BCHL Today: Kings try to ground Grizzlies and Galajda targets Hobey Baker Award

BCHL Today is a (near) daily look at what’s going on around the league and the junior A world.

Welcome to the March 15, 2018 edition of BCHL Today, a (near) daily look at what’s going on around the league and the junior A world.

We continue our look at the second round of the BCHL playoffs, swinging over to Victoria.

The Grizzlies open at home Friday against the Powell River Kings in what promises to be another coin-flip series.

Victoria, the Island division’s top seed, and Powell River, its third seed, were separated by four points in the regular season standings. Their season series is fascinating for the lack of conclusions you can draw from it. Victoria won five of eight meetings. In those five games the combined scored was 18-16 for the Grizzlies. In the three games where Powell River came out on top, they did so by a combined score of 20-7. Only two of the games, 2-1 and 7-6 Victoria wins, were one goal affairs. The rest were decided by a three goals or more, with scores of 8-2, 5-2, 6-3, 7-3, 7-4 and 6-2.

The teams were separated by two goals offensively in the regular season. The Grizzlies lit the lamp 216 times in 58 games (3.72 per game). The Kings scored 214 times for an average of 3.69 per game.

Powell River had a miniscule edge defensively, coughing up 176 goals (3.03 per game) while Victoria surrendered 187 (3.22 per game).

Again, numbers you can’t draw any conclusions from.

Where Victoria usually has an advantage is on the power play, where their league-leading PP clicked at a 22.9 per cent success rate in the regular season. But they only converted at 10 per cent in their opening round series against Alberni Valley, scoring on two of 20 chances.

The Grizzlies have a talented group of forwards led by rookie phenom Alex Newhook (45-22-44-66) and Jamie Rome (55-22-48-70). Ethan Nother (58-26-33-59), T.J. Friedmann (58-22-35-57) and Justin Michaelian (48-24-20-44) are part of a deep crew up front while Dayne Finnson (56-5-36-41) and Matthew Doran (55-9-26-35) provide offence from the back end.

Powell River’s regular season penalty kill would provide cause for concern, muddling along at an 80.6 per cent success rate. That wouldn’t be good enough against Victoria, but the Kings have upped their game in the postseason, operating at an 84.6 per cent success rate in their first round series vs Nanaimo.

The Powell River power play is no world beater. In the regular season they clicked at 18.9 per cent, good for 12th in the 17 team league, and that percentage has held steady (19.0) in the playoffs. But, they were uncommonly successful against Victoria in the regular season.

This from Kings radio play-by-play man Alex Rawnsey.

“The Kings were able to generate some excellent powerplay numbers against Victoria this season, thanks in large part to the first half of the season series. In the opening four games of the series, the Kings went 9 for 23 (39.13 per cent) before eventually settling at 32.35 per cent through eight games.”

Rawnsey also had an interesting stat about shots against, one that put the Grizzlies in unflattering company.

“The Kings were ninth in the BCHL in shots against with 1,923 (33.16 per game), while Victoria allowed 2,222 (38.31 per game). That number was ‘bettered’ only by the Cowichan Valley Capitals.”

Powell River will no doubt be trying to direct as many pucks as possible at red-hot Victoria netminder Kurtis Chapman. The reigning BCHL Player of the Week posted save percentages of .921, .971, .974, .946 and .969 in a come-from-behind seven game win over Alberni Valley in round one.

Powell River doesn’t have the star power that Victoria has, but their talented roster of forwards is led by Ben Berard (58-29-38-67), Carter Turnbull (51-30-25-55), Jonny Evans (49-20-31-51), Kevin Obssuth (56-20-22-42) and Gavin Rauser (43-11-23-34) with nine players hitting double digits in goals. As a group, they’re more capable of causing Chapman trouble than the Bulldogs were.

At the other end, Powell River will probably keep rolling with goalie Matteo Paler-Chow, who was rock solid in three of four first round games. There’s always the possibility that starter Mitch Adamyk could be back from injury, but that info is kept close to the vest at this time of year. And even if Adamyk is healthy and ready to go, this isn’t the best time to be knocking off rust from a month and a half on the sidelines.

I said off the top that this series is a coinflip.

The Grizzlies do have an edge in goaltending and offensive depth and I am picking Victoria to take this one in six hard-fought games.

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The BCHL announced its 2017-18 all-stars yesterday.

This is based on voting by the league’s play-by-play broadcasters, who chose first team, second team and all-rookie squads. The all-star selections were top-heavy, with only eight of the BCHL’s 17 teams represented.

The first team was effectively an Interior division rep team, with Victoria forward Alex Newhook the only intruder. The other forwards were league MVP Jasper Weatherby (Wenatchee) and Kale Howarth (Trail) along with defencemen Jonny Tychonick (Penticton) and Cooper Zech (Wenatchee) and goaltender Ty Taylor (Vernon).

Alex Newhook of the Victoria Grizzlies is a first-team BCHL All-Star and a member of the All-Rookie team.

Surrey forwards John Wesley and Ty Westgard headline the second team along with AJ Vanderbeck (Wenatchee). The D-men are Michael Ufberg (Vernon) and Slava Demin (Wenatchee) and the goaltender is Adam Scheel (Penticton).

Can’t quibble with any of those selections.

Newhook returns to snag a spot on the All-Rookie team along with forwards Levi Glasman (Trail) and Keaton Mastrodonato (Alberni Valley), defencemen Nick Leivermann (Penticton) and Layton Ahac (Prince George) and goalie Seth Eisele (Wenatchee).

Teams with no one on the list are the Chilliwack Chiefs, Langley Rivermen, Coquitlam Express, Salmon Arm Silverbacks, Merritt Centennials, West Kelowna Warriors, Powell River Kings, Cowichan Capitals and Nanaimo Clippers.

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A BCHL grad has made the top 10 for Hobey Baker Award voting.

Cornell goaltender Matthew Galajda turned in a remarkable freshman season that saw him post a 21-3-2 record with a .943 save percentage and an NCAA-best nine shutouts. No one has posted a lower goals-against average over the last six years than Galajda’s 1.43, and he is the only first-year NCAA player in the latest round of voting.

Galajda was named the East Coast Athletic Conference’s Goalie of the Year and Rookie of the Year. He was an easy selection for the ECAC First-Team All-Conference and All-Rookie Teams. Galajda was named Ivy League Player of the Year and is a finalist for ECAC Player of the Year.

He is leading the Big Red into the playoffs tomorrow night as they take on the Princeton Tigers in the ECAC semi-finals.

Fan voting on Facebook will help produce three finalists. Their names will be revealed March 29 and the 2018 Hobey Baker Award winner will be announced April 6 during the NCAA’s Frozen Four.

The Ontario native played 83 regular season and 16 playoff games in the BCHL, all with the Victoria Grizzlies. He won 43 with a save percentage of .918, a goals-against average of 2.52 and seven shutouts.

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BCHL grads Zane Schartz and Ben Greiner are turning pro, signing on with the ECHL’s Norfolk Admirals.

Schartz, a Texas native, joins the Admirals on a PTO (Player Tryout Offer) after spending three seasons with the Liberty University Flames, a Div-1 team playing in the American Collegiate Hockey Association. Shartz led all ACHA D-men in scoring this season with 23 goals and 59 points in 35 games. In 99 career games at Liberty he produced 48 goals and 129 points.

Schartz played BCHL hockey for the Surrey Eagles (2013-14, 2014-15), West Kelowna Warriors (2013-14), and Trail Smoke Eaters (2013-15).

Greiner has just finished up a four year run in college hockey. The forward played two seasons with the NCAA Div-1 Bowling Green State Falcons and two for the NCAA Div-III Hobart College Statesman. Greiner wore the captain’s C in his final season, leading the team to an 18-6-5 record and a fourth straight New England Hockey Conference Tournament championship.

Greiner played BCHL hockey for the Surrey Eagles (2011-12) and Langley Rivermen (2012-13).

Schartz and Greiner join an Admirals squad that is fifth in the ECHL’s South division with a record of 23-32-4-3. Norfolk has eight more games left on their regular season slate, starting with a Friday night home game against the Greenville Swamp Rabbits (great, great, great name!).

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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