BCHL Today: Prince George and Wenatchee on track for Fred Page Cup final

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

Welcome to the April 4, 2018 edition of BCHL Today, a (near) daily look at what’s going on around the league and the junior A world.

Both third round series were in action last night as Prince George visited Powell River and Trail hosted Wenatchee.

We start in Powell River where the Kings are now officially on life support. Dustin Manz scored the game winner 30 seconds into period three as the Spruce Kings beat Powell River 5-4 at the Hap Parker Arena, taking a 3-1 stranglehold in their matchup.

For the 1,106 Kings fans in attendance, this was a roller coaster of emotion.

Despair as Blake Hayward and Nolan Welsh gave Prince George a 2-0 lead through 20 minutes. Elation as Carmine Buono, Neal Samanski and Ben Berard scored to give the home team a 3-2 lead, and despair again as Welsh and Layton Ahac scored goals 43 seconds apart late in the second period, giving the Spruce Kings a 4-3 lead through 40 minutes.

Outright depression when Manz scored on the power play in the first minute of the final frame.

Hope when Kevin Obssuth got Powell River within one with 2:28 to play and sorrow when the final whistle blew.

Trailing 3-1 in the series with two of the next three games in Prince George, what hope do the Kings have now? Not much, and my worst hockey nightmare is closer to coming true. As a fan of the game, the last thing I want is for a team like PG to have significant success, because hockey is a copycat world. The farther the Spruce Kings go, the more likely it is other teams follow their model, creating a trap-happy league where ‘aggressive forecheck’ is gone the way of the dinosaurs.

What fun!

An interesting note about Tuesday’s game. After combining for four power play opportunities in game three, the teams combined for nine in game four. PG fans will still have a beef after getting just two, but Powell River fans should have no complaints after watching their team go four for seven on the PP.

Steve Brown refereed both games. Troy Paterson worked game four after Dex Rasmussen worked game three. One of these days, it will be worth my time to develop a spreadsheet that tracks calls by specific officials. I bet that chart would reveal some interesting things.

This series continues Thursday night with a 7 p.m. start in PG.

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Trail is up against the ropes in their third round series against Wenatchee after a 2-1 home-ice loss Tuesday night.

Jasper Weatherby scored the game winner midway through the second period and goaltender Austin Park stopped 27 of 28 shots as the Wild moved to within one win of their first-ever Fred Page Cup finals appearance. A word about Park before moving on. If you had said before the playoffs started that Seth Eisele would be benched and his backup would have Wenatchee on the cusp of the championship series, you’d have received some funny looks.

But here we are.

Trail’s Kale Howarth is thwarted by Wenatchee goalie Austin Park during game three of a third round BCHL playoff series between the Smoke Eaters and Wild. JIM BAILEY/ TRAIL TIMES

Park hasn’t been great, with a 2.33 goals-against average and .903 save percentage, but he doesn’t need to be. Park just needs to be average, and that’s evidently good enough for the Wild offence to win. It will be very interesting in the final if Wenatchee matches up against the stifling PG D, because the importance of chances and saves is magnified.

On the Trail side, they’ve managed just five goals and 65 shots in this series. Kale Howarth has one assist in three games. Ross Armour has two assists in three games and Levi Glasman has one goal in three games. The Wild are doing a fantastic job against the top Smoke Eaters, and the rest of the roster isn’t picking up the slack.

They could be eliminated as early as tonight as game four goes at the Cominco Arena (7 p.m. start).

Side note: According to the Wenatchee twitter feed, Weatherby has set a new franchise record for points in a single postseason (23). Formerly shared by Nic Dowd and Mike Voran (22).

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Here’s something that was passed along to me last week, and it’s something I’ve heard before.

“(Vernon head coach/general manager Mark) Ferner not happy that Wenatchee can sign as many California kids as they like, while the rest of league has an import rule. They also don’t have to pay for North American League kids like rest of the league. That is the league’s problem, but Hockey USA also isn’t going to stop Wenatchee doing things to help their roster.”

When Wenatchee was recently given Arizona as part of their recruiting territory, I heard from someone who’d know that the Wild had actually asked for two states and were given one.

As a fan of football, this reminds me of the Canadian Football League’s American expansion efforts in the mid-1990s. The Baltimore Stallions didn’t have to play by the same roster ratio rules as their Canadian foes, built a powerhouse roster stocked with American talent and ended up becoming the one and only U-S based team to hoist the Grey Cup.

Where Wenatchee is concerned, part of me says, ‘If you don’t like it, be better.’

But here’s another thought, and this comes from the same source who mentioned the recruiting territory. If the league added another team in Washington State, the Wild would have competition within their territory for players, instead of the free reign they have now.

Food for thought.

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A scholarship note on a player I watched with the Chilliwack Chiefs in 2016-17.

Cole Poliziani has committed to Trinity College, an NCAA Div-III team playing in the New England Small School Athletic Conference.

Alberni Valley Bulldogs forward Cole Poliziani dekes around Victoria Grizzlies defenseman Dayne Finnson during an early season BCHL game. ELENA RARDON PHOTO

Poliziani just finished his second BCHL season, posting 12 goals and 39 points in 57 regular season games and three goals and six points in seven playoff games. With Chilliwack in 2016-17, Poliziani had 14 goals and 27 points in 52 games.

The Burlington, Ontario native will join the Bantams and play at the Koeppel Center in Hartford, Connecticut.

Trinity College was the top team during regular season conference play with a record of 14-3-1, but lost to the Colby College Mules in the NESSAC tournament.

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The Chilliwack Chiefs will be sporting a different look when they host the RBC Cup next month.

The team unveiled a special logo and jersey that will be worn for a May 17 round-robin game and then auctioned off, with proceeds going to the RBC Cup Legacy Fund.

Here’s the story on the design created by Chilliwack-area artist Jason Roberts.

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The Vernon Vipers handed out team awards on the Easter weekend, with Jagger Williamson taking home the hardware.

Vernon Morning Star sports writer Kevin Mitchell wrote this piece.

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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