Friday, February 26, 2010

GAME 6: Braves 3 Rebels 2

The Castlegar Rebels' 2009-10 season came to an end in Washington state after a 3-2 loss to the Spokane Braves in Game 6. Spokane wins the first-round series 4 games to 2 and now moves on to the Neil Murdoch Division final against either Nelson or Beaver Valley.

Chip Petrino tapped home what proved to be the game-and-series-winner for Spokane, who went down 1-0 early but rebounded with three unanswered goals before Keagan Little made it close in the third period on the power play. Spencer Brodt scored the first Rebels goal.

Spokane took full advantage of their power-plays, capitalizing twice including Machuga's winner. The Braves were without leading scorer Joel Stewart, who was suspended for his slashing major at the conclusion of Game 5.

As the season ends, we say so long to three Rebel players who graduate from junior hockey. Gilbert Bilodeau, Keagan Little and Patrick Christie have now finished their final seasons of junior hockey, albeit in an unfortunate manner. I know personally I enjoyed watching the three bring their best effort every night, and wish all three the very best in the future, whether their lives are rooted in the game of hockey or not. You will be missed next year.

In the next few days, I'll have a more comprehensive look back on the season that was, but only after having time to fully reflect on what I've heard and seen since coming to Castlegar in December.

Spokane, surprisingly enough, still doesn't know who they'll play in Round 2. That's because the plucky Beaver Valley Nitehawks pulled out a 5-4 OT win at home to Nelson in their Game 6 tonight. Scott Morisseau, injury and all, potted the game-winner for Beaver Valley, while Paul Barclay made 48 saves in the Nitehawk goal. That series will finish up with a Game 7 tomorrow night in Nelson, it should be an absolute doozy.

Elsewhere, Creston Valley moved on to Round 2 with a 4-2 win over Kimberley. They'll face high-flying Fernie in the Eddie Mountain Division final.

The Okanagan Conference started their second round tonight with a pair of games. Princeton won a wild one at home, 7-6 over Sicamous, while the Revelstoke Grizzlies started out their post-season with a 4-3 OT loss at home to Chase. Colten DeFrias had the GWG for the Chiefs.

One BCHL result to pass along as well: Trail opened up their 2010 post-season with an impressive win, 6-3 over Westside in West Kelowna. As always, my Mountain FM colleague Shawn Mullin will have the very latest on his blog.

And finally, a KIJHL roster note. The North Okanagan Knights had a tough time in 2009-10, finishing last in the Okanagan Division and missing out on the playoffs. They did, however, graduate two players to Junior A: 16 year-old defenceman Marley Keca has spent most of the last two months with the Quesnel Millionaires, and now leading scorer Trevor Fitzgerald has committed to the Vernon Vipers for next season. Congrats to Trevor, who also represented the Knights at the 2010 All-Star Game in Fruitvale.

Backs To The Wall: Game 6 Tonight

Game 6 between the Rebels and Braves goes tonight in Spokane (8:00 PM, Eagles Ice-A-Rena), with the Braves one win away from the second round. Last night was another chippy affair that saw Spokane come away with a 5-3 win in front of another exuberant crowd at the Complex. Dylan Tappe had a hat-trick for the winners with Jesse Collins and Joel Stewart chipping in singles. Darren Tarasoff, Keagan Little and Spencer Brodt replied for the Rebels, who outshot Spokane 43-26.

Spokane's special teams were one of the deciding factors last night. The Braves scored twice with the man advantage, and Tappe's breakaway short-handed goal at 13:43 of the first period gave the visitors a 3-1 lead and a huge psychological boost.

The teams each lost defencemen through the course of the game. Darren Tarasoff left late in the second period and did not return, while Braves d-man Cody Mesick didn't see the ice in the second half of the game. The Rebels are hard-pressed for 19 year-old Tarasoff's services after losing Erik Alden (who, by the way, did a terrific job running the camera for me last night) in Game 2. We'll also see if Braves forward Joel Stewart receives any supplementary discipline for a slashing major and game misconduct incurred at the final buzzer. Personally, I didn't see it, but the Rebels coaching staff were definitely hot and bothered coming off the ice at the end of the game. For those keeping score, Stewart now has 61 PIMs through the first five games of the series.

If the Rebels win tonight, they will force a Game 7 back at home in Castlegar Saturday night at 7:30 PM. Unfortunately I'll be providing commentary from afar as I'll be in Vancouver for the weekend.

Post-Game Audio:
Spokane Braves forward Dylan Tappe.

Rebels coach Brent Heaven.

Looking out of town, the Nelson Leafs couldn't seal the deal in their Game 5 last night. Beaver Valley snuck out of the NDCC with a 3-2 win heading into tonight's Game 6 in Fruitvale. Tyadg McGauley scored twice including the game-winner. Kimberley also managed to stay alive, winning 4-3 in Creston Valley. The Thunder Cats lead the series 3-2.

Tonight, of course the Rebels/Braves, Leafs/Nitehawks and Dynamiters/Thunder Cats series will continue, but Round 2 will start in the Okanagan Conference. The first-place Revelstoke Grizzlies host Chase in their series opener. Princeton and Sicamous get going tonight as well. Looking to the BCHL, the Trail Smoke Eaters will start their playoff campaign in Westside tonight. My Mountain FM colleague Shawn Mullin will be in West Kelowna with the play-by-play as always, for more info visit his blog.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Game 5 Tonight

A pivotal Game 5 takes place tonight at the Complex (7:30 PM start) as the Rebels and Braves look to break a 2-2 series deadlock. The home team has won every game thus far in the series, a trend the Rebels would obviously like to continue.

An early start is crucial for the Rebels to have success tonight. We saw what happened in Game 2 when Braves netminder Cash Ulrich was chased in the first period. Look for a big performance from Ryan Aynsley and Spencer Brodt as well, the two didn't muster much offence in the two games in Washington and will likely perform better in the Complex's friendly confines.

Ulrich will need a third straight strong performance for Spokane to head home up 3-2, and the likes of Joel Stewart, Dylan Tappe and Jake Peterson will need to show why they were the Braves points leaders as well.

Looking over statistics from the first four games, the two teams' respective points leaders may come off as surprising. Keagan Little's 5 points (3-2) for the Rebels are expected from a 20 year-old, but Spokane is led by defenceman Matt Tyson (0-4-4). Little's series-leading 5 points, by the way, are good for a share of 16th in the KIJHL, Chase's Tyson Bentley and Fernie's Jesse Niemi lead the way with 8. Spokane's Stewart is 2nd in playoff penalty minutes with 42, one behind Kimberley's Mason Spear.

There should be a webcast tonight, check the KIJHL website closer to game-time for more details. Hopefully tonight's audience will be even more boisterous and supportive than the two great crowds we saw in Games 1 and 2.

A couple other series could wrap up tonight. Nelson heads home to play Beaver Valley up 3 games to 1. Word is Scott Morisseau will play for the Nitehawks despite an injury. Creston Valley could eliminate Kimberley as well, they play Game 5 at John Bucyk Arena tonight.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Braves 4 Rebels 3: Too Little, Too Late

The Spokane Braves took the lead 22 seconds into the third period, and survived a hat-trick from Rebel forward Keagan Little to win Game 4 4-3 and even the series at 2 games apiece. Jake Peterson's goal at 8:10 of the third period stood as the game-winner, Dylan Tappe and Chip Petrino each added a goal and an assist for the Braves. Andrew Walton made 30 saves in goal for Castlegar, including a stop on Nick Redding's penalty-shot 5:06 into the second period. Game 5 is set for the Castlegar Complex tomorrow night (7:30 PM), while Game 6 will be back in Spokane Friday.

Spokane held a wide edge in shots until the final frame, where they were outshot 15-3, and really seemed to pick up their game in front of their home fans. Giuseppe Dippolito was back in their lineup after sitting out Game 3 with a suspension, Erik Alden drew back in for the Rebels while Ryan Reid sat out.

It also seems as though the series has mellowed out. The two teams combined for only 8 minor penalties last night. Also interesting to note that Jim Maniago reffed Game 4, one would think Spokane would use a local ref as they usually do as we saw Jeremi Del Campo officiate Game 3.

We are working on getting a webcast set up for Game 5, however I'm told we don't have a camera operator. The search will go on today, hopefully we'll be able to have something in place by game-time tomorrow as the Braves will be again bringing their video equipment to the Complex.

In other action last night, the Nelson Leafs staged a furious rally, scoring 4 times in the third period to beat Beaver Valley 6-4 and take a 3-1 series lead. Interesting to note Scott Morisseau was not in the Nitehawk lineup last night, I heard rumours he had been injured in Game 3 but the severity of the injury was not disclosed.

The Kimberley Dynamiters staved off elimination by edging Creston Valley 2-1, but two other teams were ousted as Fernie eliminated Golden with a 3-0 shutout and Chase doubled up Kamloops 6-3. For the Storm, it has to be disappointing to see the KIJHL playoffs end so early, although they will be back in action soon as hosts of the Keystone Cup.

Back to set up a pivotal Game 5 tomorrow!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

GAME 3: Braves 2 Rebels 0, Game 4 tonight

The Cash Ulrich we saw in Game 2 obviously took the night off last night, as the Cash Ulrich who played in Game 3 was the difference as the Spokane Braves clawed back into the series with a 2-0 shutout win.

Ulrich made 46 saves, and a first period power-play goal from A.J. King proved to be the winner as the Rebels, try as they might, just couldn't put one past the Spokane 'tender. Kyle Bacon added an insurance marker late in the third.

The Rebels were without defenceman Erik Alden, as Ross Gyurkovits drew in to the lineup for the first time in the series. Ryan Aynsley also didn't finish the game for the Rebels after being hit by Spokane forward Uriah Machuga. We'll see if he's able to bounce back tonight.

Giuseppe Dippolito sat out for the Braves, he incurred an automatic one-game suspension for his checking from behind major in Game 2.

Game 4 goes tonight in Spokane at 8:00. For the Rebels, it's a chance to get right back to work after being stymied last night. Game 5, which is now necessary, will be at the Castlegar Complex on Thursday night at 7:30 PM.

Elsewhere, Nelson regained their series lead with a 3-1 win in Beaver Valley. Paul Barclay made 36 saves in a losing effort for the Nitehawks.

A couple of Eddie Mountain Division teams are on the brink of elimination. Fernie snuck past Golden 3-2 in OT (courtesy of a game-winner from Zach Fridella) to take a 3-0 series lead, and the Creston Valley Thunder Cats have a 3-0 series lead of their own as they beat Kimberley 4-1 in the Bavarian City last night.

The Okanagan Division has seen its first casualty. Sicamous beat Penticton 7-3 to win their series in 3 straight games. Meanwhile, Chase has the Keystone Cup-hosting Kamloops Storm on the brink after a 4-3 overtime win, Ian Grant with the winner for the Chiefs.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Game 3: A Change of Scenery

The Castlegar Rebels, passports in tow, are off to Spokane for Games 3 and 4 against the Braves tonight (8:00 PM) and tomorrow (8:00 PM, both at Eagles Ice-A-Rena). Castlegar is in an enviable position, up 2 games to none after two big wins at home over the weekend.

Spokane will most certainly be a completely different team in their own building, however. We saw on Valentine's Day how dominant they can be in their home rink, and although the Rebels came back to win that particular affair 3-2, it was thanks to stellar goaltending from Alex Ross just as much as it was the work of the Keagan Little, Andrew Shaw, Dylan Richardson line scoring twice early in the third period to erase a 2-1 Spokane lead.

No official word on whether Braves forward Giuseppe Dippolito received any supplemental discipline for his checking from behind major Saturday night. Nothing is listed on the KIJHL website so one can assume he'll be good to go for Game 3. I'd also assume that Cash Ulrich will get right back between the pipes for Spokane after a forgettable, and short Game 2 outing.

Both games from Spokane will be webcast on the league website. If the Braves pick up a win tonight or tomorrow, Game 5 will be Thursday night in Castlegar at 7:30 PM.

In the other Neil Murdoch matchup, Beaver Valley heads home tonight looking to take a 2-1 series lead on the Nelson Leafs. Thanks to the net presence of 20 year-old Paul Barclay, the Nitehawks were a bounce away from winning both games at the NDCC over the weekend. For people in the Kootenay-Boundary looking for a live hockey fix, Game 3 will start at 7:00 PM at the Beaver Valley Arena in Fruitvale, with the same recipe for tomorrow's Game 4.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

GAME 2: Rebels 8 Braves 4

In terms of offensive production, last night's Game 2 was the polar opposite of the series opener. The Rebels scored 4 times in a stretch of 1:48 in the first period, and got hat-tricks from both Patrick Christie and Tyler Robinson en route to an 8-4 doubling of the Spokane Braves and a 2-0 series lead. Curtis Pereverzoff and Tyler Jones also scored for the Rebels, who chased Spokane's starting goaltender Cash Ulrich with 4 goals on 9 shots in the first period. 16 year-old McKinlee Baum assumed mop-up duty for the Braves, who had goals from Jake Peterson, Joel Stewart, Dylan Tappe and Brycen Fischer.

It was another chippy affair, the teams combining for 15 power-plays including a 5-minute advantage for Castlegar in the third period as Giuseppe Dippolito was ejected following a dangerous hit from behind. The Rebels went 3/8 on the PP after going 0-for-6 on Friday, while the Braves cashed in twice on seven opportunities: both goals were on a lengthy 5-on-3 in the third.

Though he made 39 saves, Baum did allow the eventual game-winner and is credited with the loss. Andrew Walton stopped 29 of 33 Braves shots for his second win of the series. 3 of Spokane's goals were deflections off point shots.

The series shifts to Spokane for Games 3 and 4, which will go Monday and Tuesday night (both 8:00 PM starts, Eagles Ice-A-Rena). If there is a Game 5, it will be in Castlegar on Thursday.

For me, Game 2 was a real bounce-back effort for Patrick Christie. It appeared to me that he struggled a bit in Game 1, but turned it all around after his first goal last night, when he cut around a Braves defenceman and tucked a back-hander through the legs of Ulrich to open the scoring. I spoke with Christie after the game, you can hear that interview here.

Another noisy crowd as well last night. The gamesheet puts the attendance at 450, and it definitely seemed to get the Rebels going as all four lines skated well. Nice to see the fourth line of Pereverzoff, Jordan Swetlikoff and Stuart Walton get rewarded with more ice-time and a goal as well.

Finally, thanks again to the father-and-son team of Vince and Chauncey Hughes for supplying the necessities for this weekend's webcasts. It was a pleasure to chat with both of them and their efforts to bring equipment up from Spokane and run the cast with me was not only a great experience, it definitely has gotten the ball rolling as far as how the Rebels can put their own system together for the 2010-11 season. If Game 5 takes place Thursday, we should be able to provide pictures for you again on the KIJHL website.

Looking out of town Saturday, a bit of a surprise in Nelson as the Leafs lose Game 2 to the Nitehawks 3-1. Former Trail Smoke Eater Paul Barclay made 29 saves for the win in a series that could easily have been 2-0 Beaver Valley heading back to Fruitvale.

Fernie has yet to allow a goal in two playoff games, they shut out Golden 6-0. Creston Valley has a 2-0 lead in their series after a 2-1 OT win over Kimberley.

In the Okanagan, Kamloops evened up their series with Chase after a 7-4 win at Art Holding Arena, and the Penticton Lakers are on the brink of elimination after losing 6-3 in Sicamous. Again, these two series are best-of-five while every other set is a best-of-seven.

One BCHL note, the Trail Smoke Eaters now know who they'll face in the first round of the playoffs: the Westside Warriors. Get more info here courtesy of Shawn Mullin. It could shape up to be a great series, especially considering the Smokies took 5 of 6 points from Westside in 3 games last week.

That's all for now, I'll be back Monday to set up Game 3.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Rebels/Braves: Game 2

Before we get to the nitty gritty of Game 2, some congratulations and a bit of house-cleaning are in order.

First, as promised, some post-game thoughts from Game 1, courtesy of Darren Tarasoff. To listen, click here.

Congratulations to Rebels goaltender Andrew Walton for being named the Neil Murdoch Division MVP in a ceremony before puck-drop last night. Head coach Brent Heaven was also named the division's Coach of the Year, kudos to him as well.

Game 2 tonight (7:30, Castlegar Complex) between the Rebels and the Braves promises to be a continuation of the love-less affair we saw last night in Game 1. It didn't take long for these two rivals' long-festering hatred of each other to manifest itself in this series, and I'd expect the physicality, extra-curriculars and all-around ill will to continue tonight.

One thing the Rebels must improve on though, is discipline. They gave the Braves 8 power plays last night, and if not for more stellar penalty-killing by the likes of Taylor Anderson and Keagan Little last night's outcome could have been quite different. Watch for the Spokane top line of Dylan Tappe, Joel Stewart and Jake Peterson to generate offense for the visitors. They along with Jesse Collins and Uriah Machuga were the most dangerous Braves last night.

Shots on goal will be key as well. The Rebels preached a high shot count as instrumental to their success: no wonder their 23 second-period shots helped break the ice thanks to Darren Tarasoff's eventual game-winner.

We will have a webcast available for tonight's game, that will be accessible at game time by clicking here. Thanks to a father-and-son team from Spokane who've donated their time this weekend, we're now able to more accurately gauge how next season's webcasts will be made possible. As always though, it's always more fun to check the Rebels out live, here's hoping for another barn-burner!

Friday, February 19, 2010

GAME 1: Rebels 2 Braves 0

Darren Tarasoff picked a perfect time to score his first goal since returning to the Castlegar Rebels from the BCHL. His seeing-eye point shot at 14:42 of the second period stood up as the game-winner as the Rebels held off the Spokane Braves 2-0 in a chippy Game 1. Ryan Aynsley tapped a Keagan Little centring pass into a gaping cage in the third for the other Castlegar tally, and Andrew Walton made 29 saves for the shutout. It was only fitting Aynsley score, as a quick wrister in the second period found iron after leaving his stick, as did a wild chance in front a few minutes later by Spencer Brodt.

Spokane controlled a majority of the play in the first period, as it appeared the Rebels may have had some nerves playing in front of a noisy crowd at the Complex. They failed to capitalize on a number of chances however, including a Dylan Tappe breakaway in the opening 5 minutes.

The game was certainly not lacking in emotion, capped off by a last-minute scrap between Gilbert Bilodeau and Jake Peterson. I'm told Bilodeau may have a shiner to show for his efforts, though to me it appeared Peterson got his only really good punch in after the Rebels captain was down on the ice. No doubt we'll see more scrums and chirpiness from both sides for tomorrow's Game 2 (7:30 PM, Castlegar Complex).

The game summary is up on, you can take a peek by clicking here.

One other note, we did manage to get the webcast up and running. Credit for this certainly has to go to Spokane video man Vince Hughes, whose son just happens to be a Braves forward. I chatted with Braves head coach Mike Bay between periods and he seemed very pleased we were able to make it work tonight, and will again tomorrow through the KIJHL website though as always, the very best way to catch the Rebels is to see them in person. (Trust me, if tomorrow night's game is anything like tonight, you'll leave feeling as though you got your money's worth).

I will also have post-game audio available here tomorrow courtesy of Tarasoff and Andrew Walton, and will hopefully have a picture or two from tonight's game courtesy of a Rebels parent.

As for tonight's other KIJHL action, it sounded like a close game in Nelson, as the Leafs needed overtime to get past Beaver Valley 4-3. Connor McLaughlin with the winner for Nelson, Layne Stopanski had a goal and an assist for the Nitehawks.

Creston Valley beat Kimberley 5-3 tonight in their series opener. The Thunder Cats had the #1 seed in the Eddie Mountain division last year only to be knocked out by the Dynamiters in the first round.

Two games to report from the Okanagan Conference as well. Chase snuck past Kamloops 2-1 thanks to two third-period goals from Devon Hobbs and Jordan Wood. Sicamous had no trouble with the Penticton Lakers, beating them 10-1 in the Shuswap.

As mentioned, I'll gladly post the post-game audio from tonight here tomorrow, you will also be able to hear it on Mountain FM throughout the day as part of our hourly newscasts. I'll set up tomorrow's Game 2 as well.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Rebels vs. Braves: The Playoffs Begin

Game 1 of the 2010 KIJHL Playoffs is less than 24 hours away as the Castlegar Rebels and Spokane Braves get set to renew hostilities at the Castlegar Complex (7:30 PM Friday and Saturday). The two teams finished 6 points apart in the standings, the Rebels with 64, Spokane with 58, and the Rebels also took the majority of the matchups in the regular season winning 5 of 8.

That said, most of the games, (I cite the exception of an 8-3 game early in the season), were close, including a 3-2 Castlegar win in Spokane last Sunday. Time will tell if that trend carries on into the post-season. The Rebels had some impressive individual performances in the 8 games against the Braves, including Ryan Aynsley's 10 goals and Andrew Shaw's 8 points (2-6). Spokane had two 10-point men of their own against the Rebels, both Joel Stewart (who also led the team in scoring with 57 points) and Nick Redding posted double digits in points through the eight contests. The Rebels will likely ride goaltender Andrew Walton's 2.53 goals-against average and .912 save percentage, though it should be noted back-up Alex Ross went 3-0 against the Braves this year, including the win on Valentine's Day.

I had the chance to chat with Rebels coach Brent Heaven about the series, hear his thoughts here.

The first two games, as mentioned earlier, will be in Castlegar tomorrow (Friday) and Saturday, both 7:30 starts. The series switches to Washington state for Games 3 and 4 Monday and Tuesday, those will both be 8:00 PM starts.

Taking a look around the league now on the eve (for most teams) of the playoffs:

Nelson hosts Beaver Valley in Game 1 of the other Neil Murdoch division series tomorrow at the NDCC. Leafs are heavy favourites to win having finished 25 points up on the Nitehawks during the regular season. Beaver Valley's Scott Morisseau and Layne Stopanski finished first and third in the KIJHL in scoring during the regular season, however.

The eastern-most series in the league has already started, the Fernie Ghostriders beat Golden 7-0 in the Elk Valley last night in the opener of their series. Fernie posted the best overall record in the KIJHL this season.

The other Eddie Mountain division series sees Kimberley face Creston Valley. The Thunder Cats finished 3 points up on the Nitros, but Matt Foster was a 40-goal man for Kimberley this year.

The two Okanagan Conference series set to begin tomorrow are both best-of-five affairs. Sicamous should have no trouble with the Penticton Lakers, while the Kamloops Storm/Chase Chiefs series could go either way. Kamloops has had trouble putting wins together after loading up at the deadline in advance of their duties as host of this year's Keystone Cup. Revelstoke and Princeton both received byes into the next round by virtue of finishing 1-2.

Finally, there are rumours abound that there may be a webcast for tomorrow and Saturday's Rebels/Braves games. Nothing is for sure yet: the desire to put one together is there, but a few logistical hurdles will need to be overcome if it's to work. As always, the best way to make sure you don't miss a minute of the action this weekend is to come down to the Complex for both games, I'm sure the two teams won't disappoint.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Aynsley, Anderson Big Winners at Year-End Awards

Forwards Ryan Aynsley and Taylor Anderson each picked up three awards as the Castlegar Rebels held their year-end banquet tonight at the Portuguese Hall. The team decided to change things up a bit this year, holding the awards at the end of the regular season rather than at the conclusion of the playoffs. Aynsley, who finished second in the KIJHL with 76 points in 2009-10, snagged awards for MVP, Top Forward and Top Scorer, while Anderson won Most Valued Team Player, Most Inspirational Player and the Gerry Lacasse Memorial Trophy. Other Rebels singled out for awards were:

Alex Ross, who won the Sports and Education Award. Tyler Robinson won the Sportsmanship and Ability Award. Erik Alden was named Most Improved Player. Alaskan Spencer Brodt is this year's Rookie of the Year, while veteran Keagan Little was named Most Popular Player. Another 20 year-old, Gilbert Bilodeau won Top Defenseman.

The twenty year-olds were also given commemorative awards: Little, Bilodeau and Patrick Christie walked away with plaques.

That's all for now, stay tuned for previews of both Neil Murdoch Division series featuring an interview with Rebels coach Brent Heaven. Also, the playoffs officially begin tonight in the Elk Valley, with Fernie facing off against the Golden Rockets.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Rebels/Braves Series Schedule Released

Here's the schedule for the first-round playoff series between the Rebels and Spokane Braves.

GM 1: Friday, Feb. 19 -- Spokane @ Castlegar, 7:30 PM
GM 2: Saturday, Feb. 20 -- Spokane @ Castlegar, 7:30 PM
GM 3: Monday, Feb. 22 -- Castlegar @ Spokane, 8:00 PM
GM 4: Tuesday, Feb. 23 -- Castlegar @ Spokane, 8:00 PM
GM 5: Thursday, Feb. 25 -- Spokane @ Castlegar, 7:30 PM*
GM 6: Friday, Feb. 26 -- Castlegar @ Spokane, 8:00 PM*
GM 7: Saturday, Feb. 27 -- Spokane @ Castlegar, 7:30 PM*
* -- if necessary

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Rebels 3 Braves 2

The 2009-10 regular season drew to a close this afternoon in Spokane, as the Rebels staged a come-from-behind 3-2 win over the Braves, despite being outshot 55-22 in the game. Keagan Little and Andrew Shaw tallied in the third period to erase a 2-1 deficit, and Alex Ross made 53 saves in goal for Castlegar. Tyler Robinson also scored for the Rebels, while all-star Chase Wharton and Jesse Collins replied for Spokane.

The game was, in essence, a playoff preview, but it wasn't without its fair share of controversy. Spokane thought they had a 3-1 lead at the end of the first period, but referee Norm Lochton erased a potential Braves goal after finding there were two pucks on the ice (and the one in the net had, apparently, been lodged in Ross' pads). Castlegar was also faced with a 7-minute stretch of short-handed play after Spencer Brodt was tossed in the third period after receiving a slashing major. Fortunately for the Rebels, Spokane ended up taking themselves off the power-play cutting into their lengthy man-advantage.

The Rebels and Braves will now prepare to face each other in the playoffs, with Game 1 tentatively slated for Friday, February 19th. I'll have a look ahead to that series soon.

Number Crunching:
Castlegar officially finishes the 2009-10 season with a record of 30-16-2-2 for 64 points. It's a 3-win, 5-point improvement over a year ago, but the team also managed more goals for this season (206 to 185) while giving up fewer as well (141 to 185). Ryan Aynsley will finish second in the KIJHL in scoring with 76 points, (I say will because technically, the regular season ends on Wednesday when Penticton plays North Okanagan). It's the best individual performance for a Rebel since Eric Rockney's 83-point effort in 2007-08, which coincidentally placed him second in the KIJHL scoring race as well. Goaltender Andrew Walton also led the KIJHL in shutouts this season with 6.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Rebels 7 Thunder Cats 0

An enormous win tonight for the Castlegar Rebels. The 7-0 triumph ensures the Rebs will have home-ice advantage for their first-round series against the Spokane Braves, and the team fired on all cylinders against a Creston Valley team that didn't generate much offense all night. Granted, the Thunder Cats were missing leading scorer Travis Ludwar, top defenceman Colton Grolla and starting netminder Sunny Gill, but it's a result the Rebels needed, and got.

Castlegar opened the scoring on a nifty backhand by Spencer Brodt at 15:13 of the first period. He cut around a Thunder Cat defenseman before tucking it under Creston goalie Chad Katunar's pad. Keagan Little smacked home a one-timer from the slot just over 4 minutes later as the Rebels took a 2-0 lead into the first intermission.

The scoring continued in the second. Ryan Aynsley put home a wrist shot after intercepting a pass in the neutral zone 1:50 into the second for his team-leading 37th of the season. Patrick Christie added another before the second period was out, but not before Taylor Anderson and Creston's Joel James were both thrown out of the game for fighting, as a skirmish erupted after Aynsley was checked into the boards awkwardly.

Andrew Shaw, Travis Flaherty and Tyler Robinson added singles in the third. Andrew Walton made 25 saves between the Rebel pipes for his 6th shutout of the season.

The Rebels wrap up the 2009-10 regular season in Spokane tomorrow afternoon in a game that will now serve as a playoff preview instead of a battle for home ice. Creston Valley, on the other hand, will open the playoffs at John Bucyk Arena against either Golden or Kimberley, who wrap up a home-and-home against each other tomorrow in the Bavarian City (the Rockets beat the Dynamiters 4-2 tonight by the way). Creston Valley definitely looked like a team that was playing their third game in as many nights and were missing three key players. We can only assume head coach Joe Martin kept Ludwar, Grolla and Gill out for rest.

I talked with Keagan Little after the game, that interview is available here. I also had a nice chat with backup goaltender Alex Ross's mother tonight. She says the team is really loose as evidenced by their recent team photos, which I'm sure will be available soon. (She actually got a great shot tonight of Aynsley being checked from behind, leading to the big mix-up in the second, hopefully that picture pops up somewhere soon, maybe here!).

A busy night in the KIJHL tonight. Nelson doubled Grand Forks 4-2 in the only other Neil Murdoch Division action. As I mentioned earlier, Golden beat Kimberley by the same 4-2 score. If the Rockets manage to pick up another win over the Nitros tomorrow, they'll avoid Fernie in the first round, which I'm sure would be incentive enough for anyone. In other scores, Sicamous shut out Penticton 4-0 in a first-round preview, Kamloops hammered Revelstoke 5-1, and Princeton over Chase 5-2.

Brief BCHL note, the Trail Smoke Eaters swept their two-game mini homestand with the Westside Warriors by beating them 4-1 tonight at Cominco Arena. We had Sean Nugent on Mountain FM this morning, he commented on how the dressing room has a much different atmosphere now that the team is winning and everyone is getting healthy again. Great to see!

Rebels vs. Thunder Cats + Olympic Tidbit

That's Castlegar Mayor Lawrence Chernoff (second from right) and volunteer Audrey Repin (middle, wearing Rebels jersey) at the Kootenay Rockies Booth in Richmond. They're part of a group of volunteers promoting our area at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games. Neat to see the Rebels jersey getting some publicity in the big city, for sure!

Back to matters at hand though, a big matchup tonight as the Rebels (28-16-2-2) and the Creston Valley Thunder Cats (28-17-0-4) hook up at the Castlegar Complex (7:30 PM). The Rebels didn't get any favours yesterday from their neighbours in Grand Forks, as the Border Bruins dropped a 3-1 decision to Spokane (a Spokane loss would have clinched home-ice advantage in the first round for Castlegar). Instead, the Rebels need to do it themselves tonight against a team playing their third game in as many nights. Castlegar has lost a season-high 4 straight games coming into tonight's contest, while the Thunder Cats are fresh off a home-and-home sweep against Beaver Valley Thursday and Friday.

This is the third and final meeting of the season between these two teams, here's a look at how the teams fared in the first two matchups.

Dec. 4/09: Creston Valley 3 @ 4 Castlegar (OT)
Feb. 5/10: Castlegar 1 @ 4 Creston Valley

No player on either team has more than 2 points in the season series thus far. Tyler Robinson has a goal in each game, while the Thunder Cats' leading scorer Travis Ludwar has a goal and an assist. Only three players on both rosters have scored 20 or more goals this year as well: Ludwar (28), and the Rebels' Ryan Aynsley (36) and Spencer Brodt (25). Ryan Reid has only scored 3 times this season, but one of his goals was the overtime winner on December 4th. Watch for Creston's Colton Grolla on the back end as well, he was named the KIJHL's top defenceman in 2008/09.

No webcast tonight, so the only way you can see this one is to get down to the rink!

Only one other matchup tonight involving Neil Murdoch teams. Nelson (35-10-2-2) hosts Grand Forks (6-41-1-1). It's a special night as well in Nelson, as the game will double as a fundraiser to help rebuild the Haiti Arise Christian Mission. That's where 17 local high-school students from Mount Sentinel Secondary were stranded when the devastating earthquake struck Haiti last month. I'm told a silent auction and a bake sale will be part of the night's events.

Congrats to the Penticton Lakers. In their first year since moving from Summerland, they clinched the final playoff spot in the Okanagan Conference last night. They'll face either Princeton or Sicamous in the first round.

Finally, kudos to the fans at Trail's Cominco Arena last night. It was a nice touch for arena staff to put last night's opening ceremonies from Vancouver on the big screen before the Smoke Eaters/Warriors game, (which, if you're keeping score, Trail won 4-2), and during the intermissions. But it was also neat to hear fans clapping and cheering for former Rossland resident Nancy Greene as she stood with her torch on the BC Place floor during the lighting of the cauldron.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Friday Action: Rebels Await Thunder Cats

A day of preparation for the Castlegar Rebels as they move into the final weekend of the 2009/10 regular season, but they'll be doing plenty of scoreboard-watching in advance of tomorrow night's game against Creston Valley (7:30 PM, Castlegar Complex).

Every other team in the Neil Murdoch Division plays tonight, but from a Rebel point of view, the game that matters most is in Grand Forks, where the Border Bruins (6-40-1-1) welcome the Spokane Braves (27-19-0-2). If the surging Bruins manage to pick up another win on home ice tonight, they'll ensure the Rebels clinch home-ice against Spokane in the first round of the playoffs.

Creston Valley (27-17-0-4) and Beaver Valley (23-21-1-4) wrap up a home-and-home set tonight at John Bucyk Arena. The Thunder Cats won 4-0 last night in Fruitvale, Matt Dixon picking up a goal and assist for the winners. A single point from their two remaining games will give the Thunder Cats home-ice in the first round, they could face either Golden or Kimberley.

A battle of division leaders tonight in Fernie, as the Nelson Leafs (35-10-2-1) pay a visit to the Ghostriders (39-7-1-1). Fernie has clinched home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs as nobody else in the league will be able to match the 80 points they've already put up.

Our local BCHL team is in action tonight as well, as the Smoke Eaters open up a two-game set at home to the Westside Warriors (7:30, Cominco Arena). Read a more comprehensive preview of the game here.

Finally, with the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games just a few hours away, a local spin on the torch relay. Trail's Craig Cunningham, who played for the Beaver Valley Nitehawks and currently leads the WHL in scoring with the Vancouver Giants, got to carry the torch as it crossed the Lions Gate Bridge this morning. Congrats to Craig for having the opportunity to be a torch-bearer, and also for his stellar play this year with the Giants. Having watched them play many times at the Coliseum I must say he's been one of the more consistent players on their team in the last three seasons, and is definitely a fan favourite among Giants faithful.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Border Bruins 5 Rebels 3

No home-ice advantage yet for the Castlegar Rebels. They dropped a 5-3 decision in Grand Forks and as a result, remain only 4 points up on the Spokane Braves for second in the Neil Murdoch Division. It's also the team's fourth straight loss.

I bet nobody feels worse than Rebels goaltender Andrew Walton, after an turnover 5:26 into the third period lead to the eventual game-winner by Cody Robertson. It was the Chilliwack product's 7th goal of the season. Grand Forks also had tallies from Gary Mahesh, Chris Vinette, Kevin Wong and Zachary Thompson. Rebel forward Spencer Brodt scored his 25th goal of the season on a first-period breakaway, Dylan Richardson and Erik Alden also tallied for the visitors.

Ross Gyurkovits and Curtis Pereverzoff sat out for Castlegar.

Ryan Garber made 38 saves for the Bruins, but many were from long range, as especially in the latter half of the game Castlegar had trouble pulling the trigger from in close. Kudos to coach Jesse Dorrans for the work he's done in the past month with this team. They looked 100 percent better than the last time I saw them, which was in Nelson in early January.

The game summary from the KIJHL website is available here as well.

Next up for the Rebels: another chance to lock home-ice advantage up as the Creston Valley Thunder Cats pay a visit Saturday (7:30 PM, Castlegar Complex). Of course, that could all be locked up if Grand Forks manages to win their fourth game in five tries tomorrow night at home to Spokane. The Thunder Cats are in the midst of a home-and-home with Beaver Valley. They won the opener tonight 4-0 at the Hawks Nest with Sunny Gill posting the shutout.

Rebels @ Border Bruins: 1 Point For Home Ice

The Castlegar Rebels (28-15-2-2) pay a visit to the Boundary tonight (7:30 PM, Grand Forks Arena) to wrap up the season series with the Grand Forks Border Bruins (5-40-1-1). Castlegar has won all 7 meetings this season against the Bruins, who will finish last in the division for the tenth consecutive season. The Rebels can't afford to take Grand Forks lightly with the Spokane Braves nipping at their heels, and the Bruins posted 2 big victories last week over Penticton and Beaver Valley and nearly had a third against Kimberley. Coach Jesse Dorrans has his Bad News Bears finishing out the season on a strong note, to be sure. The Rebels of course need only one point from their final three games to clinch home ice advantage in their first-round set against Spokane. Here's a look at the season series thus far:

Oct. 20/09: Grand Forks 0 @ 6 Castlegar
Oct. 24/09: Grand Forks 2 @ 7 Castlegar
Oct. 31/09: Castlegar 6 @ 3 Grand Forks
Nov. 6/09: Grand Forks 1 @ 4 Castlegar
Nov. 7/09: Castlegar 7 @ 1 Grand Forks
Jan. 5/10: Grand Forks 2 @ 4 Castlegar
Jan. 9/10: Castlegar 13 @ 1 Grand Forks

Keagan Little (6-10-16) is one of 6 Rebels with 10 or more points against Grand Forks this season. Ryan Aynsley (9-5-14), Gilbert Bilodeau (0-13-13), Joel Robinson (7-5-12), Spencer Brodt and Dylan Richardson (each 4-6-10) are the others with Robinson having a 4-goal game to his credit as well. Chris Vinette leads Grand Forks with 5 points (2-3) in the seven games this year. Andrew Walton has 4 wins for the Rebels including a shutout, while Ryan Garber has been the goalie of record in 5 of the Bruin losses. Richardson's return should help the Rebels' all-round game as well, he spent the weekend with the BCHL's Prince George Spruce Kings, appearing in 2 games. should have the webcast tonight, find out more here.

Elsewhere tonight, the Beaver Valley Nitehawks (23-20-1-4) begin a home-and-home with Creston Valley (26-17-0-4). The Thunder Cats have motivation for tonight's game (7:00, Beaver Valley Arena) as they can all but lock down home ice advantage in the first round with a win. Creston Valley will be in Castlegar on Saturday as well.

3 games around the league last night, none involving Neil Murdoch teams. Golden got a hat-trick from Travis Herlein to beat Columbia Valley 5-1, and the turtle derby also known as the race for the final playoff spot in the Okanagan Conference continued, Princeton beat Penticton 7-3 while North Okanagan lost 8-2 in Sicamous. With the Knights loss, Penticton needs just a point from their final three games to make the playoffs, something they failed to do last year when they were the Summerland Sting.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Vees/Smokies + A Chat With An Ex-Leaf

With the Rebels not playing until Thursday, I had the chance to join my Mountain FM colleague Shawn Mullin in the broadcast booth tonight at Cominco Arena, where we watched the #3 ranked Junior A team in Canada, the Penticton Vees, come back from 3-0 and 4-1 deficits to beat the Smoke Eaters 6-5 in double overtime. It was a wildly entertaining game, but I thought the difference came down to execution on special teams. Penticton were able to capitalize on 2 power-plays to erase Trail's lead, and not only were the Smokies unable to score on their own PPs, they gave up a shortie to Penticton's Logan Johnston that tied the game at 5-5 with just over 10 minutes remaining. Still the Smoke Eaters picked up 4 of 6 points against really tough competition in the past 3 games, which shows to me they deserve to be a playoff team this year, and could really be something special in 2010/11 as most of their roster will be back.

I'm sure Shawn will have a recap on his blog, and I'm happy to say I'll be re-joining him on the pay-per-view again this Friday when the Smokies take on Westside.

After the game I had a chance to chat with Nelson product Isaac MacLeod as he got on the Vees' bus. He's in his rookie season on the Vees' blueline (0-22-22 in 50 games played), and was a 16 year-old on the Nelson Leafs team that won the KIJHL championship last year, and seems to be making the adjustment to Junior A really well in his first year in the BCHL (it doesn't hurt that he's playing on a veteran-laden team, which he mentions in our brief interview. He seemed like a really down-to earth kid who first and foremost loves the game, and was all too happy to chat with this reporter after a big game in front of friends and family. All the best to Isaac as the Vees look to capture the Fred Page Cup for the second time in three years, and as he gets set to head to Boston College for the 2010/11 season, as he's committed to the Massachusetts school.

Tough decision ahead as I get set for the final weekend of regular-season KIJHL play. Do I stay home and watch the webcast of the Rebels' game in Grand Forks on Thursday, or make the trip to Fruitvale to scout Saturday's opponent, as the Beaver Valley Nitehawks will welcome Creston Valley. I'm leaning toward the latter...

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Nitehawks 8 Rebels 1

Scott Morisseau showed why he leads the KIJHL in scoring. His hat-trick led the Beaver Valley Nitehawks to an 8-1 win over the Rebels this afternoon in Fruitvale. Brett Naka, Aaron Hadley, Layne Stopanski, Chris Derochie and Ryan Sookro added singles for Beaver Valley, while Patrick Christie had the lone Rebel tally, his 3rd of the season since joining the team from the AJHL. Castlegar held a 37-26 advantage in shots, but a member of the coaching staff told me after the game that Beaver Valley managed to capitalize on virtually every chance they had. Andrew Walton made his third straight start for Castlegar but he was replaced by Alex Ross in the third period. Morisseau, by the way, now has 84 points on the season (33-51), which is 9 points ahead of the league's second-leading scorer, who just happens to be his teammate Stopanski. The Rebels' Ryan Aynsley sits third in the KIJHL with 72 (36-36).

Game summary is available here.

The Rebels' next action is Thursday night when they travel to Grand Forks. It's become a much more important game, as the Rebels need a victory from one of their final three games to ensure home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

Elsewhere in the KIJHL this afternoon, Princeton got 3 goals from Ben Morgan to whip Kamloops 8-3, and Penticton continued their push for the final playoff spot in the Okanagan Division doubling up Sicamous 6-3.

Mountain FM's appearance at Element Bar & Grill's Super Bowl party had a Rebels twist too. Turns out head coach Brent Heaven ended up winning the La-Z-Boy recliner we had up for grabs. I swear it wasn't rigged. It was nice to be able to have a quick chat with Heaven and assistant Topher Plonka (who also works in our office at Mountain FM) away from the rink. As for Super Bowl XLIV, I personally think it came down to one play, and that was New Orleans' decision to try an onside-kick to start the second half. It was definitely what you'd call a high-risk, high-reward play, and it was a play that I believe changed the momentum of the game. Indianapolis couldn't mount any type of offence until late in the fourth, when an interception and goal-line stand on successive drives thwarted any chance of a comeback. Congrats to the Saints and their fans, we all know how much the city of New Orleans has been through in the past few years and I think the team's evolution from perennial doormat (2 playoff wins in 42 years) to Super Bowl champion has really been something for the people of the Big Easy to rally around. Bourbon Street is sure to be wild tonight!

Rebels @ Nitehawks: Back To Work

The Rebels (28-14-2-2) will try to salvage something from this weekend as they pay a visit to Fruitvale to take on the Beaver Valley Nitehawks (22-20-1-4) this afternoon (1:00 PM, Beaver Valley Arena). It's the 8th and final regular season meeting between the two clubs. The Nitehawks are in a similar slump that has seen them fall out of contention for third place in the Neil Murdoch division, which means they'll draw the powerful Nelson Leafs in the first round of the playoffs. BV has lost 4 straight (although one of those games went to overtime), the most recent being a 6-3 setback in Fernie on Friday night.

The season series between these two teams couldn't be much more even: each team has 3 wins, 3 losses and a tie. Here's how it breaks down.

Sep. 11/09: Beaver Valley 3 @ 3 Castlegar
Sep. 19/09: Castlegar 2 @ 3 Beaver Valley
Oct. 23/09: Beaver Valley 2 @ 4 Castlegar
Jan. 10/10: Castlegar 1 @ 5 Beaver Valley
Jan. 17/10: Beaver Valley 3 @ 1 Castlegar
Jan. 22/10: Castlegar 5 @ 0 Beaver Valley
Jan. 26/10: Beaver Valley 3 @ 4 Castlegar (OT)

Castlegar's Ryan Aynsley leads all scorers (4-4-8) in the season series, but Beaver Valley has the two top scorers in the league in Scott Morisseau and Layne Stopanski. They have 7 and 5 points against the Rebels this season, respectively. Andrew Walton (3-2-1) has played all but one game in goal for Castlegar against the Nitehawks, while former Smoke Eater Paul Barclay has a 2-2 record against the Rebels since joining Beaver Valley from the BCHL's Surrey Eagles.

Today's game is available on the internet, that link is available here.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Braves 2 Rebels 1

Too little, too late for the Castlegar Rebels tonight against a Spokane team that they will now definitely meet in the first round of the playoffs. The Braves jumped out to a 1-0 at the 10:10 mark of the first period, as Uriah Machuga snapped home a quick wrist shot right off a face-off in the Rebels zone for his 16th of the season.

It stayed that way until the 8:19 mark of the third period, when Jake Peterson crashed the net and took the puck with him, batting a rebound out of mid-air into a yawning cage. The Rebels would get one late, as Ryan Aynsley went coast-to-coast (like buttered toast as one historic NHL broadcaster would have said in the past) finally getting a puck past Braves goalie Cash Ulrich at 17:18 of the third for his 36th goal of the season.

The Rebels were outshot 36-22 tonight, but the Braves were 0-for-7 with the man advantage in a game that seemed to get chippier as it progressed. It should make for an interesting playoff series for sure as it was apparent to everyone in attendance tonight that these two teams do not like each other at all.

Andrew Walton was one other bright spot for Castlegar tonight. He made several saves, especially in the second period, to keep the Rebels within striking distance. It's no coincidence he was named the Rebels player of the game tonight.

The Rebels were without Stuart Walton and Curtis Pereverzoff tonight. Forward Dylan Richardson also missed the game as he played for the BCHL's Prince George Spruce Kings last night and tonight.

Tonight's game summary is available from the KIJHL website here.

Rebels next action is tomorrow afternoon when they visit the Beaver Valley Nitehawks. Puck drop is at 1:00 PM in Fruitvale. If you can't make it to the game, come say hi at Mountain FM's Super Bowl party, taking place at Element in Castlegar.

Postgame Audio:
I had a chance to catch up with Braves head coach Mike Bay after the game tonight. You can hear that interview here.

I also spoke briefly with Castlegar assistant coach Topher Plonka and that audio is available here.

One other game involving a Neil Murdoch division team tonight. Gavin Currie notched his second game-winning goal in as many nights as the Nelson Leafs beat Penticton 4-3 in overtime.

Looking to other action tonight, Sicamous beat Revelstoke for the second time in two days, this time 5-4. Former Rebel Ben Bula had a goal and an assist in a losing effort. Princeton snuck past Chase 5-4 in overtime. Fernie beat Golden 5-2, and Brennan Romanovitch, late of the Border Bruins, had a hat trick leading Kimberley over Creston Valley 7-4.

Finally, news on another former Rebel. Ryan Renz and the Alberni Valley Bulldogs got past the Trail Smoke Eaters 5-4 in overtime tonight at Cominco Arena. Renz was held off the scoresheet.

Back tomorrow to set up the Rebels/Nitehawks tilt in Fruitvale!

Rebels vs. Spokane Braves: Playoff Preview?

The Rebels (28-13-2-2) get right back to work in their penultimate home game of the regular season with Spokane (26-19-0-2) coming to town (7:30, Castlegar Complex). This is the 7th of 8 meetings between the two teams this season, with Castlegar having a 4-2 record in the previous six. The two teams will also meet on Valentine's Day in the Lilac City. Here's a look at the season series so far:

Sept. 18/09: Castlegar 5 @ 4 Spokane (OT)

Oct. 4/09: Castlegar 6 @ 3 Spokane
Oct. 13/09: Spokane 4 @ 2 Castlegar
Nov. 22/09: Spokane 3 @ 8 Castlegar
December 6/09: Spokane 4 @ 5 Castlegar
Jan. 3/10: Castlegar 2 @ 4 Spokane

Nick Redding played the hero the last time these two teams met, he had a 4 point night (1-3). Redding (4-6-10) and Joel Stewart (3-7-10) are Spokane's scoring leaders in the season series. Stewart also leads the Braves in scoring with 55 points (19-36). Castlegar is led by Ryan Aynsley (9-4-13) and Spencer Brodt (2-5-7) in the six games thus far. Cash Ulrich has been the goaltender of record for Spokane in every game, while Andrew Walton has gone 2-2 against the Braves, with the other two wins recorded by Alex Ross.

I say playoff preview because that's how it appears things are shaping up. Spokane has a solid hold on third place in the Neil Murdoch division and only Beaver Valley running the table and the Braves going pointless in their final three games would change that. The Rebels can finish no higher than second as Nelson clinched the division for the fourth consecutive season.

There is no webcast tonight, but hopefully we'll be able to provide that service in the very near future.

One player who is back in the Kootenays tonight is former Rebel Ryan Renz. The Rebels could certainly use his presence going forward as he racked up 6 points (1-5) against the Braves this year, but he's with the BCHL's Alberni Valley Bulldogs, who are in Trail tonight to take on the Smoke Eaters.

One other game of note in the Neil Murdoch division tonight. Nelson (34-10-2-1) are in Penticton tonight to take on the Lakers (12-29-0-3). This is the only meeting between the two clubs this season.

Creston Valley 4 Castlegar 1: Nelson Clinches

A tough loss tonight for the Rebels in Creston. The Thunder Cats managed only 19 shots on goal but rode 3 third period tallies to nip Castlegar 4-1 at John Bucyk Arena. Tyler Robinson with the only Castlegar tally: Travis Ludwar, Scott Swiston, Matt Dixon and Colton Meaden replied for the Cats.

Judging from the summary, it looks like it was a pretty chippy affair. Joel Robinson racked up 29 PIMs for the Rebels.

Stuart Walton and Keagan Little both sat this one out for the Rebels as well. Andrew Walton made 15 saves in the loss.

The Rebels get right back to work tomorrow (Saturday) with a first-round playoff preview. Spokane visits the Complex (7:30 PM) with a firm hold on third place in the division after scoreboard-watching tonight. I'll have a more comprehensive preview up Saturday.

Elsewhere around the league tonight, Nelson clinched first place in the Neil Murdoch divison by beating the Princeton Posse 4-3. Gavin Currie notched the winner with just over 8 minutes left.

Beaver Valley saw their chances of catching Spokane for third place almost disappear. They were doubled up in Fernie tonight 6-3. The Nitehawks now need to run the table while Spokane needs only a point to clinch third and a first-round date with the Rebels. January's Kootenay Conference Player of the Month Jesse Niemi (who APed for the Smoke Eaters this season) had 3 assists for Fernie tonight. The award was announced earlier today, Chase forward Devon Hobbs is this month's POM for the Okanagan Conference.

And in the Boundary, Grand Forks couldn't hold onto a 3-1 third period lead as the Kimberley Dynamiters stormed back with a 6-goal third period to win 7-4. Mason Spear had 4 points for the winners, Zachary Thompson led the Border Bruins with a goal and two assists.

Looking outside the Neil Murdoch division tonight, Sicamous shut out the top team in the Okanagan Division winning 3-0 in Revelstoke. Golden got past Columbia Valley 6-4. Chase snuck past Penticton 3-2 while North Okanagan beat Kamloops 5-4 in Enderby. An interesting race is shaping up now for the final playoff spot in the Okanagan Division. Penticton has 27 points and three games in hand on the Knights, but North Okanagan has been on a bit of a roll, going 4-4-2 in their last 10. The two teams play each other in Armstrong in the final game of the regular season, imagine if a playoff spot were on the line!

I had a chance to see a spirited effort from the Trail Smoke Eaters tonight as they held on to beat Salmon Arm 3-2 at Cominco Arena. Both teams had some ex-KIJHL players in the lineup but notably Trail's AP for the evening, 16 year-old Keenan Patershuk of the Ghostriders, didn't look out of place in his first BCHL game, throwing some hard hits and creating a couple of offensive chances in a limited role tonight. Needless to say it was a big win for Trail, who are battling for the final playoff spot in the Interior Conference and at one point tonight were tied with Prince George, over whom they now enjoy a 2 point lead with two games in hand.

Friday, February 5, 2010

A Busy Weekend: Rebels @ Creston Valley

The Castlegar Rebels (28-12-2-2) get set to play 3 games in 3 days, beginning tonight in Creston (7:30 PM, John Bucyk Arena). It's the second of three meetings between the two teams, with the Rebels having won the opener, 4-3 in overtime (Ryan Reid with the GWG) on December 4th in Castlegar. The Rebels will return home tomorrow to face Spokane (7:30 PM, Castlegar Complex) before hitting the road again for a Sunday afternoon matinee against the Beaver Valley Nitehawks (1:00 PM, Beaver Valley Arena).

The Creston Valley Thunder Cats (25-16-0-4), despite being only a 90-minute drive away, aren't a team we see very frequently. They recently traded away their leading scorer, Joe Densmore, to the VIJHL's Peninsula Panthers. Densmore was good for 44 points in 26 games as a Thunder Cat this season.

The KIJHL site will have the webcast from Creston tonight. Access it by clicking here.

3 of the other 4 teams in the Neil Murdoch division are in action tonight as well. The first-place Nelson Leafs (33-10-2-1) take their road show to Princeton (26-12-0-6) to kick off a 2 game weekend swing. It's the first and only meeting between the two teams, who haven't played each other since November 8, 2008, a game Nelson won 6-5 in overtime. A Leaf win combined with a Rebel loss tonight would clinch the division for Nelson.

Beaver Valley (22-19-1-4) has a tough chore ahead of them tonight. They're in the Elk Valley to take on the best team in the KIJHL, the Fernie Ghostriders (37-7-1-1). The Nitehawks lost in Grand Forks Wednesday night and no doubt will look to bounce back against much stronger competition. Fernie has won 4 straight. It's the second meeting between the two clubs this year, with Beaver Valley having won the first one, 6-3 on October 24th in Fruitvale.

The Grand Forks Border Bruins (5-39-1-1) will look to do something they haven't done since 2006: win 3 straight games. They entertain the Kimberley Dynamiters (22-18-1-4) at Grand Forks Arena tonight. The Nitros are coming off a 3-1 loss in Creston on Tuesday night. It's a home-coming of sorts for Kimberley forward Brennan Romanovitch. The 18 year-old Calgary product was traded by Grand Forks to the Dynamiters on November 7th. The two teams have met once before this season, a 7-3 Kimberley win on October 2nd.

One other note from around the league, the Kamloops Storm signed 19 year-old defenceman Cory Huppe. He started the season with the Golden Rockets (2-3-5 in 30 games), but broke his hand and was released last month. The Storm have definitely been trying to load up as they get set to host the Keystone Cup later this year, and Huppe's acquisition follows moves to snag the likes of Gary Rai and former Kootenay Ice defenceman Jordan Wilkins. The Storm (21-18-0-7) currently sit 5th in the Okanagan Division. Huppe should make his debut tonight when they visit the North Okanagan Knights.

A BCHL note as well, I should be in the booth doing colour commentary tonight as the Trail Smoke Eaters host Salmon Arm (Cominco Arena, 7:30 PM). The BCHL pay-per-view webcast is available here. It'll be interesting to see what Trail brings to the table tonight: they've had 8 days off, some players have finally gotten healthy and I'd bet they're all too willing to forget about the two home losses to Powell River and Langley last week. As always, my Mountain FM colleague Shawn Mullin will be providing the play-by-play descriptions on the webcast.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Two In A Row!

Another morale-boosting win for Grand Forks (5-39-1-1) as they beat Beaver Valley (22-19-1-4) 7-4 at Grand Forks Arena.

Zachary Thompson had a 5 point night (1-4); Randy Tosoff, Chris Vinette and Gary Mahesh each had a pair of goals. Colton Donselaar had a pair for the Nitehawks, who also got singles from Layne Stopanski and Brett Naka. BV gave number one goalie Paul Barclay the night off. The Border Bruins also went 3-3 on the power play.

The boxscore is available here. My colleague Shawn Mullin will have Tosoff as his guest on Mountain FM's Overtime Thursday night, the show airs from 6-10 PM.

A tough loss for Beaver Valley as it now hinders their chances of catching third-place Spokane. The Braves hold on to their five-point lead and BV only has 1 game in hand, which they'll play Friday night against the league's top team, the Fernie Ghostriders. Three losses to Grand Forks this season really could be the difference between playing Nelson or Castlegar in the first round.

First Impressions

With only two weeks to go until the KIJHL regular season ends, it looks as though the Rebels are going to finish second in the Neil Murdoch division. Even though they have two games in hand on the first-place Nelson Leafs, making up 9 points in 6 games isn't easy at the best of times.

Spokane's hold on third place, and by extension their hold on a first-round playoff date with the Rebels, is on slightly more shaky ground though. If the fourth-place Beaver Valley Nitehawks, (5 points back of the Braves with 2 games in hand, one of which is tonight in Grand Forks), can string a few wins together to close out the season, they could theoretically pass Spokane. Here's a look at the two teams' remaining games.

Spokane (54 points): at Castlegar, at Grand Forks, vs. Castlegar.
Beaver Valley (49): at Grand Forks (in progress at time of writing), at Fernie, vs. Castlegar, and a home-and-home against Creston Valley.

Beaver Valley would have to go at least 4-1 to do it (and set up a Castlegar/Beaver Valley playoff series), but anything is possible. Castlegar fans can get another good look at both teams this weekend: Spokane is in town Saturday night (7:30 start time), and the Rebels visit the Nitehawks this Sunday afternoon at 1:00.

Where does this leave Nelson you might ask? I'd suggest they're hard at work getting ready to defend their championship, especially since technically first place isn't in the can yet. Leafs head coach Simon Wheeldon says his team is working on getting the power play after a game in Castlegar Saturday that saw them fail to capitalize on two LOOONG five-on-threes.

Finally, congratulations are in order for the Border Bruins. They bumped an ugly slump last night with a 4-3 overtime win in Penticton (trivia fans, 17 year-old Randy Tosoff had the winner, his 8th of the season for Grand Forks). It must have been quite an enjoyable bus ride home after the game and a definite bright spot on an otherwise tough season in the Boundary.

Number Crunching:
4 wins this season for the Border Bruins (entering play tonight), ending 26 games without a win, a stretch that lasted since October 30, 2009, when the Bruins beat Beaver Valley 3-2. That win was in the midst of 39 games without a win on the road, which started after November 2, 2008 when the Border Bruins beat Spokane 7-6 in a shootout for their last road victory, despite being outshot 62-27 by the Braves. 0 players from that win played for Grand Forks last night.

Where do I start!

Hello and welcome to Off The Wahl.

Winds of change are all around. My own life in Castlegar, BC is now just over a month old after 10 years in Vancouver. My favourite team, the Calgary Flames, have introduced 6 new players to their lineup in less than a week. The Grand Forks Border Bruins won for the first time since late October last night, and lastly, this blog was born.

Which brings me to my point. Over the coming weeks, months, years, I'm set to begin life as the play-by-play voice of the Castlegar Rebels as well as continue my career as a reporter at Mountain FM. As people stumble across this (hopefully) informative site, whether intentionally or not, here's hoping that for better or worse, it's an entertaining visit.