Welcome to the Feb. 8, 2018 edition of BCHL Today, a (near) daily look at what’s going on around the league and the junior A world.
We start today with more on outgoing BCHL boss John Grisdale.
Grisdale is stepping aside at season’s end after 14 years, and the Canadian Junior Hockey League has bestowed a couple honours on him. The first is lifetime membership in the CJHL awarded, according to the CJHL news release “in honour and recognition of his many years of service, dedication and commitment to Jr. A hockey across Canada in both British Columbia and the entire CJHL.”
Grisdale is only the sixth person all-time to receive this honour. His predecessor, former BCHL president Ron Boileau is also part of that select group.
The CJHL is also naming a new award after him. The John Grisdale Top Prospects Award will be given the CJHL player who is selected highest in that year’s National Hockey League entry draft. Wenatchee’s Stanislav Demin is a good bet to be the first recipient. He was rated 32nd among North American skaters in the most recent Central Scouting Bureau rankings.
“John has been a tireless and dedicated worker on behalf of both the BCHL and the CJHL, since his installation as BCHL Commissioner,” said CJHL president Brent Ladds. “His vision and willingness to work with all elements of the game have contributed greatly to the success of both the BCHL and the CJHL, as well as gaining him the utmost respect of his colleagues, within the CJHL.”
That’s a pro who threw together that quote, getting CJHL in there four times. Well done PR person!
One final thought on Grisdale before moving on, and this comes from Chilliwack Chiefs radio colour-man Jacob Bestebroer in his latest column.
“As the commissioner you are the boss. Sort of. Kind of. The problem is you answer to each of the team owners/governors in the league. You can have a very good vision of where you want to take the league but without the backing of the majority of the teams in the league, that task becomes extremely difficult if not impossible. Fans will blame the commissioner for everything from perceived bad refereeing to the ever-changing playoff format the league has had over the last few years. These things are not always the fault of that office.
Compare his job to that of a bus driver tasked with getting 17 passengers to a destination he knows they all need to get to. The next turn for the bus is a right one. As you near the turn, nine of the 17 passengers vote to turn left instead of right. This happens because they put their team’s best interests ahead of the best interests of the league. His hands are tied. That bus is going to turn left instead of right. I can only imagine how frustrating that can be.
John and I have had our differences of opinion. He hasn’t always liked what I’ve said during Chiefs broadcasts. I haven’t agreed with his position or in the manner which he has voiced that to me. But we’ve managed to move past that. I wish him all the best.”
On to some mid-week action where everything went according to script Wednesday night. There were five games, and the favourites in each of them took care of business.
The Penticton Vees hit the road to take down Trail by a 4-1 count at the Cominco Arena. The Vees were full value for the win, out-shooting the Smoke Eaters 42-27 and getting goals from Jackson Keane, Jared Nash, Jack Barnes (lots of J’s there) and Wyatt Sloboshan.
Braeden Tuck had the lone goal for Trail, who couldn’t solve Penticton goaltender Nolan Hildebrand.
Hildebrand got the start in place of injured Adam Scheel, who was run over by a pair of Salmon Arm skaters in the closing minutes of a game last Saturday.
Scheel wasn’t on the bench last night. Victoria native Keenan Rancier dressed as the backup. The 17 year old has spent this season with the Penticton-based Okanagan Hockey Academy Red Prep squad, posting a 2.44 goals-against average and .918 save percentage in 17 games.
But word on the street, and by street I mean Vees play-by-play man Craig Beauchemin, is that Scheel is fine and will be available Friday night when the Vees and Smokies face off again at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
The Nanaimo Clippers needed overtime to get by the surprisingly stout Alberni Valley Bulldogs at the Weyerhaeuser Arena.
David Melaragni scored the winner 2:12 into overtime.
Nanaimo led 2-0 early on goals by Parker Colley and Tristan Crozier, but a bad bench minor let the Dawgs back into the game. The Clips were called for too many men, and Cole Poliziani cashed in with a power play goal at 1:35.
AV’s Mitchell Oliver scored another power play goal in the second period to give his team a 2-1 lead through 40 minutes, and Poliziani’s second of the game early in the final frame had the Bulldogs poised to pull of the home-ice upset.
But Nanaimo’s Jake Harris crushed their dreams with a final-minute snipe to send the game to OT, where Melaragni won it.
With the Victoria Grizzlies trouncing the Cowichan Caps 6-2 last night, the Clippers didn’t gain any ground on the Island division leaders. But they drew even with the idle Powell River Kings for second place, each three points back of the Grizz.
The Salmon Arm Silverbacks got back in the win column, and Reid Cooper came up with a clutch performance in a big spot, beating his former team.
Cooper, the Silverbacks netminder, stopped 26 of 28 shots as Salmon Arm topped the Coquitlam Express 5-2 at the Poirier Sports and Leisure Centre in Coquitlam. His Express counterpart, Brock Hamm, didn’t have nearly as nice a time.
Hamm was pulled at the 26:58 mark after giving up four goals on 19 shots.
Salmon Arm led 3-0 through 20 minutes on goals by Tanner Campbell, Justin Wilson and Grayson Constable. The timing is a little off on the scoresheet, which has Riley Hayles scoring at 7:03. That would have been the goal that chased Hamm from the cage.
Clay Stevenson took over, surrendered a quick goal to Hudson Schandor, then shut the door the rest of the way.
The Express got third period goals from Jordan Schulting and Eric Linell.
I’ve talked about it a lot recently. Salmon Arm is now 13-3-0-1 since Christmas. Their only loss in their last 11 games was a 5-1 defeat vs Penticton last weekend. It tells you how horrid they were early in the season that they still have a minus-43 goals-for-versus-goals-against differential, with the third most goals against (195) in the entire league.
They’re still no defensive juggernaut, but their offense is starting to look fairly potent and they could be a very tough out in the first round of the playoffs.
The final game Wednesday night saw the Chilliwack Chiefs get dumped 4-1 by the Vernon Vipers at Kal Tire Place.
The Vipers out-shot the Chiefs 41-30. They got two goals from Brett Stapley and singles from Michael Young and Cameron Trott.
Chilliwack’s goal came off the stick of Tommy Lee.
That’s all I’ll say about this game because the Chiefs are just very depressing to me this season.
Here are some postgame thoughts from the Vernon locker room.
Eric Welsh is the sports editor at the Chilliwack Progress and has been covering junior A hockey in B.C. and Alberta since 2003.