Sunday, March 28, 2010

Revelstoke Wins Championship

Full marks to the Revelstoke Grizzlies for winning the KIJHL title last night in Nelson. Brad Friedrich scored twice in the third period (the first goal was gorgeous, the second, not-so-much) to give the Grizzlies a 2-1 win and a 4-1 series victory. They're off to the Cyclone Taylor Cup in Parksville which starts April 1st. They'll face the PIJHL champs from Aldergrove, the host Oceanside Generals, and one of the Peninsula Panthers or Comox Valley Glacier Kings. They'll be relatively well-rested as well: Revy played only 15 playoff games while Nelson, for example, played 24.

In other news, the Castlegar Rebels hope to have a coach in place by mid-April. The board will meet shortly after the April 10th deadline to go over applications, which one board member tells me have been coming in from all over North America.

Local product Ryan Renz's Alberni Valley Bulldogs were the victims of the old 3 games to 1 comeback last night. They lost to Powell River in Game 7 after having the Kings on the brink. Powell River will face Vernon in the Fred Page Cup. As for Renz, he gets to decide whether to stay in Junior A and go after a scholarship or take the WHL route (he's listed by Kelowna).

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Leafs On The Brink + Other Tidbits

Game 5 tonight of the KIJHL championship goes in Nelson with Revelstoke holding a 3-1 series lead. A pair of wins by the Grizzlies on home ice Wednesday and Thursday have them on the cusp of their first KIJHL championship since 1998. Nelson fans should expect another close game tonight, each of the first four have been decided by 2 goals or less. Interesting to note Revy overagers Lucas Blinkhorn and Luke Richardson, the latter a former Rebel, are 1-2 in scoring in the KIJHL playoffs with 23 and 20 points respectively. Nelson's top sniper has been Dane Rupert with 17 points, 10 of which have been goals.

Gregg Drinnan's blog is now reporting, well, no news as far as the Chase Chiefs are concerned. Apparently, owner Fred Pittendreigh was going to make an announcement yesterday, but that didn't happen. He also quotes league president Bill Ohlhausen as saying any discussions he's had with Pittendreigh about the possible move to Rutland are "confidential." People I've talked to involved with the league, though, seem to think the move won't happen, but admittedly there has been a significant amount of hearsay.

The Golden Rockets have hired a new coach and GM, as former Salmon Arm Silverbacks bench boss Ty Davidson has accepted the job formerly held by Rockie Zinger. Read more about the move here.

If you're a local hockey fan and not planning on watching the Leafs tonight, it could be worthwhile to shell out the cash for BCHL pay-per-view tonight, as Alberni Valley and Powell River play a Game 7 to see who advances to the Fred Page Cup finals. Of note, 16 year-old Castlegar native Ryan Renz is a current Bulldog after joining the team from the Rebels mid-season, and so far has a goal and 8 points in 12 playoff games.

And local products are having success in the WHL playoffs as well. Trail's Craig Cunningham and the Vancouver Giants are awaiting their second round opponent. Castlegar product Luke Walker scored his first goal of the playoffs last night as the Winterhawks evened their series at 2-2 with the Spokane Chiefs. Castlegar's Bloodoff brothers, Lucas and Evan find themselves on the brink, though, as their Kelowna Rockets trail Everett 3 games to 2. Speaking of the Giants, there were rumours a couple of months ago that they'd be taking Castlegar native Aaron Hadley from the Beaver Valley Nitehawks, but it appears that won't be happening anytime soon. Hadley has announced he will suit up with the BCHL's Vernon Vipers next season.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Leafs Lose Game 3 + Chiefs Move Update

The Leafs now trail Revelstoke 2 games to 1 after a 4-2 loss at the Revelstoke Forum. The Grizzlies scored twice in the final 2:20 of the second period (courtesy Kyle Ceretzke and Brendan Burge) and didn't look back. Game 4 goes tomorrow night (Thursday) at 7:00 PM in Revy, you can listen live on Mountain FM.

Gregg Drinnan is reporting on his blog that Chase Chiefs owner Fred Pittendreigh will be moving the franchise to Rutland pending approval by Kelowna Rockets president Bruce Hamilton. This has been rumoured for a couple of weeks now, but the only thing stopping it from being official is Hamilton's ability to approve or deny entry for any hockey team into the Kelowna market. A new development though, is word that a group of Chase residents are working to come up with money for an expansion franchise. As many as 40 people are reported to be in on the campaign. For the record, there's still no word of the proposed deal on either the KIJHL or the Chase Chiefs websites.

The KIJHL also announced the signing of a new equipment deal with Easton and Lowry, read about it here. The deal means Easton will be the official equipment and stick supplier to the league, while Lowry will be providing all of the tape and accessories.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Leafs/Grizzlies All Square

Game 3 tonight between the Leafs and Revelstoke Grizzlies (7:00 PM, Revelstoke Forum) in what has been a close series thus far. Nelson won Game 1 on Sunday night 3-2 in OT while Revy answered back with a 4-3 win in Monday's Game 2. Mountain FM's Shawn Mullin will have the call tonight and tomorrow for Games 3 and 4, if you're outside the Kootenay-Boundary, listen online here. Both teams feature former Rebels. Nelson's Scott Jago (who is injured and hasn't played since Game 1 of the Fernie series) played for Castlegar in 2005-06, while Revelstoke's Ben Bula and Luke Richardson both spent time in Castlegar silks this past season.

BC's two other Junior B leagues are also in their respective finals. The Aldergrove Kodiaks lead the PIJHL championship 2-1 over the Delta Ice Hawks with Game 4 going tonight. Aldergrove's Adam Rossignol is a bantam draft pick of the Kootenay Ice. The VIJHL championship, which has the Peninsula Panthers leading the Comox Valley Glacier Kings 1-0, has some Kootenay flavour as well. Peninsula's Joe Densmore spent the first half of this season with Creston Valley, and overager Brent Lucente was not only a Rebel in 2007-08 and 2008-09, but also spent time in the KIJHL with Grand Forks and Fernie.

The news is a few days old now, but Dylan Tappe is leaving the Spokane Braves to join the Smoke Eaters. For me, the Smokies pick up a solid forward with decent hands who should play on their top two lines in 2010-11. Shawn Mullin's blog has all the info including an interview.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Leafs Could Clinch Kootenay Conference Tonight

Game 5 between the Leafs and Fernie Ghostriders goes tonight (6:30 Pacific, Fernie Memorial Arena). The Leafs, after a pair of home wins, now lead the series 3-1 and head to the East Kootenay with a chance to wrap it all up in front of the Ghostrider faithful. My colleague Shawn Mullin will have the call beginning at 6:15 on Mountain FM. The Revelstoke Grizzlies are awaiting the winner of this series for a tangle in the KIJHL final.

The Leafs are battling the injury bug though. They lost Chris Cucullu during Game 4, adding to an injury list that already included Billy Faust, Sean Muller, Scott Jago and Connor McLaughlin, just to name a few. McLaughlin and Jarrett Burke could draw back into the lineup tonight.

Congrats to Ghostrider forward Brendan Mangone on being listed by the WHL's Spokane Chiefs. Check out the Ghostrider blog for more info.

Congrats as well to the Quesnel Millionaires on a terrific season. They fell in 6 games to the Vernon Vipers in the second round of the BCHL Fred Page Cup playoffs, but had a TON more success than anybody could have predicted. Of note, Rebels defenceman Darren Tarasoff played for Quesnel in one game of the Vernon series -- he spent the first half of 2009/10 with the BCHL's Williams Lake Timberwolves as well.

An update on the Chase situation. Gregg Drinnan now reports Chiefs owner Fred Pittendreigh as saying the team is not for sale. He's lost $100k over the past three seasons, he has been looking to sell the team to a community consortium and create a society much like we have here in Castlegar. Rumours persist however the team is on its way to Rutland for the 2010/11 season.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Leafs Lead Fernie 2-1 + Chase Moving?

A crazy bounce that landed on Dane Rupert's stick proved to be all the Nelson Leafs needed yesterday as they won Game 3 4-2 over the Fernie Ghostriders. Early in the third period, the puck took a strange carom off the end boards, bouncing to the front of the net where Rupert was waiting to tap it past a startled Jason Greenwell. Chris Cucullu added a pair for Nelson, who also got a goal from Cody Abbey. Josh Garneau and Tim Crawley replied for Fernie, who have now lost two straight games after going undefeated in their first nine playoff contests. Game 4 goes tonight (7:00 PM) at the NDCC.

I'm told Nelson mayor John Dooley has made a friendly wager with the mayor of Fernie as well. The loser will be forced to wear the opposing team's sweater to a city council meeting.

The winner of the Nelson/Fernie series moves on to play the Revelstoke Grizzlies. They swept the Princeton Posse in the Okanagan Conference final. The Grizzlies feature two players who spent time in Castlegar this year, Luke Richardson and Ben Bula. The former was traded for Dylan Richardson on October 8th of last year while Bula was shipped to Revy at the trade deadline.

Finally, some rumours that were further substantiated on Gregg Drinnan's blog this morning. I read last week that the Chase Chiefs are on the verge of being sold and moved to Kelowna to play out of Rutland Arena. According to Drinnan though, the rumours are true, as a pair of Kelowna residents have made a pitch to buy the team from Fred Pittendreigh. The main stumbling block though, is the fact Bruce Hamilton, governor, president and GM of the WHL's Kelowna Rockets has veto rights. That's right, his deal with Prospera Place includes a clause that states the Rockets have to approve any moves into any other building in Kelowna, including Rutland Arena. Personally, I find it hard to believe the Rockets could seriously be threatened at the gate by a KIJHL team, particularly when they've managed to maintain such a stellar attendance record since moving from Tacoma in 1995. I guess we'll wait and see...

Friday, March 12, 2010

Friday Musings

Yesterday was a great day for Castlegar minor hockey, as our bantam and pee-wee reps brought home two provincial Tier 3 titles. The bantams got to do it at home too, beating Dawson Creek 5-1 at the Complex. I managed to get to the rink in time to watch the third period, and must say I was very impressed by the turnout. The pee-wee club beat Terrace 6-4 at their provincial tourney in Winfield. I'm told the last time Castlegar teams were this dominant, a youngster named Shawn Horcoff was front and centre.

Game 2 of the Kootenay Conference finals goes tonight in Fernie, tune in to Mountain FM for the pre-game show at 6:15, puck drop at 6:30 from Fernie. The Leafs came up a bit short last night losing 2-1 in the series opener. They may have lost more than the game as well, as Jarrett Burke, Scott Jago and Sean Muller all left the game last night with injuries, and major midget players Troy Petrick, Dallon Stoddart and Adam Wheeldon could all draw into the lineup tonight as APs.

I traded emails with Rebels president Jim Craig this morning. He tells me the board of directors will meet soon to discuss the applications they've received for the club's vacant head coaching gig, although they will continue to accept resumes until April 10th.

A point of interest from the BCHL. Alberni Valley trails the Nanaimo Clippers 2 games to 1 in what could shape up to be quite the upset if the Clips find a way to win 2 more times. The Bulldogs have a Castlegar connection of course as 16 year-old defenceman Ryan Renz spent the first half of this year in Rebel silks. He scored a goal in Game 2 on Wednesday, a game Alberni won 3-2 in overtime.

Finally, a chance to check out some former KIJHL players on Shaw TV tonight. Kelowna and Vancouver go toe-to-toe in WHL action from the Coliseum. The Giants' leading scorer, Trail's Craig Cunningham is a former Beaver Valley Nitehawk, while the Rockets feature Castlegar natives Lucas and Evan Bloodoff, the latter having played for the Rebels in 2005-06.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Leafs/Fernie News

Nelson and Fernie are set to duke it out for Kootenay Conference supremacy beginning tomorrow night, and I can now say that Mountain FM will be a big part of the series. My colleague Shawn Mullin will provide the play-by-play descriptions live from Fernie for Games 1 and 2 (which go Thursday and Friday night at 7:30 PM from the Fernie Memorial Arena) as well as any subsequent away games during the series.

Nelson's home dates have been announced as well, as Games 3 and 4 will take place at the NDCC on Sunday and Monday (14th and 15th), times have yet to be announced though we can assume Sunday will be a matinee with Monday's Game 4 likely a 7:00 PM start.

For an Elk Valley perspective on the series, stay tuned to the Ridernews blog.

I talked with Leafs forward Gavin Currie after last night's Game 7, hear that interview here.

Leafs Take Neil Murdoch Division By Force

In a series that had seen just about everything, we saw, well, just about everything tonight in Nelson. The Leafs blasted Spokane 7-1 to take their Neil Murdoch Division final 4 games to 3. Chris Cucullu scored twice, including the opener just 6 seconds into the game. Scott Jago had a pair of his own, while Gavin Currie, Brayden Sherbinin and Sean Muller added singles. Chase Wharton scored Spokane's only goal, while goaltender Cash Ulrich allowed 7 goals on 20 shots.

A tough night for the short-staffed Braves, but full credit to a Nelson team that physically dominated in the first and second periods. Having four solid lines against a Braves team that only has 4 true defensemen in their lineup doesn't hurt either.

Nelson now moves on to face Fernie in the Kootenay Conference finals. Stay tuned to Mountain FM as I'm awaiting official word on an announcement regarding the series. Games 1 and 2 should go Thursday/Friday in the Elk Valley but again, nothing concrete yet.

The Okanagan Conference final, meanwhile, started tonight up the road in Revelstoke. And after the Princeton Posse tied the game with 20 seconds left in the third period, Bruce Silvera snagged the OT winner to give the Grizzlies the Game 1 win by a count of 4-3. Game 2 goes Wednesday night at the Revelstoke Forum.

Finally, I've heard there were rumours around Kimberley that the Dynamiters may not field a team next year. Well, that simply isn't the case, according to this article on the team's website.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Nelson/Spokane Game 7 Tonight

The Neil Murdoch Division crown will be handed out tonight in Nelson, as the Leafs and Braves get set for a pivotal Game 7. The last two games in the series both went to double overtime, including last night when Braves forward Rance Hughes potted the winner to even the series at 3-3. Tonight's game is at 7:00 PM at the NDCC, and you can bet the Fernie Ghostriders will have their eyes on the matchup, as the winner will travel to Fernie later this week to kick off the Kootenay Conference finals. Early indications are that series will start Thursday, though nothing has yet been confirmed.

The Chilliwack Bruins have been playing with a bit of a KIJHL flavour recently. That's because 16 year-old forward Brendan Persley, who skated with Penticton this year, has cracked their lineup. Persley had 16 goals and 35 points in 27 games with the Lakers in 2009-10, and represented them at the KIJHL All-Star Game in Fruitvale. So far with Chilliwack, the Kelowna native has 23 PIMs in 9 games while he's still scrounging for his first point.

Finally, a word on how the KIJHL and SFU are partnering up. You can read all about it here. As an SFU alum, it's nice to see the hockey program take strides, as it really tends to fly under the radar compared to other varsity sports on the hill. Of note, former Castlegar Rebel Sergei Dobrianski is a current member of the Clan.

Stay tuned for a report from tonight's game in Nelson!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

February Players of the Month

A pair of goaltenders have been named the KIJHL Players of the Month for February. Spokane's Cash Ulrich won for the Kootenay Conference, while Chase's Jordan Bytelaar countered for the Okanagan Conference. To me, Ulrich seemed to bounce back quite nicely in the Castlegar series after being shelled in Game 2, and he's doing the same again against Nelson, as that series is now tied at 2 games apiece after a pair of Braves home wins Thursday and Friday. Game 5 will be tomorrow night (7:00 PM, NDCC) with Game 6 slated for Monday at Eagles Ice-A-Rena.

Bytelaar, an 18 year-old from Kelowna, has his hands full against a tough Revelstoke team that now leads their Okanagan semi-final 3 games to 2 with Game 6 tonight in Chase. The winner of that series will face Princeton in the Okanagan final, after the Posse swept Sicamous.

Fernie is the latest team to move on to Round 3 after they eliminated Creston Valley last night with a 5-2 win. The Ghostriders swept that series and will open the Kootenay Conference final at home against the victor of the Nelson/Spokane series.

Tough to see the Trail Smoke Eaters bounced from the playoffs again in the first round. From the sounds of things, they were dealing with a ton of injuries yet still managed to keep every game close against Westside. I took in Game 4 at Cominco Arena and thought Trail had many quality chances but only got production from their top line. Check Shawn Mullin's blog for all the post-mortem and a look ahead to what could be a great year for the Smokies in 2010-11.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Rebels Looking For New Coach

The Castlegar Rebels are in the hunt for a new coach. This after the board of directors decided not to renew Brent Heaven's contract, despite him being named the 2009-10 Neil Murdoch Division Coach of the Year. More information is available on the Rebels' official website.

The word hit our Mountain FM newsroom late this afternoon, my colleague Shawn Mullin spoke with Rebels president Jim Craig shortly thereafter. Craig justified the move as the result of regular-season success continually failing to translate into series victories in the post-season, notably this year when the Rebels were knocked out in the first round by Spokane. He added the Rebels want to build a consistent winner much like the Nelson Leafs and Fernie Ghostriders, and finding a new head coach with his own philosophy and program is the next step in trying to achieve that. The team will not rush their decision in finding a new bench boss, Craig added they currently have nobody in particular in mind. I also understand the new coach will have his choice of retaining assistant Topher Plonka or finding his own crew. As always, stay tuned to both Mountain FM and Off The Wahl for the very latest when a name is chosen.

Craig also mentioned the team will try to build a better relationship with the Trail Smoke Eaters. No Rebels players APed for Trail this season, while several players from Nelson and Beaver Valley (including Colton Semenok last night) stepped up when the Smoke Eaters came calling. We'll see how this develops in 2010-11.

As for Heaven, it's obviously never an easy decision to part ways with a coach and GM, especially one who has enjoyed success (at least in the regular season). It seemed though, that this team struggled with inconsistency in the latter half of the season and into the playoffs, and the playoff loss to Spokane seems to have been the last straw. Craig mentioned that Heaven has the talent to be a Junior A coach and beyond, and I agree that people in hockey circles will hear his name in the future. Personally, he was more than accommodating whenever we crossed paths, and I hope he finds a gig as a coach, be it in the KIJHL or another league, soon.

KIJHL Playoffs Continue

Interesting to see the results from the first two games of the Neil Murdoch Division finals between Nelson and Spokane, specifically the performance of Cash Ulrich. He was yanked in Game 1 after allowing 4 goals on 11 shots (sound familiar) as Nelson won 7-1. The Leafs pounded 5 goals past him in the first period of Game 2 last night en route to a 6-3 win. This after he stymied the Rebels in four straight games in Round 1. The series now heads back to Spokane for Games 3 and 4 on Thursday and Friday, a Game 5 would be played at the NDCC on Sunday night.

Fernie continued their unbeaten run in the first two games of their series with Creston Valley, but the games were a lot closer than the Golden series as the Ghostriders won 4-3 and 3-2. A Nelson-Fernie conference final would surely provide some great hockey for fans in both cities.

The Okanagan Conference, due to differing schedules, have already made it through 4 games of the second round, and one series is already over. Princeton swept the Sicamous Eagles with a 3-2 win last night. The other series saw Chase jump out to a 2-0 series lead over #1 seed Revelstoke, only to lose both their home games. That series is now squared at two games apiece.

The KIJHL also announced their individual award winners. As mentioned here last week, Rebels goalie Andrew Walton was named the Neil Murdoch Division's MVP, while Brent Heaven was named top coach. Below is a look at both the award winners for the division and the league, for the full list of KIJHL award recipients, click here.

Top Defenceman: Chase Wharton, Spokane
Most Sportsmanlike: Chris Cucullu, Nelson
MVP: Andrew Walton, Castlegar
Rookie of the Year: Jesse Collins, Spokane
Coach of the Year: Brent Heaven, Castlegar
Top Scorer: Scott Morisseau, Beaver Valley
Top Goalie: Billy Faust, Nelson

Top Defenceman: Caleb Roy, Revelstoke
Most Sportsmanlike: Faiz Khan, Revelstoke
MVP: Devon Hobbs, Chase
Rookie of the Year: Trevor Fitzgerald, North Okanagan
Top Scorer: Scott Morisseau, Beaver Valley
Top Goaltender: Jason Greenwell, Fernie
Coach of the Year: Troy Mick, Revelstoke