Around the BCHL: Merritt’s Matthew Kopperud nets Sun Devil scholarship

Around the BCHL is a look at the BCHL and goings-on throughout the junior A world.

Welcome to the September 25 edition of Around the BCHL, a look at what’s happening in the league.

West Kelowna Warriors goalie Connor Hopkins is the latest BCHL Player of the Week.

The 18 year old already has a scholarship offer to Yale, so he didn’t need to shine at the BCHL Showcase, but he did anyways, posting a goals-against average of 1.00 and save percentage of .965 in wins over the Prince George Spruce Kings and Nanaimo Clippers.

Hopkins stopped 35 shots in a 4-0 shutout of the Sprucies, handing PG its first loss of the season.

West Kelowna goalie Connor Hopkins in action during the preseason against the Trail Smoke Eaters. Guy Bertrand photo

The Massachusetts native blocked another 20 pucks in a 4-2 win over the Clippers as his team improved to 3-3-0.

Two other goalies made the honourable mention list, Langley’s Braedon Fleming and Chilliwack’s Mathieu Caron.

Caron was outstanding in Saturday’s 2-0 win over the Wenatchee Wild, stopping 29 shots.

Except for when he was pulled with 1:03 remaining in a 3-1 loss to PG Sept. 8, the Abbotsford native has played every minute in goal for Chilliwack, and that might not change for a while. Daniel Chenard (hip) isn’t expected back until Christmas time, and the Chiefs have used a rotating cast of AP backups so far.

Caron seems up to the challenge in the early going, but he gets a test this weekend as his team plays three games in two-and-a-half days, visiting Nanaimo Friday (7 p.m.), Cowichan Saturday (7 p.m.) and Victoria Sunday (2 p.m.).

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The first NCAA Div-1 rankings are out, and the defending champs are still No. 1.

Minnesota-Duluth tops the poll, followed by Notre Dame, Ohio State, Michigan and Providence.

St. Cloud State, Cornell, Boston University, Denver and Minnesota State are ranked 6-10.

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Speaking of polls, the Canadian Junior Hockey League seems to have released its first national junior A rankings, with two BCHL teams making the list.

The Prince George Spruce Kings (5-1-0-0) check in at No. 16 with the Powell River Kings (4-1-0-0) at No. 18.

There are no BCHL teams as honourable mentions.

The Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s Nipawin Hawks top the poll followed by the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League’s Soo Thunderbirds and the Quebec league’s Titan de Princeville.

Don’t read too much into it because early-season polls are wildly inaccurate.

Take a look at the BCHL standings this morning and you’ll find the Penticton Vees (2-3-0-0) dead last in the Interior conference, with the Vernon Vipers (2-2-2-0) one spot ahead. Does anyone think that’ll last?

There’s a ton of turnover with junior A rosters from year to year and some teams take longer to come together than others. Fast starters fade. Slow starters pick up steam and by mid-to-late November you can see who the powerhouses are going to be.

My bet is that Penticton is among them.

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I can’t say enough about what a great event the BCHL Showcase is.

I walked into the Chilliwack dressing room minutes after they blanked Wenatchee Saturday night, and everywhere I looked Chief players were talking with NCAA scouts/coaches. Rookie forward Carter Wilkie was speaking with someone from the University of Massachusetts-Lowell (saw the logo) when I entered the room and another school pulled him aside minutes later.

In between I talked to him about the BCHL Showcase experience and scoring his first junior A goal in the Wild win.

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Every time I load up the Cowichan Capitals twitter feed, I’m greeted by a pinned tweet that says, ‘Capitals hire new general manager and head coach.’

Every time I’m like, ‘Wait! What?’

Then I remember. Then I’m irritated for a few seconds. Then I’m over it.

But hey Caps! Time to unpin that now.

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For anyone who said that Langley players don’t go to the dirty areas, proof that you are wrong.

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And finally, scholarship news out of Merritt as Matthew Kopperud commits to the Arizona State Sun Devils.

Kopperud has been on fire to start his fourth year in the BCHL. The Denver native ranked 12th in league scoring with four goals and eight points in seven outings. He had nine goals and 17 points, total, in 2017-18.

Joe Martin, Merritt’s head coach and general manager, said Kopperud has been on ASU’s radar for a while.

“It goes back a couple years for Matt, he’s slowly gotten to know their staff,” Martin said in a Cents news release. “They’ve kept on him and done their homework, and Matt’s had a great start to the season, a really good summer, and has taken advantage of the ice time given to him. So it might seem quick, seem like it came out of nowhere, but they’ve had their eye on him for quite a while.”

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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