With the division clinched, Castlegar's sights are set on the Fernie Ghostriders as the regular season winds down. Castlegar uses their game in hand in tonight's tilt against Beaver Valley, (7:30, Complex), and could inch to within 2 points of the 'Riders for the Kootenay Conference overall lead.
First things first, it will be a shorter-than-normal bench (minus the inclusion of APs of course) when the Rebels and Hawks tangle in the first of three meetings over the next 12 days. The division standings are all wrapped up with Beaver Valley having cemented themselves in second place. They've also taken 2 games from Castlegar this season, including a victory at the Complex early in the season.
Last Meeting: The Rebels started the new year with a bit of a thud in Fruitvale back on January 2nd. AP Craig Martin had the winner in a 4-1 'Hawks victory.
Our Opponent: Beaver Valley, as mentioned, will finish second in the Neil Murdoch division and will face the Nelson Leafs in round one of the playoffs. The Nitehawks are my dark horse to come out of not just the division, but the entire Kootenay Conference, as head coach Terry Jones has his troops playing with a swagger reminiscent of the late '90s/early 2000's when Beaver Valley was unstoppable. The 'Hawks have won 4 straight, and finished January with a 6-1 record. South Slocan's Ryon Sookro leads the way offensively with 53 points, and what was a short-staffed defense corps has been bolstered by the arrival of Jean-William Caron (from Wetaskiwin of the Capital Junior Hockey League) and Taylor Love (from BCHL Victoria). Forward Chris Derochie may be the most under-rated player in the KIJHL. The 18 year-old has 43 points in 43 games.
Coach's Corner: I chatted with Rebels bench boss Steve Junker after the game Sunday in Spokane. To listen, click here. Jones, in an interview yesterday with my colleague Jon Zacks, had this to say about Castlegar:
"They've got a good team, they've got I think the best player in the league in Aynsley. They've got solid goaltending, the defense is strong and mobile, and they've got great depth. They're going to be a team to reckon with."
In the Press Box: Castlegar are without forwards Arthur Andrews and Josh McGladery after they each received one-game suspensions for separate incidents Sunday in Spokane. Defenceman Mike Wiest is out indefinitely, while Corbin Legros did not make the trip to Washington state on the weekend. I'll know more on his status closer to game-time. Beaver Valley goaltender Mike Vlanich is doubtful, coach Jones saying the knock he's picked up is more of a nagging injury than anything serious. Forward Ryan Baines did not play Sunday against Nelson.
Broadcast Info: join us for the webcast beginning at 7:30.
Fri. Feb. 4 @ Nelson, 7:00 PM
Sat. Feb. 5 vs. Nelson, 7:30 PM
Wed. Feb. 9 @ Grand Forks, 7:30 PM
Fri. Feb. 11 vs. Beaver Valley, 7:30 PM
Sat. Feb. 12 @ Beaver Valley, 7:30 PM
Things are Heating Up: Sounds like a war of words is starting to heat up between the Ghostriders and Thunder Cats. 'Riders coach Will Verner tossed out a few barbs at his team's rivals on RiderNews.
Tip of the Hat: Castlegar has nominated forward Anthony DeLong as their January Player of the Month. The 19 year-old had 15 points in January, helping the Rebels go 9-2. To see the rest of the KIJHL nominees as they trickle in over the next few days, click here.