hard and has a scoring touch and junior experience was something we felt we needed to add to our forward group,” Silverbacks general manager Brooks Christensen said. “It’s never easy trading away a kid like Devan with his character. With our 20-year-old situation, we felt it was best to move Devan to a place where he’d have more responsibility and opportunity.” Newhook spent two years at Kimball Union Academy before committing to the Silverbacks last season, where he was limited to 31 games due to injury. He recorded five points in those games and provided invaluable leadership all season long. The Salmon Arm Silverbacks would like to welcome Braden to Salmon Arm and thank Devan for all his hard work and dedication to the organization.

Cowichan-Grande Prairie Trade:

The Cowichan Capitals have acquired 2002 born defenceman Jackson Murphy-Johnson and Future Considerations from the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s Grande Prairie Storm in exchange for 2000 born forward Cole Broadhurst and 2001 defenceman Johnny Howie. “I’m very grateful for the opportunity to play in Cowichan. I’m super excited and I can’t wait to get things started” said Murphy-Johnson. Murphy-Johnson spent the 2019/2020 season with the Trail Smoke Eaters, where he amassed 1 goal and 4 assists for 5 points in 38 games in his rookie junior hockey campaign. Prior to that, he played for the Vancouver NE Chiefs in the British Columbia Major Midget League, totalling 5 goals and 27 points in 78 games. From Burnaby, BC, Murphy Johnson stands 6’2″ and weighs 190 lbs. “We are very excited to had Jackson Murphy Johnson to our lineup. At 18 he already has a year in the BCHL in a great program in Trail. He has really good size and reach and is a very committed player on and off the ice.  We feel this is an upgrade on our blue line and we are bringing in a player with lots of upside” said Capitals Head Coach Geoff Grimwood. Broadhurst, who is headed into his 20 year old season, spent 3 seasons with the Capitals, and comes off a 7 goal, 17 point season. The Ladysmith product totalled 35 points over the three seasons in which he suited up for 157 regular season games and another 12 in the playoffs, recording a goal.  Johnny Howie played one season for Cowichan, as an 18 year old rookie and scored 1 goal and 7 points in 41 games. “This was an extremely hard trade to make as Cole has been a huge part of the Capitals for the past three seasons. Being from Ladysmith he is obviously a player with all sorts of connections in the community and was a popular player. We really felt this was the best move for Cole’s career going forward. It gives him a chance to have a clean slate in a new league and continue to progress as a player. We certainly wish him all the best and he will always be welcome back as an alumnus of the Capitals” said Grimwood. The Capitals wish Cole and Johnny the best of luck in Grande Prairie and welcome Jackson Murphy-Johnson to the Cowichan Valley!

Prince George-Wellington Trade:

The Spruce Kings have acquired defenceman Zach Gabruch (’01) from the Wellington Dukes (OJHL) in exchange for forward Mason Reeves (’01). Gabruch, from Saskatoon, SK, spent last season with the Salmon Arm Silverbacks and was then traded to Wellington on June 19th. The 6’5, 195-pound defender finished with five points in 56 games played with the Silverbacks in the 2019-20 campaign. “Zach is a good addition for us. He’s a big and mobile d-man with a year of experience in our league”, says GM Mike Hawes. “He will provide a lot of stability for us on the back end.” Prior to joining the Silverbacks, Gabruch spent both the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons with the Saskatoon Blazers of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League (SMAAAHL) where he finished with a combined 30 points in those seasons. The Spruce Kings would like to welcome Zach and his family to the organization and to the BC Northern Capital!

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