BCHL Today: Surrey Eagles and Powell River Kings close to advancing

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

Welcome to the March 21, 2018 edition of BCHL Today, a (near) daily look at what’s going on around the league and the junior A world.

All four playoff series were in action last night with some interesting results.

We start in Surrey where Mario Cavaliere pitched a shutout in a 4-0 win over Prince George, giving the Eagles a 3-1 lead in that best of seven series.

Remember the 9-1 loss Surrey suffered in the opener of this series? Seems like an eternity ago after three straight Eagle wins, with Cavaliere leading the charge. The Surrey netminder didn’t have his toughest test last night, facing just 23 Spruce King shots. But it was third straight lights-out performance for the Ontario native after getting shelled in game one, and he is giving his team a huge edge in goal.

At the other end, Evan DeBrouwer is suddenly struggling. Since game one the PG netminder has given up 11 goals on 81 shots with a save percentage of .851.

His team is now in must-win mode, starting tomorrow (Thursday) night in Prince George. No doubt the Sprucies face an uphill climb, but potentially two of the final three games would be in the tight confines of the Rolling Mix Concrete Arena, where PG has held a significant edge in play.

Goal scorers for Surrey Tuesday night were Jackson Ross, Jeffrey Stewart, Matthew Campese and John Wesley. Campese added a pair of assists for a three point night.

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Matteo Paler-Chow stopped 34 pucks to lead Powell River past Victoria by a 3-2 count Tuesday night, as the Kings took a 3-1 lead in that best of seven series.

I’ve talked enough about Paler-Chow and his heroic netminding in these playoffs and this game was more of that. Kurtis Chapman was nearly his equal at the other end, stopping 40 shots as his Grizzlies were outshot at the Hap Parker Arena.

Powell River native Hunter Findlater led the Kings, scoring twice in the first period to skate Powell River to a 2-0 lead through 20 minutes. Victoria’s Jordan Guiney scored a rare goal in the second period, just his second in 67 career regular season and playoff games, making the score 2-1 through 40.

Ben Thomas (Powell River) and Marty Westhaver (Victoria) traded goals 30 seconds apart midway through the final frame.

It was another game curiously devoid of penalties. Both teams enjoyed just two power play opportunities, and only two of the calls were obstruction minors.

So the Grizzlies find themselves trailing 3-1 for the second time in the post-season.

Coming back against Alberni Valley didn’t feel shocking or unexpected even though it was a historical accomplishment. Rallying against a quality foe like the Kings seems far more unlikely, especially given Powell River has already won twice at Victoria’s Q Centre in this series.

This one resumes Friday night with a 7 p.m. start in Victoria.

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Carter Jones produced the winner 1:35 into overtime as Trail beat Penticton 4-3 Tuesday night.

The Smoke Eaters bounced back from meh showings in the first two games, flexing their offensive muscle at the Cominco Arena.

After falling behind 1-0 just 80 seconds in on an Owen Sillinger goal, Trail battled back and took the lead on power play strikes by Blaine Caton and Levi Glasman.

Glasman’s goal wasn’t without controversy, as a freeze-frame of the video feed showed him knocking the puck out of the air with the blade of his stick apparently above the crossbar, prompting Vees radio play-by-play man Craig Beauchemin to call for video review on goals.

An even strength tally by Penticton’s Jared Nash had the scored tied 2-2 through 40 minutes, but Jeremy Lucchini scored at 11:12 of period three to restore the Smoke Eaters lead. Vees bench boss Fred Harbinson was forced to pull goaltender Adam Scheel for the extra attacker with 1:19 remaining and defenceman Jonny Tychonick produced a dramatic goal, picking the top corner over Trail netminder Adam Marcoux with just 19.5 ticks on the clock.

With Smokies fans still buzzing early in OT, Kale Howarth flew into the slot and left a drop pass for Jones, who collected the puck and rifled a wrister past Scheel’s blocker.

Jones gave Trail life where a loss would have almost certainly meant death. The Smoke Eaters still trail 2-1 in the series, but they get another game at home tonight (7 p.m.) with a chance to tie this second-round matchup.

It is worth noting that Vees stopper Scheel isn’t having the best playoffs so far. Not that he’s been bad, but his playoff numbers (2.14 goals-against average, .911 save percentage) haven’t matched his regular season numbers (2.08 GAA, .927 SP).

In three games against the Smoke Eaters the Ohio native has produced save percentages of .893, .920 and .871. Coming into the playoffs I viewed Scheel as a big advantage for the Vees in most matchups, but that’s not holding up.

Round three is likely to have Scheel vs Vernon’s Ty Taylor, with an edge right now to the Vipers.

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Speaking of Taylor, Vernon’s star stopper couldn’t stand on his head enough to save his team from a 4-3 road defeat Tuesday night at the Town Toyota Center in Wenatchee.

The Wild peppered Taylor’s net with 46 shots, outshooting Vernon 27-9 from the second period on. Wenatchee slipped two power play goals past Taylor in the first period, with Cooper Zech and Sam Morton pulling the trigger, but Vernon rallied with three unanswered goals by Keyvan Mokhtari, Michael Young and Niko Karamanis.

Karamanis scored on a late second period power play and the Vipers led 3-2 through 40 minutes.

But the Wild pushed hard in the third period, outshooting Vernon 14-3. Nathan Iannone tied the game at 11:12, setting the stage for a dramatic winner from an unlikely source. Depth forward Sam Hesler, who scored nine times in 58 regular season games and had no playoff goals before Tuesday night, beat Taylor with just 57 seconds on the clock.

I haven’t been very complimentary about Wenatchee’s goalies lately and I wish I could be more effusive in my praise of Austin Park, but statistically the Colorado kid was meh in this one, stopping 21 of 24 shots to give him his fifth save percentage below .900 (.875) in six playoff outings. Even with a huge disparity in play, goaltending at both ends kept the Vipers in this game.

I’d expect pushback from Vernon in game four, which goes tonight (7:05 p.m.) in Wenatchee.

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Finishing with happy scholarship news, Trail’s Carter Jones has committed to Bemidji State for the 2019-20 season.

That’s great for Jones and the Smoke Eaters, who will get another season from the 18 year old scoring star. The Washington State native enjoyed a great rookie campaign in the BCHL, producing 15 goals and 45 points in 55 games.

I talked to a knowledgeable person earlier this season who lamented talented players opting to leave for college even when they aren’t ready. I’m not sure whether it was Jones or Bemidji State pushing for him to stick around for another year of development in junior A hockey, but it’s refreshing to see.

Jones will eventually join the Beavers, a team that skates in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) alongside Minnesota State, Northern Michigan, Bowling Green, Michigan Tech, Ferris State, Alabama-Huntsville, Alaska, Lake Superior and Alaska-Anchorage. Bemidji State finished fourth in regular season conference play this season with a record of 13-9-6 and lost to Michigan Tech in the opening round of the WCHA tournament.

Bemidji State is a friend to the BCHL with a roster that includes grads Connor Brown-Maloski (Trail), Charlie Combs (Wenatchee), Gerry Fitzgerald (Victoria), Leo Fitzgerald (Victoria), Myles Fitzgerald (Victoria) and Brendan Harris (Wenatchee).

Eric Welsh is the sports editor at the Chilliwack Progress and has been covering junior A hockey in B.C. and Alberta since 2003.

Email eric.welsh@theprogress.com

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