Welcome to the March 23, 2018 edition of BCHL Today, a (near) daily look at what’s going on around the league and the junior A world.
Just one game in the league last night, but it was an interesting result as Prince George staved off elimination with a 4-1 home ice win over Surrey.
The Eagles may be up 3-2 in this series, but Saturday night’s game six in Surrey is massively important because the Eagles have proven they can’t get much done in the claustrophobic confines of the Rolling Mix Concrete Arena.
Surrey has been outscored 15-5 in three PG games, getting outshot 51-15, 48-19 and 37-19 and if not for Mario Cavaliere’s heroic netminding in game two this series would be 3-2 for the Spruce Kings.
— Surrey Eagles (@SurreyEagles) March 23, 2018
The other side of the coin is the Eagles winning games three and four at the South Surrey Arena by scores of 5-1 and 4-0. It’s clear that Surrey can generate offence against Prince George’s stifling system if they’re given a bit more skating space, which makes game six a must win.
If the Eagles can’t eliminate the Spruce Kings on home ice they’ll have to travel to PG for game seven on Sunday and you’d have to figure they’re done.
Desi Burgart was the lone Surrey skater to slip a puck past Prince George goalie Evan DeBrouwer Thursday, collecting his league-leading 10th of the playoffs on a power play midway through period three.
— Surrey Eagles (@SurreyEagles) March 23, 2018
Dustin Manz, Patrick Cozzi, Kyle Johnson and Blake Hayward beat Cavaliere, with Johnson adding two helpers for a three point night. The Spruce Kings struck twice on five power play chances.
While this series takes a break tonight, the other three series are back in action as Penticton hosts Trail, Vernon hosts Wenatchee and Victoria hosts Powell River.
All are 7 p.m. starts.
Side note: You’ll see me talking about horrible hockey nicknames a lot. Credit to the Eagles for dubbing goalie Mario Cavaliere ‘Super Mario.’ As huge a fan of retro gaming, I can get behind this.
It’s been a busy week for former Powell River Kings turning pro.
I talked in a previous column about Ryan Scarfo signing with the American Hockey League’s Belleville Senators, and he now has two games under his belt. Scarfo collected no points or penalty minutes in games against the Toronto Marlies and Utica Comets. The Senators are back in action tonight, hosting the Marlies.
Meanwhile, Braeden Ostepchuk has signed an amateur tryout agreement with the ECHL’s Greenville Swamp Rabbits and debuted last Saturday. His first minor-pro outing wasn’t great. The goaltender allowed five goals on 39 shots in a 5-2 loss to the Norfolk Admirals.
Ostepchuk tended net for Powell River during the 2012-13 season before heading on to four seasons with the NCAA Div-III Norwich University Cadets. According to the Powell River alumni report compiled by Kings radio colour man Zach Evans, Ostepchuk compiled a record of 51-12-3 with a .924 Save Percentage, a 1.79 goals-against average and 12 shutouts during his time at Norwich U. He also won a national championship in 2017, and was named the team captain this past year.
One more as Luke Nogard has inked an amateur tryout agreement with the ECHL’s Toledo Walleyes and has played in three games. The forward debuted last Friday against the Quad City Mallards and collected his first minor-pro point two nights later, collecting an assist in a 4-1 win over the Cincinnati Cyclones.
Nogard spent two seasons (2012-14) with Powell River before moving on to four years at the University of Nebraska-Omaha.
Yesterday’s column included video of Tyler Ghirardosi’s epic goal in game four versus the Penticton Vees.
.@t_ghirardosi's goal is getting *almost* as much air time as Scheel's water bottle! In addition to TSN, @GlobalBC Sports featured the goal right after NHL highlights! #BCHL #GoSmokiesGo! #BleedOrange @sbarnesglobal @BC1 pic.twitter.com/6XshJJH7fE
— Trail Smoke Eaters (@BCHLSmokeEaters) March 23, 2018
Video of that goal has gone viral, appearing on Global TV and hitting the radar of TSN hockey guys Bob McKenzie and Ray Ferraro. In a tweet fest yesterday, something was pointed out that I completely missed the first time watching it. Ghirardosi finishes with a shot under the crossbar that knocks the water bottle of Penticton netminder Adam Scheel up in the air.
Waaaaaaaaay up in the air.
Look at the height on the water bottle. pic.twitter.com/I2X8W7dyMq
— BC Hockey League (@bchllive) March 22, 2018
A big weekend of NCAA Div-I action starts tomorrow.
No. 1 ranked St. Cloud State takes on unranked Air Force in an NCAA West Regional semi-final at the Denny Sanford Premier Center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
This game features five BCHL grads.
The St. Cloud roster includes Jeff Smith (Powell River), Patrick Newell (Penticton) and Easton Brodzinski (Penticton) while Army counters with Billy Christopoulos (Alberni Valley) and Matthew Serratore (Penticton).
You’ve got No. 2 ranked Notre Dame versus No. 18 Michigan Tech in an East Regional semi-final at the Webster Bank Arena in Brideport, Connecticut.
The Fighting Irish bring Tony Bretzman (Langley), Bo Brauer (Nanaimo) and Luke Ripley (Powell River) into battle.
More than half (12) of the Michigan Tech roster is BCHL grads, a list that includes: Brent Baltus (Trail), Alex Gillies (Salmon Arm), Mason Blacklock (Langley/Nanaimo/Surrey/Vernon), Evan Anderson (Salmon Arm), Devin Kero (Merritt), Dane Birks (Merritt), Jake Jackson (Nanaimo), Jake Lucchini (Trail), Gavin Gould (Merritt), Mitch Meek (Victoria/Vernon/Cowichan Valley/Penticton), Tyler Rockwell (Wenatchee) and Cooper Watson (Vernon).
No. 6 Minnesota State faces No. 11 Minnesota-Duluth in a West Regional semi-final at the Denny Sanford Premier Center.
Minnesota-Duluth has just one BCHL grad on the roster, Jarod Hilderman (Penticton). The Mavericks counter with four BCHL alums, Brad McClure (Penticton), Connor LaCouvee (Alberni Valley), Steen Cooper (Cowichan Valley/Penticton) and Edwin Hookenson (Nanaimo).
You’ve also got the No. 7 Providence Friars taking on the No. 9 Clarkson Golden Knights in an East Regional semi-final at the Webster Bank Arena.
The Providence roster includes Vincent Desharnais (Chilliwack), Scott Conway (Penticton), Brandon Duhaime (Merritt), Vimal Sukumaran (Chilliwack) and Chase Zieky (Salmon Arm). The Golden Knights go to war with Ben Dalpe (Penticton), Nic Pierog (Surrey/Penticton), Devin Brosseau (Nanaimo), Sheldon Rempal (Nanaimo), Jordan Schneider (Langley) and Connor McCarthy (Chilliwack).
Follow everything online at uscho.com/gameday/division-i-men/2017-2018/2018-03-23/
And finally, it was pointed out to me this morning that I am now covering hockey players who were born in 2002.
Penticton radio play-by-play man Craig Beauchemin said the Vees dressed Cole Shepard in their most recent playoff game against Trial and he’ll be back in the Penticton lineup tonight.
I find this news to be very depressing.
Eric Welsh is the sports editor at the Chilliwack Progress and has been covering junior A hockey in B.C. and Alberta since 2003.