BCHL Today: Vees and Wild on a tear while Rivermen slide

BCHL Today is a (near) daily feature providing news and notes from around the junior A world.

Welcome to the Feb. 5, 2018 edition of BCHL Today, a (near) daily look at what’s going on around the league and the junior A world.

We start with a fun story out of Powell River.

The Kings hosted the Alberni Valley Bulldogs Saturday night at Hap Parker Arena, with veteran Mitch Adamyk getting the start in goal.

Powell River play-by-play man Alex Rawnsley tells the rest.

“Backup goalie Matteo Paler-Chow has been injured since Christmas so on the bench was local midget rep goaltender Cam Stevenson. He was designated as an EBUG, or emergency backup goaltender, meaning that he could only play if the starter got injured and couldn’t continue.

Well, with about four minutes left in the first, that’s what happened. Mitch got run into by a pair of players and hit the ice hard. Trainer Terry Dyer made the call to sub him out and Stevenson came in. He stopped one shot in the first period, 14/15 in the second and all six in the third to record his first BCHL win in his first junior hockey appearance. Huge rounds of applause after each save, a standing ovation when he went in and first star honours. The only thing to beat him was a 45-degree redirect in front that either hits you, or doesn’t.”

Ethan Kimball, Gavin Rauser, Hunter Findlater and Carter Turnbull scored the Powell River goals in a 4-1 win, with Jackson Doucet netting the lone AV goal.

It was the first win for interim head coach Brock Sawyer.

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Off to Salmon Arm where the Penticton Vees ended a seven game Silverback win streak with a 5-1 road-triumph at the Shaw Centre.

The game was tied 1-1 until midway through the second period, when Penticton scored three times in 62 seconds. Vees play-by-play man Craig Beauchemin describes the onslaught.

“While on the power play, Jonny Tychonick was skating down the left wing wall and spotted Owen Sillinger backdoor. Sillinger dropped down to one knee to make sure he was able to get the puck into the net for his 25th of the year.

Just 14 seconds later, Jackson Keane fed the puck to James Miller at the right point who then moved to the slot before firing a slap shot past Reid Cooper’s blocker to make it 3-1.

Less than a minute later, Michael Campoli knocked a Salmon Arm centering feed out of midair onto the stick of (Massimo) Rizzo, who skated into the Salmon Arm zone. With Campoli heading to the net, Rizzo let a wrist shot go from the slot that beat Cooper blocker side to make it 4-1.”

Sillinger scored his second of the game late in the middle frame to wrap up the scoring and give the Vees they’re 11th win in their last 13 outings. The only team to beat them in 2018 is the Victoria Grizzlies, who skated to a 6-3 win last weekend. The other ‘blemish’ on Penticton’s record was a 2-2 tie with Trail Jan. 12.

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Something’s wrong with the Langley Rivermen, who were out-scored 15-3 in two weekend losses.

Trail and Wenatchee aren’t easy places to visit, but you’d expect a talented Langley squad to do better than an 8-1 loss to the Smoke Eaters and a 7-2 loss to the Wild.

The Rivermen have wins against nine losses since returning from the Christmas break and the latest losses are a sign of a team in distress.

Wenatchee out-shot Langley 43-22 in Saturday’s game at the Town Toyota Centre.

The Wild led 2-0 through 20 minutes on a pair of Murphy Stratton goals. They really poured it on in the second period, out-shooting the Rivermen 20-4 and getting goals from AJ Vanderbeck, Sam Morton, Sam Hesler and Jasper Weatherby.

Connor Marshall was the only Langley player to hit the scoresheet, putting two pucks behind Wild goalie Seth Eisele.

The Wild came into 2018 with four straight losses. But, since falling 5-4 in OT to West Kelowna back on Jan. 12, Wenatchee’s gone on a tear, winning eight of their last nine games. They are just one point behind Penticton for the Interior division lead.

Take a look at this morning’s BCHL standings. The road to a Fred Page Cup championship will run through the Interior this season. Based on win percentage, the Vees (.740), Wild (.700), Vernon Vipers (.690) and Trail Smoke Eaters (.663) are the top four teams in the league.

Trail would hold first place if they resided in the Island or Mainland divisions.

The closest non-Interior team is the Mainland leading Prince George Spruce Kings with a win percentage of .620.

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On to Merritt where the Centennials dumped the West Kelowna Warriors by a 6-3 count Saturday night at Royal LePage Place.

Zach Risteau had a three-point night for the Cents. In a tough season for Merritt, the 19 year old Minnesota native is providing a feel-good story. Risteau was a top player for the Centennials last year, recording 26 goals and 50 points in 53 games. He was good enough to secure an NCAA commitment to St. Lawrence University. But at the start of this season, Risteau opted to leave the BCHL and join the USHL’s Central Illinois Flying Aces (great name!).

Checking out the USHL standings, it seems the team isn’t very good. Based on win percentage (.321), they’re the worst in the 17 team league with a record of 12-21-1-3. Risteau only played in 19 games for them, recording two goals and five points.

He did an interview with a Merritt radio station upon returning, and if you read between the lines with a quote off the top, he may have found the USHL stifling. I’ve heard before that the league is very systems-oriented and focused on D. The BCHL, by comparison, is fast and free-wheeling and the type of league offensive-minded players seem to enjoy.

Only Risteau knows for sure why he’s back, but he’s collected five goals and 10 points in 11 games.

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Finally, as we hit the final stretch of regular season games, there are some fascinating races atop the statistical leader board.

The race to see who leads the league in points appears to be a two-man show.

Wenatchee’s Jasper Weatherby leads the way with 67 points in 50 games. Young Alex Newhook lurks just two points back. If this was decided by points-per-game, the 16 year old Victoria Grizzly would be the runaway leader. Newhook has collected his 65 points in just 44 games, giving him a ppg rate of 1.48 to Weatherby’s 1.34.

Wenatchee’s Cooper Zech has an outside shot at this, with 62 points in 50 games, amazing totals for a blueliner. The Michigan native recorded his 51st assist of the season in Saturday’s whomping of the Langley Rivermen. Wenatchee’s all-time mark for assists by a blueliner is 55, held by Tyler Rockwell, who took 157 games to do it. That info from Wild play-by-play man Arch Ecker.

The goal race is coming down to the wire, with three players in the running. Weatherby and Surrey’s John Wesley have 33 apiece while Wenatchee’s AJ Vanderbeck has sniped 32. Again, if you went on a per-game ratio, it would be Vanderbeck running away with this, with his total coming in just 41 games as compared to 47 for Wesley and 50 for Weatherby.

Eric Welsh is the sports editor at the Chilliwack Progress and has been covering junior A hockey in B.C. and Alberta since 2003.

Email eric.welsh@theprogress.com

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