Monday, February 28, 2011

Rebels 6 Nitehawks 3

(Castlegar leads series 2-1)

The Rebels dodged a first-period bullet en route to a 6-3 Game 3 win in Fruitvale tonight. Spencer Brodt's goal 1:26 into the third period proved to be the game winner as Castlegar went on a run over the final 40 minutes. Aaron Brewer scored twice (his first two goals in the KIJHL to boot), while Jamie Vlanich, Tyler Robinson and Ryan Reid added singles. Daniel Bishop, Keanan Patershuk and Taylor Love replied for the Nitehawks, who held a 3-1 lead through 20 minutes despite being outshot 13-4.

Alex Ross made 11 saves in his victorious return to the starting goaltender role, while Mike Vlanich stopped 37 Rebel shots in a losing cause.

You can't argue with Castlegar's ability to put pucks in the net: tonight's game marked the fifth time in these playoffs (and the third in this series) that the Rebels managed to score a half-dozen times or more. Castlegar was maybe a bit unlucky to find themselves trailing so early in the game, but credit has to be given to Beaver Valley's shooters, who capitalized on every quality chance they were afforded in the opening frame.

Tweet Tweet: Beaver Valley has jumped on the Twitter train, you can follow them @BVNitehawks. After tonight's game I found myself wondering if the person in charge even had time to look up from their computer/smartphone screen 'cause the updates were coming in fast and furious!

Up Next: Game 4 goes tomorrow night in BV, again a 7:00 start.

Out of Town: Fernie has taken a 2-1 series lead over Creston Valley after a 6-4 victory at the John Bucyk Arena tonight. A terrific crowd of 585 watched former Smokie and Nitehawk Thomas Abenante light the lamp three times for Fernie. Revelstoke now leads the Kamloops Storm 3-1 after a 6-2 victory tonight.

Gameday: Rebels @ Nitehawks (Game 3)

(series tied 1-1)

The series shifts to Fruitvale this evening for Game 3 (7:00 PM, BV Arena), and I'm sure the talk in the Rebels dressing room is about how the third-period rally that fell just short in Game 2 could be used as momentum heading into what's expected to be two tough games in the Beaver Valley.

After Game 2 I chatted with a pair of Nitehawks about the win, and what they expect out of tonight's game:

For defenceman Austin Sture click here.

For forward Chris Derochie click here.

Broadcast Info: The Nitehawks crew has the call, beginning at 7:00 PM.

To me, tonight's game depends on who gets the jump out of the gate. Beaver Valley are strong in their own rink, but the Rebels have proven all season long that they can pour it on offensively. We've had two wild starts (in terms of goal-scoring) already in this series, and no doubt it will be another entertaining contest tonight.

Castlegar's penalty-kill needs a bounce-back game too. The 'Hawks went 4/7 on the power-play in Game 2, and seem to exploit Castlegar via cross-ice one-timers that get the goaltender moving (the goals by Derek Lashuk in period one and Ryon Sookro late in the second stick out to me). There won't be as much room on the smaller ice tonight, and there will also be less room to get pucks through BV's large defense (how many did they block or redirect on Saturday?) at the other end.

Linky-Link: I've added a link to the right to Osoyoos' youtube page. Their webcast play-by-play man, Tom Shields, does a great job putting together all the highlights after Coyotes' home games.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Nitehawks 7 Rebels 6

(series tied 1-1)

All that one needed was a penalty shot, three fights and a pane of broken glass, 'cause Game 2 between the Rebels and Nitehawks had just about everything else.

Ryon Sookro and Colton Donselaar each scored twice, and Chris Derochie chipped in 5 assists as the Nitehawks won a wild one 7-6 at the Complex.

Sookro opened the scoring just 14 seconds into the game, and after a Spencer Brodt equalizer, the Hawks went ahead on goals by Mason Spear and Derek Lashuk to take a 3-1 lead into the first intermission.

The Nitehawks would add two more, courtesy of Donselaar and Sookro, chasing Rebels starting goaltender Cole Buckley in the process before Jamie Vlanich cut the lead to 5-2 after 40 minutes.

After Donselaar and Jesse Knowler exchanged power-play and short-handed markers, the Nitehawks got the eventual game-winner from Keanan Patershuk after linemate Ryan Edwards created a turnover at the Rebels blue-line.

Beaver Valley withstood a late rally as Stuart Walton, Brodt and Tyler Robinson all put pucks past goaltender Mike Vlanich in the final 12 minutes.

Beaver Valley's power-play was the difference. The Hawks went 4/7 with the man-advantage, enjoying a pair of 5-on-threes, while Castlegar managed only one power-play marker in 7 attempts. Through two games, both teams have proven they can put pucks in the net, it appears (at least through 6 periods of hockey), that the series may be won by the team that does a better job of keeping pucks out.

I'll have interviews with Derochie and Hawks teammate Austin Sture as part of Monday's gameday package (along with a Rebel once I track one down). The series shifts to Fruitvale for Games 3 & 4 Monday and Tuesday night, Game 5 will be in Castlegar on Thursday.

Out of Town: Creston Valley equalized as well tonight, posting a 5-2 win at Fernie. It was only the third time the Ghostriders have lost at home all season (and the second time to the Thunder Cats). Elsewhere, Osoyoos shut out Kelowna 5-0 to take a 2-0 lead heading back to Rutland.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Gameday: Rebels vs. Nitehawks (Game 2)

After an unexpected scoring outburst in last night's Game 1, the Rebels and Nitehawks will again do battle tonight (7:30, Complex). The Rebels fed off a huge crowd yesterday, scoring 28 seconds in, and never looking back in a 6-2 victory that saw captain Taylor Anderson and Trail product Jamie Vlanich enjoy three-point nights.

I spoke to Anderson after last night's game, to hear what he had to say, click here.

I'd expect a much different result tonight. Beaver Valley settled into their game after a shaky first period, and head coach Terry Jones has been around the game long enough to know what it takes to motivate a team. That said, the Rebels' confidence has never been higher, and it will be up to the Nitehawks to match the intensity the home side is sure to bring in front of what's expected to be another large crowd.

Broadcast Info: Catch the webcast tonight beginning at 7:30.

Out of Town: Fernie had their narrowest margin of victory in the series opener against Creston Valley last night, winning 3-1 thanks to two late goals from Mike Anderson and Cale Wright. For more on that series, including yet another war of words, check out the Fernie blog. Elsewhere, Osoyoos had little trouble with Kelowna, winning 5-2, while Revelstoke got a late second-period winner from Brad Friedrich to defeat Kamloops 3-2 and take a 2-0 series lead back to the 'Loops.

Tip of the Hat: To Castlegar product Scott Morisseau, on being named the KIJHL's Most Valuable Player. He led the league in scoring this year for the second consecutive season. Fellow Ghostrider Jeff Zmurchyk was named the league's Top Defenceman as well. He has ties to the West Kootenay having spent the 2008-09 season with the BCHL's Trail Smoke Eaters.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Rebels 6 Nitehawks 2

(Castlegar leads series 1-0)

A 5-goal first period explosion paced Castlegar to a 6-2 Game 1 victory over Beaver Valley.

It started just 28 seconds in when Stuart Walton tapped home a rebound, and Jamie Vlanich, Erik Wentzel, Diego Bartlett and Jesse Knowler added opening-frame tallies as the Rebels broke it open, early.

Taylor Anderson scored on a pretty coast-to-coast move in the second to round out the Rebel attack, while Tyler Collins and Dallas Calvin replied for the Nitehawks.

This one really wasn't what anyone expected, as Castlegar took advantage of loose pucks in the slot and finished on virtually every opportunity to chase 'Hawks starting goaltender Mike Vlanich after 20 minutes. Zach Perehudoff was effective in 40 minutes of mop-up duty. Be warned, the Nitehawks will surely come back prepared to deal with another large crowd in Game 2, as they seemed less able to adapt to the 585 noisy fans at the Complex than the Rebels were.

I'll have an interview with Anderson up as part of tomorrow's gameday package once it airs on Mountain FM.

Game 2 goes tomorrow night at 7:30, before switching back to Fruitvale for Games 3 and 4 Monday and Tuesday night.

Gameday: Rebels vs. Nitehawks (Game 1)

Two words: buckle up.

This could well be the best series of the second round, as Castlegar and Beaver Valley get set to lock horns for the first time in the playoffs since 2009. These two clubs finished 1-2 in the Neil Murdoch division, but achieved their success in two different ways.

Only two teams (Fernie and Osoyoos) outgunned Castlegar this year. The Rebels put up 242 goals during the regular season and like to use neutral zone speed to get past the defence. Counter that with Beaver Valley, who bumped, dumped and chased their way to a 32-13-1-4 record and a seven-game series win over Nelson in Round One. The two styles make for a fascinating series, and I'll wager the type of games we see in Castlegar will be quite different than what happens on the small ice in Fruitvale.

How They Got Here: The Rebels defeated the Spokane Braves in 5 games in a tough series that saw two games go to overtime. Ryan Aynsley led the way offensively for Castlegar with 6 goals and 9 points, while Alex Ross and Cole Buckley split duties in goal, picking up two wins each. Of note, 16 year-old Jesse Knowler scored both overtime winners (in Games 2 and 4).

Beaver Valley gutted out a 7-game win over the Nelson Leafs, despite winning Game 1 by the remarkable score of 13-2. The home team won every game: Nelson had trouble rushing down the small ice at the BV Arena, while the 'Hawks couldn't find the same level of consistency at the NDCC. Speaking of 16 year-olds, Dallas Calvin is BV's leading scorer heading into Round Two, with 3 goals and 11 points, while South Slocan's Ryon Sookro is close behind with 10 (5-5). Mike Vlanich played almost the entire series between the pipes.

The Season Series:
Castlegar won 5 of the 8 games during the regular season, but 2 of the Nitehawks' 3 wins were at the Complex. Here's a breakdown:

Sep. 25/10: Nitehawks 5 @ 2 Rebels
Oct. 1/10: Rebels 5 @ 2 Nitehawks
Oct. 9/10: Nitehawks 2 @ 5 Rebels
Dec. 4/10: Rebels 9 @ 3 Nitehawks
Jan. 2/11: Rebels 1 @ 4 Nitehawks
Feb. 1/11: Nitehawks 1 @ 5 Rebels
Feb. 11/11: Nitehawks 5 @ 3 Rebels
Feb. 12/11: Rebels 4 @ 3 Nitehawks (OT)

Now a look at each team's leading scorers throughout those eight games:

Stuart Walton 4-8-12
Tyler Robinson 3-5-8
Taylor Anderson 4-3-7
Diego Bartlett 4-2-6
Ryan Aynsley 3-3-6

Beaver Valley:
Ryon Sookro 6-3-9
Chris Derochie 2-5-7
Justin Niminiken 3-3-6
Austin Sture 1-4-5
Ryan Baines 2-2-4

Here's how both coaches saw the series when I caught up with them yesterday:

To hear from Beaver Valley's Terry Jones, click here.

For the Rebels' Steve Junker, click here.

Broadcast Info: We'll have the webcast of Game 1 tonight at 8:00 (note the later-than-usual start time). Game 2 is tomorrow (Sat.) at 7:30.

My Pick: Whoever comes out of this series will have bumps and bruises to be sure, but to me it comes down to style. Grant the Rebels an early lead, and you could well be watching them through the rear-view mirror, but the longer the Nitehawks are able to battle in the corners, hit, and prevent any type of speed from being established (note what both coaches say about "tempo" in the interviews), the more success they will have, and they'll have an easier time of it at home. Both teams are deep, but the Rebels have a bit more star power and to me, that gives them the edge in the series. But it will be a battle. Castlegar in 6.

Out of Town: Two of the other series start tonight, while Revelstoke already enjoys a 1-0 series lead on Kamloops.

Fernie (1st, Eddie Mountain) vs. Creston Valley (2nd, Eddie Mountain): The Ghostriders cruised past Kimberley in 4 straight, while the Thunder Cats defeated Golden in six games. Creston has played Fernie tough this year, and are one of only two teams (Castlegar being the other) to win at the Fernie Memorial Arena this season. These two clubs flat out hate each other, as evidenced by the last time they met. The war of words hasn't stopped apparently either, check out the Fernie blog for all the latest vitriol. If Creston can surmount the loss of captain Travis Ludwar (though reports indicate he could be back later in the series), they could steal a couple of games. But Fernie is getting better, and more ruthless in terms of margin of victory as the series goes on. My Pick: Fernie in 6.

Revelstoke (1st, Doug Birks) vs. Kamloops (2nd, Doug Birks):
Revelstoke has been there and done that in the KIJHL and beyond. The defending Keystone Cup champs dispatched a pesky North Okanagan squad in 5 games, while the Storm did the same to Sicamous. This series will be closer than the standings suggest (Revelstoke finished 31 points up on Kamloops during the regular season), but to me, it will take a heroic effort from Lynden Stanwood in the Kamloops goal to prevent the Grizzlies from moving on. Revelstoke's three twenty year-olds are dynamic, watch for Bruce Silvera, Brooks Christensen and Brad Friedrich to carry much of the load offensively. My Pick: Revelstoke in 6.

Osoyoos (1st, Okanagan) vs. Kelowna (2nd, Okanagan): Osoyoos swept Penticton, while Kelowna needed a comeback from a 3-1 series deficit to defeat the Princeton Posse in 7. The Coyotes are built to win now, and will win this series, though they'll have to get through the playoffs' two leading scorers, Dane Rupert and Jordan Wood, to do it. My Pick: Osoyoos in 5.

Last Round (my picks in italics):
Castlegar def. Spokane in 5 (Castlegar in 5).
Beaver Valley def. Nelson in 7 (Beaver Valley in 7).
Fernie def. Kimberley in 4 (Fernie in 4).
Creston Valley def. Golden in 6 (Creston Valley in 6).

Osoyoos def. Penticton in 4 (Osoyoos in 4).
Kelowna def. Princeton in 7 (Kelowna in 5).
Kamloops def. Sicamous in 5 (Kamloops in 6).
Revelstoke def. North Okanagan in 5 (Revelstoke in 4).

Enjoy Round Two everybody!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Nelson/BV Audio, Round Two Starts Tonight

As promised, reaction from last night's Game 7 in Fruitvale:

For BV's Colton Donselaar, click here.

For BV's Derek Lashuk, click here.

For Nelson's Taylor O'Neil, click here.

For Nelson's Gavin Currie, click here.

Kudos to the Leafs for taking the time for an interview after what surely was a disappointing loss. All the best to O'Neil, Currie and fellow grad Dustin Johnson in the future.

Round Two officially gets underway this evening as Kamloops visits Revelstoke. The three other series, including Castlegar/Beaver Valley will drop the puck tomorrow. Watch for a preview of all four series tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Nitehawks Advance

It will be a Castlegar/Beaver Valley Neil Murdoch division final.

This after the 'Hawks eliminated the Nelson Leafs with a 4-2 win tonight at the Beaver Valley Arena, in one of the better games I've ever seen in the KIJHL. Brantley Schapansky tipped home the eventual game-winner early in the second period, while Tyler Collins, Colton Donselaar and Ryon Sookro also tallied.

Gavin Currie was an absolute monster for Nelson tonight, scoring twice and carrying the Leafs' top line. In the end, Nelson had a chance to force overtime, the empty-netter from Sookro came with less than 10 seconds left, and were it not for a pad-stacking save by Mike Vlanich off of E.J. Moir midway through the final frame, the game could have been quite different.

I'll have extensive audio reaction from Game 7 including interviews with Donselaar and Currie, stay tuned for them on Mountain FM tomorrow and on this blog shortly after.

A Rebels/Nitehawks series preview (and a look at the other second-round matchups) will come as part of the gameday package Friday.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

All-Stars, Audio, Leafs on the Brink

With a few days between games for the Rebels why not take a closer look at the Neil Murdoch division All-Stars, named last week. All of the recipients deserve more than the passing glance I afforded them on Sunday night..

Top Scorer: Ryan Aynsley, Castlegar. What else can you say. If Aynsley had played all 50 games for the Rebels this year there's no doubt he would have been right up alongside Fernie's Scott Morisseau and Thomas Abenante for the league lead. The offense slowed slightly upon his return from Trail, but so did the one-dimensional play. My honourable mention: Zac Thompson, Grand Forks. He got plenty of ice-time, and was dangerous every shift.

Top Defenseman: Darren Tarasoff, Castlegar. A shut-down guy with a booming point shot, Tarasoff had a terrific regular season scoring 28 points in 42 games. His return from Williams Lake (BCHL) late last year was a huge boost for the Rebels' blue line. My honourable mention: Derek Lashuk, Beaver Valley. Burst onto the KIJHL scene as an 18 year-old, scoring 9 goals and was a cog on a surprisingly good 'Hawks squad.

Top Goaltender: Alex Ross, Castlegar. Ross improved by leaps and bounds over last year, and his stellar play was surely a deciding factor in the decision to ship Andrew Walton to Fernie Now forms a dynamite one-two punch with Cole Buckley. My honourable mention: Darren Hogg, Nelson. The rookie won the Leafs' number-one gig over Marcus Beesley, going 11-6 before getting hurt in early January.

Top Coach: Steve Junker, Castlegar. Junker took the Rebels to new heights this regular season in his first year as head coach, winning 42 games and bringing a fresh perspective to the club. He's the last person to ever take credit, but every player I've spoken to this year pins the success on his shoulders. My honourable mention: Terry Jones, Beaver Valley. He knew what we didn't, apparently. Jones had faith in his squad, making few changes after shipping out a pair of stars, and quietly led Beaver Valley to a 32-13-1-4 record.

Most Valuable Player: Ryan Aynsley, Castlegar. There's no questioning his skill, as mentioned earlier. The 20 year-old proved his worth at the Junior A level this year and is off to Northern Michigan University in 2011-12. Aynsley scored 147 points in his two seasons in Castlegar. My honourable mention: Gavin Currie, Nelson. The Leafs skip to the beat of Currie's drum, and he was sorely missed during his lengthy absence recovering from an injury suffered on New Year's Eve. Despite that, the Abbotsford product came close to leading the Leafs in scoring again this year.

Rookie of the Year: Dallas Calvin, Beaver Valley. Calvin and fellow 16 year-old Ryan Dixon were two to watch for the 'Hawks this season (before Dixon moved up to Trail). A point-per-game player in his first season of junior hockey, Calvin is one to watch in the future (and he throws a decent ball game too). My honourable mention: Mitch Fowler, Spokane. A 17 year-old, Fowler put up 32 points on a low-scoring Braves offense, but was dangerous every time he touched the puck. Don't be surprised if both Fowler and fellow '93 teammate Jesse Collins get a look at the Junior A level next year.

Most Sportsmanlike Player: Ryon Sookro, Beaver Valley. The Nitehawks are known as a chippy, aggressive team, but Sookro stuck to scoring. The 19 year-old led BV with 60 points while picking up only 42 PIMs. My honourable mention: Stuart Walton, Castlegar. Walton enjoyed a career year with 55 points, and was issued only 49 penalty minutes, 15 of those coming in a memorable tilt with Nelson's Colton Malmsten for which he incurred a one-game suspension. Walton is an honest, hard-working player and was also named the Conference Player of the Month in January.

The Best of the Rest: The league posted all of the KIJHL award-winners late yesterday.

Defence: Jeff Zmurchyk, Fernie.
Sportsmanlike: Josh MacDonald, Golden.
MVP: Scott Morisseau, Fernie.
Rookie of the Year: T.J. Fairall, Golden.
Coach: Joe Martin, Creston Valley.
Top Scorer: Morisseau, Fernie.
Top Goaltender: Andrew Walton, Fernie.

Defence: Reid Blinkhorn, Revelstoke.
Sportsmanlike: Colin Minardi, North Okanagan.
MVP: Mark Arnold, Sicamous.
Rookie of the Year: Lyndon Stanwood, Kamloops.
Coach: Sylvain Leone, North Okanagan.
Top Scorer: Bruce Silvera, Revelstoke.
Top Goaltender: Stanwood, Kamloops.

Defence: Shane Hanna, Osoyoos.
Sportsmanlike: Mike Sandor, Penticton.
MVP: Thierry Martine, Osoyoos.
Rookie of the Year: Hanna, Osoyoos.
Coach: Ken Law, Osoyoos.
Top Scorer: Martine, Osoyoos.
Top Goaltender: Kyle Laslo, Osoyoos.

Audio Galore: My Mountain FM colleague Jon Zacks and I scrummed a few Rebels following Game 5, have a listen:

For Darren Tarasoff, click here.

For Spencer Brodt, click here.

For Cole Buckley, click here.

Leafs/BV Update: The 'Hawks won Game 5 last night by a count of 6-3, thanks to a 4-point performance from Ryon Sookro and Colton Donselaar. Beaver Valley can close out the series tonight in Nelson (7:00, NDCC) and will not have to face Nelson's Dustin Johnson, who leads the team in scoring with 8 points but is suspended for tonight's game (misconduct rule).

Round Two: Games 1 & 2 will be this Friday and Saturday, at the Complex.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Rebels 6 Braves 2

(Castlegar wins series 4-1)

Ryan Aynsley's seeing-eye wrister with 1:59 left in the second period proved to be the eventual game-winner as Castlegar posted a 6-2 victory over Spokane in tonight's Game 5.

Aynsley and Spencer Brodt each scored twice, while Taylor Anderson and Jamie Vlanich also scored for the Rebels. Rance Hughes and Nick Redding replied for Spokane, who see their season come to an end, despite sending two games to overtime and posting a Game 3 shutout.

Aynsley's first goal, and Brodt's power play marker 1:48 into the third period were back-breakers for Spokane, as Barr was peppered with a series-high 51 shots. Cole Buckley picked up his second consecutive win, making 29 saves for Castlegar.

The Rebels played with 5 d-men for much of the game, as Mike Wiest left in the first period after taking a hard check behind the Rebels goal. Aaron Brewer logged a lot of minutes in his first appearance of the series.

Kwinn Mazzilli had a strong game as well in his playoff debut, notching two assists.

What we do know, is that Round 2 is more than likely to start Thursday night at the Complex. What we don't know, is who the opponent will be, as Beaver Valley and Nelson are deadlocked at two games apiece heading into a monumental Game 5 tomorrow night in Fruitvale.

Tip of the Hat: To the four Rebels who picked up divisional awards tonight. Aynsley was named top scorer and MVP, Darren Tarasoff the top defenseman, Alex Ross the top goaltender, and Steve Junker the top coach. Congrats!

Tip of the Hat, Part II:
to graduating Braves Barr, Jacob Walsh, Ryan Hadley-Schaal and A.J. King, for providing hours of entertainment for KIJHL fans during their careers. Best of luck in all future endeavours.

Tip of the Hat, Part III: to the 460 fans who packed the Complex tonight. It was great to see!

Out of Town: Fernie is on to Round Two as well, putting up a 5-1 victory against Kimberley tonight. Of note, Castlegar's Scott Morisseau has 9 goals already in the playoffs, and was named the Eddie Mountain division MVP while former Rebel Andrew Walton was named top goaltender.

Gameday: Rebels vs. Braves (Game 5)

(Castlegar leads series 3-1)

Castlegar's ticket to Round Two could be punched tonight (5:00 PM, Complex) with a victory, but this series has tightened up dramatically since the 5-1 opener on Monday night.

The Rebels have needed overtime twice, and were shut out once in the three games since, but come into tonight's Game 5 holding a 3-1 series edge on a Braves team that has proven to be just as hard-working and scrappy as they were last year.

The Rebels' offense was, for lack of a better term, shut down in Washington state, scoring only two goals in the 120+ minutes of hockey that were Games 3 & 4. But the likes of Ryan Aynsley (who leads Castlegar with 4 goals in 4 games), Erik Wentzel, Mike Wiest and Anthony DeLong (et al) can only be shut down for so long.

Part of that will involve solving Braves goaltender Garrett Barr, who was much better on home ice than he was in either game in Castlegar in this series. Forward Rance Hughes (2-4-6) leads all scorers in the series, but fellow snipers Nick Redding, Uriah Machuga and Mitch Fowler have only two goals between them in the four games this far.

Expect another close game this evening: I'm sure Castlegar would love nothing more than a chance to await the victor of an increasingly interesting Nelson/BV series (see below), while the Braves come into tonight's game with their backs against the wall, hoping for a chance to play at home again tomorrow.

Broadcast Info: We'll have the webcast this evening at 5:00 PM.

In the Press Box: Aaron Brewer and Kwinn Mazzilli are still awaiting their first action of the series, while Corbin Legros sat out Game 4 in favour of youngster Riley Ostoforoff.

Out of Town: Osoyoos is the first team in the KIJHL to advance to Round Two, posting a comprehensive sweep of the Penticton Lakers. In addition to the Rebels, three more teams can advance with victories this evening. Fernie visits Kimberley for Game 4 in that series: the Ghostriders have won each game thus far by at least six goals. Kamloops can eliminate Sicamous, and Revelstoke the North Okanagan Knights as well tonight, setting up a potential matchup against each other.

Murdoch Madness: What got into the Nelson Leafs? After a forgettable excursion to Fruitvale for Games 1 & 2 (that included a 13-2 defeat), the Leafs evened the series with a 9-1 win at the NDCC last night. They'll play what has turned out to be a massive Game 5 tomorrow at the Beaver Valley Arena (and I can't imagine I'd be going out too far on a limb to suggest both the Rebels and Braves hope that series reaches a Game 7).

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Rebels 2 Braves 1 (OT)

(Castlegar leads series 3-1)

In 1981, Loverboy's The Kid is Hot Tonite hit #55 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Fast forward 30 years, a different "kid" is making the most of his opportunity with the Castlegar Rebels.

Jesse Knowler scored his second overtime winner of the series as Castlegar edged Spokane 2-1 in Game 4, earning themselves a chance to close out the best-of-seven Sunday evening at the Complex.

Ryan Aynsley and Jesse Collins traded first period markers in the lowest-scoring game of the series. Cole Buckley made 38 saves to record his first victory of the playoffs.

Spokane, despite finishing 39 points lower than the Rebels in the regular-season standings, have proven to be a test. We'll see Sunday night whether they're able to bounce back from another overtime loss like they did in Game 3.

Out of Town: One team staved off elimination, while several more moved closer to advancing to Round 2. North Okanagan got a game-winner from Zach Lindsay to edge Revelstoke 4-3 in Armstrong, that series is now 3-1 in favour of the Grizzlies. Princeton moved one step closer to a first-round upset with a 7-6 victory over Kelowna, they lead the series 3-1. Osoyoos whipped Penticton 6-1 to take a 3-0 series lead, and Creston Valley edged Golden 3-2 (in regulation this time) to take a 3-1 lead of their own.

Closer to home, Nelson got a powerplay goal from Colton Schell with just under 3 minutes left en route to a 5-3 win over Beaver Valley. With a win in tomorrow's Game 4 (7:00, NDCC) the Leafs could even the series.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Gameday: Rebels @ Braves (Game 4)

(Rebels lead series 2-1)

Time to regroup, refresh, and take another stab at a pesky Spokane Braves club coming off their best performance of the series. The Rebels fell into the discipline trap again last night, being burned on three power-plays drawn from either retaliatory or after-the-whistle penalties. Tonight's Game 4 (8:00 PM, Eagles Ice-A-Rena), to say the least, is huge. Castlegar can either come home for Sunday's Game 5 with a chance to close the Braves out, or Spokane could head north with a chance to take a series lead.

Broadcast Info: Rick Edwards calls tonight's webcast, beginning at 8:00.

In the Press Box: Josh McGladery will sit this one out after incurring a game misconduct in the final ten minutes last night. Hard to say who will take his place, though, as he's spent some time playing on the blueline as well as up front. Safe to say one of Kwinn Mazzilli, Aaron Brewer or Curtis Pereverzoff will draw in. For Spokane, Thomas McNevin played his first game of the series last night.

Number 6?: You may have noticed Mike Wiest was sporting #6 instead of his usual #19 last night. We'll try to get to the bottom of things ASAP, though he did wear #19 at home in Game 2.

Out of Town: Kelowna bit back in a big way last night, thumping Princeton 7-3. The Posse still lead the series 2-1. The Kamloops/Sicamous game was post-poned in the third period while tied at 1-1 because of soft ice. The conclusion of that game, plus Game 4 will be played tonight in Sicamous. Closer to home, Nelson hosts Beaver Valley in Game 3, the Hawks could take a 3-0 stranglehold with a win tonight (7:00, NDCC Arena).

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Braves 4 Rebels 0

(Castlegar leads series 2-1)

One team will use tonight's Game 3 as momentum, one team will put it in the rear-view mirror.

Rance Hughes scored twice, including on a third-period breakaway as Spokane tighted up the best-of-seven with a 4-0 shutout at Eagles Ice-A-Rena. Mitch Fowler and Tanner Slarks also tallied, while Garrett Barr made 45 saves between the pipes for the goose-egg.

This one can be put on costly penalties. A retaliation after a Braves forward bowled over Rebels 'tender Alex Ross, an imprudent cross-check, and an unsportsmanlike penalty after the whistle put the Rebels down 3-0 (and brought Cole Buckley into the game in relief).

Erik Wentzel tried to jump-start the team in the third, scrapping with Spokane's Brycen Fisher. But Barr, despite facing lots of rubber, wasn't forced to make many ten-bell saves, and looked much stronger and more confident tonight than in either of the games in Castlegar.

Marked Man: Josh McGladery tried unsuccessfully to engage Spokane's Tanner Slarks in the third period. Slarks of course was the Brave who jumped Castlegar's Arthur Andrews in the Rebels' last trip to Spokane on January 30th.

Game 5: will happen. Following tomorrow night's Game 4, the two teams will tangle again in Castlegar Sunday evening at 5:00. The only question that remains, will it be one team's chance to close out the series, or either team's chance to take a pivotal 3-2 lead?

Good Luck Charm: Was that Mike Bay's daughter crossing the ice from the Braves bench following the game? If so, it brings back memories of former San Francisco Giants skipper Dusty Baker during the 2002 World Series. At least this time there won't be any plays at the plate!

Out of Town: Only one final at time of writing, as Creston Valley's Brock Ward played overtime hero in Golden. And despite pleas from both the Rockets coach and team president, attendance was only listed at 106 (although it is a Thursday night). Creston Valley is now up 2-1 in that Eddie Mountain series after dropping Game 1 at home.

Gameday: Rebels @ Braves (Game 3)

With a two-nothing series lead in store, the Rebels are off to Washington state this afternoon for Games 3 and 4 against Spokane (tonight at 6:45 PM, tomorrow at 8:00 PM).

With 12 goals scored in the first two games of the series, there's no doubt Castlegar have found their offensive swagger, but defensive coverage may have been a point of discussion after the Braves were allowed back into a game they trailed 3-0, 4-2 and 5-3.

As far as the series structure is concerned, it's a mirror image from 2010: the Rebels led Spokane 2-0 heading to Eagles Ice-A-Rena only to drop both games en route to a 6-game series loss. The mindset is different this year, and the talent level is higher, but as everyone in the KIJHL knows, the Addison Street rink is hardly a friendly visit.

Last Meeting: From an excitement level, Game 2 (in my eyes) passed the October visit from the Fernie Ghostriders as game of the year. AP Jesse Knowler potted the OT winner to give Castlegar a 7-6 victory.

Our Opponent: The Braves' top performers have put up points despite trailing in the series. Rance Hughes leads the way with 4 assists, while Guisseppe Dippolito and Ryan Hadley-Schaal have two goals each. Spokane is playing a much more disciplined style of hockey than we saw in last year's series, though the departures of Joel Stewart (Nelson) and Jake Peterson (graduated) may be a reason (they combined for 155 penalty minutes in the 2010 playoffs). To win, the Braves will need to continue blocking as many shots as humanly possible, which will be easier on the smaller ice surface in Spokane. An early lead is crucial.

Broadcast Info: Rick Edwards has the call tonight and tomorrow for those of you tuning in to the webcast.

In the Press Box: Mike Wiest returned for Game 2 and was a minute-muncher to say the least. The Rebels sat Kwinn Mazzilli, Aaron Brewer and Curtis Pereverzoff (all healthy), while Spokane were without Van Stefanou and Thomas McNevin. To the best of my knowledge, nothing has changed on the injury front.

Audio: Time to play a bit of catch-up in the interview department:

Here's Mazzilli following Castlegar's 9-3 win at Grand Forks last week. Listen.

For Stuart Walton's take on Game 1, click here.

As for Game 2, I spoke with OT hero Knowler here, and Ryan Aynsley here.

Out of Town: Fernie, Beaver Valley and Osoyoos have all taken 2-0 leads in their respective series. I watched most of the BV/Nelson game last night and thought the Leafs showed a lot more jam than in Game 1, despite losing d-men Tyler Parfeniuk and Taylor O'Neil to checking from behind game misconducts.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Rebels 7 Braves 6 (OT)

Pretty much the polar opposite of Game 1, but I'm sure the Rebels will take it.

Affiliate callup Jesse Knowler scored on a 2-on-1 2 and a half minutes into overtime to cap a wild finish, and vault the Rebels into a 2-0 series lead on the fiesty Spokane Braves.

Ryan Aynsley potted a hat-trick for Castlegar, while the top two scorers for Spokane, Guisseppe Dippolito and Rance Hughes, were dangerous all night, and former Smoke Eater Uriah Machuga also stunned the crowd, scoring a tying goal with only a couple dozen seconds left in regulation.

A heart-breaking loss for Spokane, to be sure, but a victory that could prove as a monumental learning experience for Castlegar.

Tip of the Hat: to my colleague Matt Soper for calling tonight's game. I owe ya one.

Up Next: The series shifts to the Evergreen State for Games 3 and 4 Thursday and Friday night.

Out of Town: Three separate teams hit double digits this evening: Beaver Valley scored 7 in the first en route to a 13-2 win over Nelson, Fernie crushed Kimberley 12-3 in a game that will see suspensions handed out, and Kamloops tied up their series defeating Sicamous 11-2. I may have to eat my words, as Princeton now heads home with a 2-0 series edge on the Kelowna Chiefs after posting a 5-2 win in Rutland tonight.

Gameday: Rebels vs. Braves (Game 2)

(Rebels lead series 1-0)

Right back to work tonight for Game 2 of the Kootenay Conference quarter-final. The Rebels scored timely goals, and went 3/4 on the power-play last night in a 5-1 Game 1 victory over Spokane.

The line of Stuart Walton, Tyler Robinson and Anthony DeLong was especially dangerous, scoring all but one of Castlegar's goals, including (to me) the turning point, when Robinson handcuffed Braves goalie Garrett Barr with a wrister from the top of the circle 10 seconds into the third period, giving the Rebels a 3-1 lead.

Tonight, I'd imagine coach Steve Junker would want more of the same, an up-tempo, physical style of play that greatly countered Spokane's dump and chase philosophy. Alex Ross didn't have to make any five-alarm saves last night, and the only goal that beat him was a shot from the corner by Ryan Hadley-Schaal.

Broadcast Info: A much healthier-than-I Matt Soper (ordinarily the voice of the Nelson Leafs) will take you through tonight's webcast, beginning at 7:30.

Road Team Success: Three of the five visiting teams (Princeton, Sicamous and Golden) won their series-openers last night. Derrick Delisser and Jaden Janzen each scored twice in the Posse's 6-4 win in Rutland; Tanner Cochrane's short-handed goal proved the winner in Golden's 4-3 victory in Creston (Josh MacDonald had a 4-point night), and Eagles goalie Chris Kingdon made 48 saves in Sicamous' 5-3 win at Kamloops. Revelstoke also shut out North Okanagan 4-0.

Suspensions: A few to report, including former Rebel Dylan Richardson being booked for one game for a check-to-the-head major. Teammate Josh Rasmussen gets the same penalty for a checking from behind major. Knights forward Steven Pantazoupoulos will sit for two, after being assessed multiple game misconducts, while Revelstoke's Spencer Samuel earned the obligatory one-game ban for circumventing the misconduct rule.

Out of Town: Every other series is in action tonight, Game Twos all around except in Fernie, Beaver Valley and Osoyoos.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Rebels 5 Braves 1

Stuart Walton scored twice, including the game-winner, as Castlegar took Game 1 from Spokane tonight.

More of a recap tomorrow, a hot cup of Neo-Citran beckons for now.

Gameday: Rebels vs. Braves (Game 1)

The road to the Keystone Cup starts tonight.

The Rebels and Spokane Braves open up a best-of-seven tonight (insert corny Valentine's Day joke here) at the Complex in a rematch of last year's Kootenay Conference quarter-final. Castlegar is looking for some long-awaited revenge, after being shocked in 6 games by the Braves last year (in a series the Rebels led 2-0 at one point).

A deeper core laden with vengeful veterans is chomping at the bit to get the series started, as it's been known since late January that Castlegar/Spokane would be the first-round matchup.

Intangibles: The Rebels won the season series 7-1, the only blemish being a 5-3 Braves victory at the Complex on October 2nd. The last meeting between the two clubs was January 30th in Spokane, a matchup the Rebels won 4-2.

Here's a look at the two teams' leading scorers this season:

Ryan Aynsley 32-38-71
Mike Wiest 19-44-63
Stuart Walton 21-34-55
Anthony DeLong 31-22-53
Erik Wentzel 28-23-51

Rance Hughes 26-21-47
Guisseppe Dippolito 14-27-41
Jesse Collins 16-22-38
Uriah Machuga 15-21-36
Mitch Fowler 19-13-32

As for the head-to-head matchup:

Walton 4-5-9
Wentzel 5-3-8
Aynsley 3-4-7
Tyler Robinson 3-4-7
Erik Alden 1-6-7

Machuga 2-5-7
Hughes 3-3-6
Fowler 3-2-5
Collins 2-2-4
Tyler Mort 2-2-4 (no longer with team)


Alex Ross 4-0
Cole Buckley 2-0
Andrew Walton 1-1 (no longer with team)

Garrett Barr 1-6
McKinlee Baum 0-1

Our Opponent: The upset will be harder to come by for the Braves, to be sure. Castlegar finished 39 points ahead of Spokane in the Neil Murdoch division standings, but with Eagles Ice-A-Rena consistently providing one of the toughest away environments in the KIJHL, the Braves, who have 10 returnees from last year's squad, could make it a really tough test, especially if the series heads back to Washington state tied at one game apiece.

My Pick: The Rebels boast one of the most powerful offenses in the KIJHL, while Spokane head coach Mike Bay has told me a number of times this season that his club's biggest challenge has been consistently putting the puck in the net. Spokane play a simple game, and if the Rebels can use their speed to break through what's sure to be a defensively-minded opponent, this series won't see a sixth game. But if the Braves can frustrate Castlegar like they did last year, history could well repeat itself. Castlegar in 5.

Broadcast Info: We'll have the webcast beginning at 7:30.

In the Press Box: Mike Wiest is out. No other injuries to report on either side.

Around the KIJHL: With the playoffs opening on several different fronts today, let's take a look at the other series in the league.

Beaver Valley (2nd, Neil Murdoch) vs. Nelson (3rd, Neil Murdoch): The Nitehawks dominated the season series, at least from a points perspective, winning 7 of the 8 meetings between the two teams. Beaver Valley's size plays to their advantage on the small ice surface in Fruitvale, too, with less room to move, and more space to crash and bang. I've said it before, I'll say it again, Rossland's Chris Derochie is the most underrated player in the division , maybe even in the league. Nelson, on the other hand, have even more injuries to deal with. Reports out of the Queen City state forward E.J. Moir is done for the year, joining #1 goaltender Darren Hogg on the sidelines, though sniper Gavin Currie did return last weekend. This series gets underway tomorrow night in Fruitvale, and could be the most even series of the entire first round. Beaver Valley in 7.

Fernie (1st, Eddie Mountain) vs. Kimberley (4th, Eddie Mountain):
Sorry, Nitros fans, this one won't even be close. Fernie has hit double digits against the Dynamiters this season, and Kimberley's short bench will be hard-pressed to stop Morisseau, Abenante et al (though they did pull out an overtime win Saturday night). Fernie is built to win. Period. Fernie in 4.

Creston Valley (2nd, Eddie Mountain) vs. Golden (3rd, Eddie Mountain): The Rockets are breathing a sigh of relief at the thought of drawing Creston instead of Fernie (the two teams split the season series 4-4). Both of these teams can light the lamp, punctuated by Golden's Josh MacDonald and T.J. Fairall finishing 5-6 in the KIJHL in scoring. Creston Valley has the edge between the pipes and on the blueline though, and to me, that's where this series will be decided. Creston Valley in 6.

Osoyoos (1st, Okanagan) vs. Penticton (4th, Okanagan):
See Fernie vs. Kimberley. Osoyoos in 4.

Kelowna (2nd, Okanagan) vs. Princeton (3rd, Okanagan):
One of my picks as possibly the most physical series of the first round. Both of these teams like to dish out hits, but the series could also swing in Princeton's favour if Landon Andrusiak and Colten DeFrias remain out of the Chiefs' lineup. Turner Lawson is arugably the best 16 year-old d-man in the KIJHL (though Bryce Perpelitz and Shane Hanna might have something to say about that). Princeton had a nine-spot put up on them by the Lakers over the weekend, and will rely on Brett Patchett and Sky Buller to hold down the fort. Kelowna in 5.

Revelstoke (1st, Doug Birks) vs. North Okanagan (4th, Doug Birks):
Defending Keystone Cup champs against a second-year club making their playoff debut. The Grizzlies can be beaten, but not by the Knights (Revelstoke won the season series 8-0). Two players worth watching; Revy's Luke Hildebrand, who gets a taste of playoff action for the first time after spending the better part of two years in Grand Forks, and North Okanagan's Shawn Holliday, who could be singing his KIJHL swan song in this series. Revelstoke in 4.

Kamloops (2nd, Doug Birks) vs. Sicamous (3rd, Doug Birks):
Sicamous is in a similar boat to Golden, thankful they didn't draw the #1 seed, but they'll still be in tough against a physical Kamloops squad. Storm goaltender Lynden Stanwood led the KIJHL with 5 shutouts, a good thing too, as his team only had one 20-goal man this season (Duncan Schulz). The Eagles' Easton Bodeux is another fine 16 year-old d-man (who APed a few times with Trail this year), and his club actually outscored Kamloops this year (167 goals to 165). If Kamloops can stay in check, they should take this series. Kamloops in 6.

Summerland Update:
The Steam have unveiled their logo. Check it out on the club's Facebook page.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Rebels 4 Nitehawks 3 (OT)

Talk about pulling one out.

Castlegar scored three times in the final four minutes of the third period to erase a 3-0 deficit, and Stuart Walton's second goal of the game 18 seconds into overtime sealed the deal in a wild 4-3 win in Fruitvale. The Rebels scored three times on late powerplays thanks to a too many men call and a high-sticking double minor after last night's hero Daniel Bishop clipped Jamie Vlanich.

Tyler Robinson also had a pair for Castlegar (42-8-0-0), who fell behind 3-0 thanks to two goals from Ryan Baines and a single from Ryon Sookro. The Rebels can now move on to the playoffs thanks to some timely momentum, and also end up taking the season series from Beaver Valley by 5 games to 3.

M.I.A.: No Spencer Brodt or Darren Tarasoff tonight for Castlegar, as well as fellow overage d-man Mike Wiest. Beaver Valley were without their captain Colton Donselaar (suspension), Dallas Calvin and Nick Perez, while Keanan Patershuk and Arie Postmus were tossed for checks from behind in the second period.

Up Next:
That's right, the playoffs are here! Spokane visits the Complex Monday and Tuesday night for Games 1 and 2 of the Kootenay Conference quarter-final. Stay tuned to the blog and Mountain FM Monday for a preview of this and all 7 other KIJHL series.

In Fine Form: Rebels goaltender Alex Ross has finished second in the KIJHL in goals-against average. Ross posted a 2.04 GAA and .921 save percentage in 20 games this season, and his fine play had to have been a bonus in the decision to send Andrew Walton to the Ghostriders.

On Top Again: Castlegar product Scott Morisseau is the KIJHL scoring champ for the second straight year. After leading the loop with 84 points for the Nitehawks in 2009-10, Morisseau put up 97 with Fernie this year, while another former Nitehawk, Trail's Thomas Abenante, finished second with 92. The top Rebels scorer, Ryan Aynsley, finished 8th in the league with 71 points (32-39), but played in only 38 of Castlegar's 50 games.

Out Of Town: Kimberley staged an incredible comeback of their own, scoring twice in the final 1:15 and getting an OT winner from Darrell Boldon to nip Fernie 5-4. More importantly, Nitros forward Olli Dickson was assessed a goaltender interference major late in the first period on a play that forced Fernie goaltender Fraser Abdallah out of the game. Closer to home, Nelson were outclawed 5-4 at home by Creston Valley.

Gameday: Rebels @ Nitehawks

The regular season ends tonight, as Castlegar visits Beaver Valley looking to exact some revenge for last night's 5-3 loss.

The Nitehawks pounced all over the Rebels early, and forced the home side to play catch-up all night. Castlegar, who were without veterans Mike Wiest, Ryan Aynsley and Spencer Brodt, eventually tied the game only to allow a goal on a late power-play.

Last night's game, despite meaning very little in terms of the overall standings, had a lot of physicality, chippy play, and most of all emotion. Both teams at times were frustrated, both teams threw big hits, and both teams engaged in numerous post-whistle scrums that even the greenest of observers could predict will continue tonight (7:30, Beaver Valley Arena).

Last Meeting: Last night's post says it all. Castlegar leads the season series 4-3 to this point, and hold a 2-1 record this season in Fruitvale.

Our Opponent: The Nitehawks are a young, physical squad, as evidenced by their play last night. One thing I noticed, stats-wise, during my prep yesterday was that 10 of the team's top 11 scorers are 16, 17, or 18 years old (the only exception being Ryon Sookro). Mike Vlanich was stellar yesterday, he dealt well with several traffic jams in his crease (and a couple in his net as well).

Broadcast Info: The 'Hawks crew will have the webcast at 7:30.

In the Press Box: Mike Wiest is out. The Rebels have called up AP Ben Meadows from Langley, the 17 year-old played a simple game last night, though played sparingly in the final 30-odd minutes. Don't be surprised to see Aynsley and Brodt left out of tonight's squad too. The Nitehawks will be without captain Colton Donselaar after he was ejected in the final ten minutes for arguing with the referee. Sookro could also be a scratch, he was checked late in the third period by Tyler Robinson and left the ice favoring his leg.

Out of Town: The Nelson Leafs are giving away a car tonight in their home fixture against Creston Valley. Check this story for more info. Grand Forks battles Columbia Valley tonight in a meeting of the only two teams left out of the KIJHL playoff picture this season. Keep an eye on Fernie and Kimberley's roster situation tonight as they meet in the Bavarian City. Already sporting short benches, things again got a bit out of hand in the Elk Valley last night.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Nitehawks 5 Rebels 3

Daniel Bishop redirected a Taylor Love centring feed past Alex Ross late in the third period to lift Beaver Valley past Castlegar 5-3 at the Complex.

The Nitehawks built leads of 2-0 and 3-1, only to see them evaporate before the Grande Prairie product tipped home his 17th goal of the season.

Tyler Jones, Diego Bartlett and Tyler Robinson replied for the Rebels (41-8-0-0), who prior to the opening faceoff raised their 2010-11 Neil Murdoch division championship banner to the rafters.

It was a chippy, clutchy-grabby affair to say the least, but just the type of game I'd expect we'll see all through the playoffs.

The Rebels scratched forwards Ryan Aynsley and Spencer Brodt in order to keep them healthy and rested for the playoffs, while defensemen Nick Perez and Josh McKinney missed the game for the Nitehawks. Beaver Valley will also likely be without captain Colton Donselaar for tomorrow's return engagement in Fruitvale after he was tossed in the final 10 minutes for arguing with referee Shawn Peel.

Up Next: As alluded to, these teams meet again tomorrow in Fruitvale.

Out of Town: Fernie clinched the Kootenay Conference with an 8-4 win over Kimberley. As is becoming habit with the Ghostriders, the game sounded like it was quite rough-and-tumble, and I'm sure suspensions will ensue from reading the boxscore and hearing accounts of extremely short benches by the end of the game. Penticton's Jordan McCallum also got this year's first "spitting" penalty in their loss to Kelowna. Grand Forks snapped a 16-game losing streak with a 5-4 win in Golden, while Nelson edged Creston Valley 4-3, Gavin Currie was held pointless in his return from a shoulder injury.

Gameday: Rebels vs. Nitehawks

It's the last home game of the regular season as the Rebels open up a home-and-home set with Beaver Valley (7:30, Complex). Technically, Castlegar is still within striking distance of Fernie for top seed in the Kootenay Conference (84 points to 82) but will need some help from the Kimberley Dynamiters if they're to overtake the Eddie Mountain division leaders.

Tonight's game, and tomorrow's return engagement in Fruitvale, will both be seen as final tune-ups for the KIJHL playoffs, which kick off Monday night against Spokane.

Last Meeting: These two teams met February 1st in Castlegar, a game the Rebels won 5-1 thanks to four quick first-period goals. Castlegar leads the season series 4-2.

A Banner Night: The Rebels will be raising their 2010-11 Neil Murdoch division championship banner tonight, to commemorate their first division title since 1996.

Raffle Draw: The draw for the 2011 Castlegar Rebels raffle also goes tonight. Up for grabs, a $2,000 gift certificate to Andre's Audiotronic, a 50" Samsung TV, a 15-pack of passes to the Castlegar Golf Club, cash prizes and more.

Our Opponent: Beaver Valley, like the Rebels, are tuning up for their playoff series with the Nelson Leafs, which opens Tuesday night in Fruitvale. (To me, that series could be the most evenly-matched opening round set in the KIJHL). South Slocan's Ryon Sookro leads the attack with 58 points (28-30), while Mike Vlanich has returned to the crease from an extended layoff that saw backup Zach Perehudoff play almost the entire month of January.

Broadcast Info: As always, the webcast is available from 7:30 tonight.

In the Press Box: Mike Wiest is out. Tyler Jones, Ryan Reid and Jamie Vlanich all returned to the lineup Wednesday night in Grand Forks.

Out of Town: Nelson visits Creston Valley to open up a home-and-home set originally scheduled for Whitehorse. The two teams have been bumped by the WHL's Vancouver Giants and Kamloops Blazers. Grand Forks is in Golden.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Rebels 9 Border Bruins 3

A short update tonight, just got home from the game in Grand Forks..

4 goals in the first 8 minutes chased Bruins starter Nathan Nicolson, and the Rebels would add a bunch more in a 9-3 victory tonight.

More important than the score, perhaps, is the fact Castlegar set a new single-season victories record with 41, eclipsing a previous high of 40 set in 2001. Plans are in the works to raise the Neil Murdoch division champions banner soon too, official word on that could come as early as tomorrow so stay tuned.

Up Next: A home-and-home with Beaver Valley to wrap up the regular season, beginning Friday at the Complex. The playoffs (against Spokane) start Monday.

Gameday: Rebels @ Border Bruins

The Castlegar Rebels can set a new franchise record for wins in a season tonight in Grand Forks (7:30, GF Arena).

With Saturday's win over Nelson, the team reached the 40-victory plateau for only the second time in franchise history (2000-01 being the first), but the Rebels, in their 35 years of existence, have never won 41 or more games in a season.

To do it tonight, they'll need to get past a plucky Border Bruins club looking to play spoiler. Grand Forks is also looking to avoid the season series sweep.

Last Meeting: Anthony DeLong scored twice in a 5-1 Rebels victory at the Complex, back on January 18th.

Our Opponent: Grand Forks (7-39-0-1) has lost 15 straight games, their last victory being the crazy 6-5 overtime win in Nelson on December 12th. They haven't won at home since a 5-2 victory over Beaver Valley on November 3rd, but are playing their final home contest of the season this evening before wrapping up the year at Golden and Columbia Valley on the weekend. Zach Thompson has hit the 60 point plateau and leads the Border Bruins in scoring. The defense has taken a hit since the Rebels and Border Bruins last met, with Cody Larsen and Colton Mills both being placed on reserve. Goaltender Garrett Muir has also reportedly left the team.

Broadcast Info: The crew from Grand Forks will have the webcast call at 7:30.

In the Press Box: Mike Wiest is out, while Tyler Jones, Ryan Reid and Jamie Vlanich could make their returns after missing the weekend. Dylan Sahara did not play Saturday or Sunday for Grand Forks.

Out of Town: Only one other game on tap, as Sicamous visits Osoyoos.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Playoff Schedule, Audio & More

The Rebels/Spokane Braves playoff series schedule has been released.

Game 1: Feb. 14 at Castlegar, 7:30 PM
Game 2: Feb. 15 at Castlegar, 7:30 PM
Game 3: Feb. 17 at Spokane, 6:45 PM
Game 4: Feb. 18 at Spokane, 8:00 PM
Game 5: Feb. 20 at Castlegar, 5:00 PM*
Game 6: Feb. 21 at Spokane, 8:00 PM*
Game 7: Feb. 22 at Castlegar, 7:30 PM*
* = if necessary

Audio Galore: Lots to pore over after a busy weekend.

For Ryan Aynsley's thoughts on heading to Northern Michigan University, click here.

Anthony DeLong talks Central Oklahoma here.

Coach Steve Junker discusses the college commitments here.

Defenseman Erik Alden's take on the weekend, including teammate Josh McGladery's time as a blueliner, is available here.

Nelson Leafs head coach Chris Shaw, on being re-signed for one year, can be heard here.

Leafs Extend Shaw: As mentioned above, the Leafs will have Chris Shaw back behind the bench next season. Shaw told me he was "humbled" a bit at the start of the year, but has put together a team that will certainly give Beaver Valley a solid run in round one of the playoffs. Forwards Gavin Currie and Dustin Johnson are "good to go" for the post-season.

Bits & Bites: The Fernie suspensions continue with forward Zach Baba being slapped with a 6-gamer for a gross misconduct. Baba has now missed 20% of the KIJHL's regular season due to suspension, and this latest one is a league-high this season in terms of length. The Columbia Valley Rockies have put a bunch of vintage programs on their website. A must-see for any KIJHL history buff.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Rebels 5 Leafs 3

All the intensity, not as much of the controversy.

For the second straight night, Erik Wentzel scored the game-winner as the Rebels dispatched the Nelson Leafs 5-3 at the Complex. Consider it an early birthday present for the Kelowna product, who turns 21 on Monday.

It could well have been the one that got away from Castlegar. Down three regular defenseman (Mike Wiest, Tyler Jones and Ryan Reid) along with forward Jamie Vlanich, the Rebels battled back from 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 deficits before Wentzel's goal at 5:44 of the second period put them ahead for good. Taylor Anderson added an empty-netter at the buzzer as insurance.

Arthur Andrews, Ryan Aynsley and Tyler Robinson also tallied for Castlegar, while Braeden Hikichi, Marcus Dahl and Connor Enright replied for the visitors.

With the win, the Rebsls reach the 40-victory plateau for only the second time in their 35-year history, the 2000-01 Rebels were the only other team to do it.

Worth Noting: Castlegar played most of the game without forward Anthony DeLong. He was ejected, along with Nelson's Joel Stewart after a second period scrap (I'd give the edge to DeLong). Nelson's Dustin Johnson appeared to injure his shoulder late in the middle frame and did not play in the third period.

Up Next: The Rebels pay their final visit of the season to Grand Forks, Wednesday.

Hike!: Come on out to Mountain FM's Super Bowl party tomorrow afternoon at the Element in Castlegar. All the details are available here. Myself and the rest of the Mountain FM/103.5 the Bridge crew will be in attendance, so if you see us, don't hesitate to say hi, and enter the draw for some fantastic prizes!

DeLong to Central Oklahoma

The news came out yesterday that forward Anthony DeLong is headed to Central Oklahoma (ACHA Div. 1) next season after agreeing to a verbal commitment. The local product currently sits third on the Rebels in scoring (30-19-49 in 43 games), and spent last year in the BCHL with the Williams Lake Timberwolves.

DeLong's play, to me, has taken off since Christmas (not that he was a slouch before-hand). He's scored 11 goals in 14 games since the break, including a hat-trick (of which two goals were short-handed) on January 22nd against the Kelowna Chiefs.

One of Central Oklahoma's opponents? The Lindenwood Lions, a program that once featured Rebels assistant coach Topher Plonka and 2004-05 KIJHL scoring champ Carson Hamill.

DeLong is the second Rebel to announce he's heading south this week, after Ryan Aynsley's verbal commitment to Northern Michigan (CCHA) was made public yesterday. Watch for audio reaction from both on this blog over the next day or two.

Congrats Anthony!

Gameday: Rebels vs. Leafs

Nelson and Castlegar will try to double their fun tonight (Complex, 7:30) as they wrap up a home-and-home set and finish the 8-game season series in the process.

I didn't notice a full moon, but last night's set-to in Nelson wasn't the only game on the KIJHL schedule to feature unusual moments (more on that later). I can imagine both sides want nothing more than a quick, business-like affair tonight in order to focus on their main goal of preparing for the playoffs.

Lost in all the frustration is the fact that Castlegar's top line was outstanding. Erik Wentzel (pictured), Ryan Aynsley and Spencer Brodt combined for 8 points and were dangerous all night.

Andrea Klassen of the Nelson Star took a terrific photo of the key point of controversy last night, read it in her recap here. (Personally I think E.J. Moir's comments in the article are hilarious, but I won't plagiarize).

Anyways, onward..

Our Opponent: Not much has changed between yesterday and today for the Leafs. I would expect both Joel Stewart and Dustin Johnson to have much more effective nights tonight though, they were both quiet yesterday. The Leafs have also signed Prince George product Nick Broessler to be Marcus Beesley's backup, now that Darren Hogg has been shut down for the year.

Broadcast Info: Join us for the webcast (or better yet, in person) tonight at 7:30.

In the Press Box: Mike Wiest is out. Jamie Vlanich and Tyler Jones both sat out last night's game too, stay tuned closer to puck drop to see if either draws back in.

Did You Know: A Castlegar victory tonight would secure the franchise's 2nd 40-win season since entering play in 1976 (2000-01 was the other year).

Rebels Raffle: The team will be out and about selling tickets today for the annual Castlegar Rebels raffle. There are some terrific prizes up for grabs, including $2,000 to Andre's Audiotronic and a 50" Samsung TV from the Brick. Be sure to grab some tickets at tonight's game if you haven't already, the draw takes place at next Saturday's home game against the Beaver Valley Nitehawks (and if you aren't able to make it, drop me a line and I can see what I can do about getting tickets for you).

Out of Town: Grand Forks visits Beaver Valley, and in Spokane it's "Dollar Night" tonight as the Braves host the Sicamous Eagles. $1 admission, $1 hot-dogs, etc, though I hear Sicamous fans might be able to get in for 98.6 cents Canadian.

Suspension Watch: As mentioned earlier, Friday was a wild night on many fronts, and I'd expect the KIJHL to hand down several bans after looking over the game summaries (none of last night's games were available for viewing at time of writing). I'd be guessing two former Rebels, Andrew Walton and Dylan Richardson could be facing supplementary discipline for their roles here and here, though they likely won't be lacking company on the sidelines. RiderNews summarizes the Fernie/Creston Valley shenanigans here.

***UPDATE, 7:45 AM*** Richardson's been given 2 games, nothing on Walton yet. A total of ten players already suspended from Friday incidents without Fernie/Creston Valley being taken into account.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Rebels 4 Leafs 3

Well that was an interesting finish.

Erik Wentzel scored the eventual winner in the third period as the Rebels escaped a boiled-over NDCC Arena with a 4-3 win in what can hardly be described as a classic, but will not soon be forgotten.

With the Rebels leading 4-2 late in the final frame, goaltender Alex Ross appeared to have been tackled by a Leafs forward and was taken out of the play. Referee Jason Chambers elected to let play continue, and as a result a rather surprised-looking Evan Moir shot in one of the easier goals he'll ever score in the KIJHL.

Water bottles were tossed, players dropped gloves, and fans climbed the glass (and according to my colleague Matt Soper, who calls the games in Nelson, fought in the stands). In the end, the Rebels skated away to a 4-3 win, limiting the home team to only 13 shots on goal in the entire game.

Not that it was a terribly engaging game to begin with, even from a Rebels point of view. Castlegar struck early on a power-play, when Spencer Brodt rifled a one-timer past Leafs netminder Marcus Beesley for his 10th of the year. The Leafs would quickly answer back thanks to Jeff Hodgkinson, but Ryan Aynsley would offer a quick reply of his own before the opening frame was out.

Stuart Walton converted a Diego Bartlett wraparound to give the Rebels a 3-1 advantage, a lead they'd enjoy until early in the third when Dallon Stoddart scored to cut the lead in half.

Nelson went 0/8 on the power-play, including a late effort that saw the team unable to set up control, even with Beesley pulled and an extra attacker on the ice. One can't help but wonder aloud that Castlegar's persistent forecheck and bottling up of the neutral zone on the PK played a substantial role in their ability to come away with two points.

Controversy, outrage, and chaos aside, it should make for an interesting back end to a home-and-home series supposedly involving two teams coasting in neutral in advance of the playoffs. Hope to see you at the rink tomorrow night!

Out of Town: Can't help but notice the Fernie Ghostriders gave first star to Zach Baba tonight in their 8-2 victory over Creston Valley. He got tossed off the opening faceoff for scrapping with Scott Swiston. Former Rebel Andrew Walton also got into a lobster-fight with T-Cat 'tender Weston Joseph, in the final 10 minutes to boot. Have to think the KIJHL's wheel of justice will land on that game, as well as the Kelowna/Osoyoos tilt tonight. Check the boxscore for yourself.

Aynsley to Northern Michigan

Rebels forward Ryan Aynsley has verbally committed to the University of Northern Michigan after a member of their coaching staff was in town this past weekend to watch him play. Aynsley leads the Rebels with 63 points (30-33) in 34 games played this season, and also notched 17 points in 11 games with Trail in the BCHL.

I've interviewed Ryan about the news, that audio is running on Mountain FM's hourly sports reports through the afternoon. I'll post it here in short order, as we're expecting to hear the announcement of another verbal commitment to an ACHA school by a Rebels forward very shortly.

Congrats Ryan!

Gameday: Rebels @ Leafs

The atmosphere heading into this weekend's home and home series with Nelson seems a bit tame, to say the least. With 5 games left in the regular season, all is sorted, division-wise, though the Rebels still have their sights on first in the Kootenay Conference, and a weekend sweep would give the club their first 40-win season since 2000-01, and only their second overall since joining the KIJHL in 1976.

Castlegar would surely like a bit of revenge this evening though, their last visit to Nelson was less than pleasant (more on that below). The Rebels M.A.S.H. unit will also decrease by two people, as Arthur Andrews and Josh McGladery are both eligible to return from suspension.

Last Meeting: Nelson avoided the season series sweep January 25th with a 5-3 home victory. Dustin Johnson scored the eventual winner on a blue-line wrister early in the third period.

Our Opponent: Nelson, who will finish third in the Neil Murdoch division, are also hoping to get healthy before the playoffs. Forward Gavin Currie is expected back soon, while goaltender Darren Hogg is done for the year. Former Penticton Laker Colton Schell leads the way offensively with 47 points, and needs three goals the rest of the way to match the 20 he put up with the Lakers last year. Johnson, since joining Nelson, has 17 points in 12 games, and has provided a solid veteran punch with fellow 20 year-old Joel Stewart. Marcus Beesley will go the rest of the way in goal for the Leafs: the Prince George product has dropped 4 of his last 6 and sports a 3.97 goals against average, 4th among Neil Murdoch division starters. The Leafs will face Beaver Valley in round one, they dropped both halves of a weekend set against the Nitehawks last weekend, though both were one-goal games and one went to overtime.

Broadcast Info: Matt Soper has the call on, beginning at 7:00.

In the Press Box: Castlegar's Mike Wiest is out, while fellow defenseman Erik Alden could well make his return after sitting out Tuesday night. As mentioned earlier, Andrews and McGladery have served the suspensions they incurred in Spokane. Nelson is not reporting any injuries other than the ones to Currie and Hogg, though defenseman Blake Arcuri has missed the Leafs' last four games.

Out of Town: Every Neil Murdoch division team is in action tonight. Beaver Valley hosts Sicamous in a game that means a lot to the Eagles. They sit one point ahead of North Okanagan (who visits Princeton tonight) for third in the Doug Birks division with each team having five games left. Whoever finishes fourth draws the defending champion Revelstoke Grizzlies in the first round. Grand Forks welcomes Spokane in the other Neil Murdoch division game.