Backing up Mat Robson last season brought Nolan Hildebrand some challenges.
On Sept. 8, he got another confidence boost when he stopped 26 shots in a 4-2 win on the road against the Merritt Centennials to open the B.C. Hockey League season. Hildebrand’s play earned the praise of Vees coach-general manager Fred Harbinson.
“He (Hildebrand) battled through a lot of difficult things with us last year, and was a good soldier for us,” Harbinson told the Merritt Herald. “He deserved to get the start tonight.”
Hildebrand said he felt good in the crease, earning his seventh career win.
“My angles were solid, my puck play is a lot better than it was last year, I just felt confident in the net,” he said.
Hildebrand admitted there were ups and downs last season backing up Mat Robson, seeing action in 13 games. Being in that role was challenging. It motivated him to work hard in the gym and refine his game on the ice. He feels as though that gave him a new level of confidence coming into the season. Hildebrand said he learned a lot from last season and is using that to build for this season. He also said having a great group of teammates in front makes it easier. Helping the Vees collect two points, Hildebrand doesn’t plan on getting too high from that.
Hildebrand liked how committed his teammates were to the systems in their win.
“It’s early in the year and we still have some work to be done. For having only a handful of practices, being able to perform the systems the way Freddy wants them, as well as we did, I felt like that was huge,” he said.
Vees co-captain Owen Sillinger liked how the team competed against the Centennials. He said they came out very strong scoring in the second and third shifts. They stuck with it, but had some trouble in the second period, which they were edged in shots 13-11. It was also exciting for his brother Lukas to score his first BCHL goal.
“I sat down and took a drink of water and saw he potted one,” he said. “I was very excited for him, especially with a 2-0 lead in the first period.”
Sillinger described Hildebrand’s play as “unbelievable.” He made the big stops when we needed him. Sillinger agreed it was important for the team to see him play well.
“We had a proud locker room,” said Sillinger. “We watched Hildy perform to the potential that he had. It was great to see the guy some out with a W.”
In other league action posted on the BCHL website from Sept. 9, Jimmy Lambert scored twice in the third, including a shorthanded marker, in the space of 2:21 to deliver a 6-5 comeback win at home for the Vernon Vipers over the Salmon Arm Silverbacks. Lambert also picked up three assists for a five-point night and was named first Star.
Brandon Wells made 21 saves for his first BCHL shut out and Andre Ghantous scored a goal and added two helpers to pace the Trail Smoke Eaters to a 4-0 win over the host West Kelowna Warriors. Levi Glasman scored the winner with Ghantous scoring in the second with Ross Armour and Braeden Tuck (empty net) scoring in the third.
Ethan Nother’s unassisted goal in 3-on-3 double overtime lifted the visiting Victoria Grizzlies to a 2-1 win over the Powell River Kings. Jacson Alexander opened the scoring for Grizz in the first but Ben Raffler tied it late in the opening frame. The second and third periods were scoreless setting the stage for Nother’s winner in OT.
AJ Vanderbeck scored twice to lead the Wenatchee Wild to a 5-3 road win over the Merritt Centennials. The home side got off to a good start with Jack Vincent and Zach Zorn putting them ahead two by the 3:53 mark. Seth Eisele made 25 saves for the win in his first BCHL start.
The Nanaimo Clippers got goals from eight scorers on the way to an 8-3 road win over the Cowichan Valley Capitals. Haydn Hopkins got the home side in front just past the five-minute mark but it was the only lead they’d hold on the night. Jamie Collins, David Melaragni, Jack MacNab, David Silye, Jake Harris and Tristan Crozier scored for Nanaimo in the first to put them up 6-1 after 20 minutes. Cal Babych scored an empty-netter for Nanaimo. Austin Roden made 32 saves for the win.
The Prince George Spruce Kings also had eight scorers in an 8-2 home win over the Chilliwack Chiefs. Ryan Stack and Ben Poisson put the Spruce Kings up two after one but Nick Ormon and Tommy Lee replied for the Chiefs in the second to tie it. Layton Ahac, Shawn Kennedy and Ben Brar scored for the Spruce Kings to put them ahead for good. In the third, Dustin Manz, Ethan de Jong and Jarod Hovde got the final Spruce King goals. Evan DeBrouwer made 29 saves for the win.