Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Cents GM/Head Coach Pierce Moves Up to WHL, Brodzinski and Donohue Commit to Vees, PG Forward Leung Commits to Wilfrid Laurier:








The BCHL lost one of its best coaches on Tuesday with word that Luke Pierce is the new Head Coach of the WHL's Kootenay Ice. Pierce, who signed a three-year contract with the Ice, leaves his hometown of Merritt, where he was GM and Head Coach of the Centennials for the last six seasons. The 31-year-old was hired in the summer of 2009 as an assistant coach for the Cents, but the society that runs the club decided to hands over the reins to Pierce on November 25th of that year after losing 20 of its first 28 games under the guidance of  Dylan and Tyler Forsythe. Since then, he's coached Merritt to a 170-129-10-21 record and six straight playoff appearances. He also was named BCHL Interior Conference Coach of the Year in 2012-13. 

Where Pierce's resignation leaves Assistant GM and Assistant Coach Joe Martin is anyone's guess. You've got to think that Martin's in the mix to be promoted to GM and Head Coach. I caught up with Pierce on Tuesday afternoon, a few hours after news broke that he was leaving the team he grew up watching, played junior hockey for, and eventually through his direction, returned to respectability.









Penticton announced four recruits for the 2015-16 season on Tuesday. All four are American players and although I've already covered the commitment of 20-year-old defenseman Colton Poolman and 19-year-old forward Dixon Bowen, there are two others I've yet to mention. Among them is forward Easton Brodzinski. The 18-year-old played last season with the Blaine High School men's hockey team, putting up 44 points (25 goals, 19 assists) in 25 games. In a three year career at Blaine, Brodzinski finished with 78 points (47 goals, 31 assists) in 82 games. He's committed to St. Cloud State University for 2016-17.

The other player the Vees received a commitment from is 18-year-old defenseman Seamus Donohue. He's played the last four seasons at St. Thomas Academy in Minnesota, tallying 76 points (nine goals, 67 assists) in 96 games. Donohue has also been a point-per-game player in the playoffs, with 15 points (three goals, 12 assists) in 15 games. He's committed to attend the US Air Force Academy in September 2016.

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Forward Jarryd Leung has committed to Wilfrid Laurier University of the CIS for 2015-16. The Victoria, BC native finished the season with Prince George after being acquired from Powell River. In 14 games with the Kings, the 20-year-old notched 10 points (five goals, five assists) and in 30 games with the Spruce Kings, Leung added 29 points (six goals, 23 assists). He's a veteran of 193 career BCHL games and the eighth member of last season's Prince George roster to commit to post-secondary school and college hockey.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Creamer Commits to Clippers, Krabben Commits to Grizzlies, Victoria to Host Junior B Championship, Lucero Commits to EWU, SFU Hockey Hiring:








The Nanaimo Clippers continued to restock their roster for the 2015-16 season with the commitment of forward Matt Creamer. The 18-year-old played with the Selects Hockey Academy U18 team at the South Kent School in Connecticut, where he posted 36 points (15 goals, 21 assists) in 28 games. The Warwick, Rhode Island product added seven points (three goals, four assists) in four playoff games. Creamer is committed to attend Quinnipiac in September 2016 to play for the Bobcats. He is the second US-born player and seventh overall to commit to Nanaimo for 2015-16.

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Defenseman Mark Krabben is off to the Victoria Grizzlies for the 2015-16 season. Krabben, who was the captain of the Okanagan Rockets of the BC Major Midget League, is the third blueliner to commit to the Grizzlies this off-season. The 17-year-old from Calgary had 16 points (five goals, 11 assists) in 39 games with the Rockets in 2014-15 and has 30 points (nine goals, 21 assists) in 79 career BCMML games overall.








The Victoria Cougars are guaranteed a chance to play in the BC Provincial Junior B tournament in 2016. With the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League in line to host the Cyclone Taylor Cup next season, Victoria put forth a bid to host and on Monday, BC Hockey announced that the Cougars were selected. The tournament runs from April 7 - 10, 2016 and includes the playoff champions from the VIJHL, Kootenay International Junior Hockey League and Pacific Junior Hockey League, plus the host squad. The 2015 Cyclone Taylor Cup was hosted by the PJHL's Mission City Outlaws this past April and the VIJHL's Campbell River Storm beat the KIJHL-champion Kimberley Dynamiters 6-5 in the gold medal game.








Eastern Washington University announced its latest recruit in the class of 2015-16 and it's 20-year-old forward Matt Lucero of North Vancouver, BC. Lucero played last season with Grand Forks of the KIJHL and finished with 35 points (14 goals, 21 assists) in 50 games. The season before, he had 13 points (nine goals, four assists) in 47 games with the KIJHL's Revelstoke Grizzlies. He's the fifth player to commit to EWU for next season.

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SFU Men's Hockey is hiring for the 2015-16 season. On its website, SFU has postings for a part-time Sales Coordinator, a part-time Marketing Coordinator, and an Equipment Manager. Details on the positions are here.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

BCHL Showcase Returns to Chilliwack, PG Hires New Broadcaster, Speculation on Harbinson, Wenatchee Changes Announcement Details:








For the fourth straight season, the Bauer BCHL Showcase is scheduled for Prospera Centre in Chilliwack. If this year's Showcase follows the format of the previous three events, it will see each BCHL team play two games - which count in the regular season standings - against teams outside of its division. With Wenatchee in the league for 2015-16, there is an imbalance of 17 teams, so it's interesting to see how the BCHL deals with that. Another change for the Showcase this season is the fact that all games will be played on the main rink at Prospera Centre. As a result, the event is now four days, running from Thursday, September 24 to Sunday, September 27. The schedule for the Showcase is expected following the BCHL's Annual General Meeting, which runs June 4 - 6. The dates of the Bauer BCHL Showcase are also later than it traditionally has been held, so it leads me to believe that the regular season will already be underway when the Showcase rolls around. More than 200 professional and collegiate scouts and coaches have attended each Showcase and I'd expect this year to be no different, if not more.

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The Prince George Spruce Kings announced the hiring of Ryan Lepper as Broadcaster and Communications Director for the 2015-16 season. He takes over for Ron St. Clair, who called a handful of games for the Spruce Kings last season. In a news release, General Manager Mike Hawes says that a big reason for Lepper's hiring is for the Spruce Kings to be able to broadcast their road games. Lepper, who's graduating in June from BCIT's Radio Arts & Entertainment Program, will also oversee all social media accounts for the team and be heavily involved in creating and maintaining its blog and website. He will also oversee all media related issues for the Spruce Kings. The Coquitlam, BC native provided play-by-play for the junior B Port Moody Panthers home games in 2014-15.

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Steve Ewen, who's a friend of the blog and sports writer for The Province newspaper, penned an article Thursday which speculated on the future of Penticton President, GM, and Head Coach Fred Harbinson. With two years remaining on his current contract at the time, the 43-year-old signed a five-year extension back in 2012, which has him under contract through the 2018-19 season. There is rumoured to be interest in bringing Harbinson in as an assistant coach with the University of Wisconsin, as well, the WHL's Vancouver Giants may look to Harbinson to fill their coaching vacancy. Ewen's story also looks at the situations of Tyson Jost and Dante Fabbro - and whether they'll be back in the BCHL next season. The article from TheProvince.com is here.

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According to News 1130 Sports in Vancouver, Ron Toigo, who owns the WHL Giants, is one of the parties looking into buying the Nanaimo Clippers. The radio station tweeted it out Friday morning, stating that Toigo hadn't made an offer to buy the Clippers, but was exploring the opportunity. Nanaimo's ownership announced earlier this month that it was looking to sell the team. 




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Wenatchee has changed the date and time of its announcement about joining the BCHL. The original announcement stated that a press release would go out on May 31st that involves "exciting news" about the Wild franchise. On Wednesday, the team declared on its Facebook page that the press release is now a media conference on June 1st at 12 pm with Wild GM and Head Coach Bliss Littler, Director of Sales and Marketing Don West, Toyota Town Centre GM Mark Miller and two special guests. On Friday, the Wild changed the time of the media conference to 3 pm due to the travel schedule of their special guests. One can only speculate that one of the two special guests is BCHL Commissioner John Grisdale.

Hello Wild Fans, Due to the travel schedule of our special guest we have had to change the time of the press conference...










The Langley Rivermen lost one of their returning players on Thursday when forward Colton Kehler signed a WHL standard player agreement with the Edmonton Oil Kings. Kehler, who was committed to Clarkson University, will now forgo his NCAA hockey scholarship to play major junior in Edmonton. The Port Coquitlam, BC product had 16 points (nine goals, seven assists) in 41 games with the Rivermen last season after being acquired from Cowichan in October. He also had two goals in nine games with the Capitals. The 17-year-old was chosen by the Oil Kings in the 7th round, 154th overall in the 2012 WHL Bantam Draft.

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The Rivermen did add what they hope is some offense with the commitment of 18-year-old forward Braydon Barker for the 2015-16 season. The Red Deer, AB native had 33 points (11 goals, 22 assists) in 38 games with the Columbia Valley Rockies of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League last season. I'm not sure why, but Barker finished the year on the Rockies reserve roster, at least according to the KIJHL website. He played two games with Langley as an affiliate and scored two goals. Barker also notched one goal in six playoff games with the Rivermen.

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West Kelowna defenseman Kristian Blumenschein secured his NCAA future by committing to Colorado College, starting in September 2016. The 18-year-old from Kelowna led all Warriors blueliners in scoring in 2014-15 with 42 points (seven goals, 35 assists) in 55 games. His 35 assists was also tops among all rookie defensemen in the BCHL. Blumenschein should be a dominant player for the Warriors next season and will likely improve even more so on his excellent first year totals.

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Warriors captain Andrew Johnson is also off to school, but with 2014-15 being his 20-year-old year, he'll start his post-junior hockey career this September. Johnson has committed to the University of Saskatchewan in the CIS. The Saskatoon product is a veteran of 263 games in the WHL with Moose Jaw, Seattle, and Swift Current. He joined West Kelowna after being released by the Broncos early last season. Johnson wound up with 44 points (19 goals, 25 assists) in 46 games for the Warriors. He also added five points (one goal, four assists) in five playoff games for the Tribe.








Jim Hiller, who was Head Coach and GM of the Alberni Valley Bulldogs for two seasons from 2004-06, is expected to be hired to work alongside Mike Babcock on the coaching staff of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Hiller was an Assistant Coach under Babcock with Detroit last season. The hiring isn't official, but is being reported by a number of media outlets in the Centre of the Universe.

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John Chayka (Cowichan, 2009-10) is reportedly the new Assistant General Manager of the Arizona Coyotes. Chayka, who's from St. Catharine's, ON, is co-founder of Stathletes, a Canadian company that uses video analysis to offer a complete picture of a player’s game. According to Stathletes website, their process has “over 100-times the statistical resolution of typical tracking methods.” He only played four games with the Capitals in 2009-10 before being traded to Trenton of the OJHL.

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Forward Brock Hooton (Quesnel, 2000-02) has signed a one-year contract extension for 2015-16 with Fischtown of the DEL2, which is the second level of professional hockey in Germany. In 43 games with the Pinguins last season, Hooton, who's from Nanaimo, had 40 points (11 goals, 29 assists). It was his second year with Fischtown.

Friday, May 22, 2015

2014-15 CJHL Season Ends, Jost & Fabbro Buzz, Wenatchee Plans Announcement, Caps & Grizzlies Finalize Trade, TRU Hockey Revival Dies:

I had this post completely written on Tuesday and Blogger decided to not save my changes, so after a few days to calm down, I took the time to rewrite the entire post, sorry if some of the info seems dated, I intended to post it three days ago!

The Canadian Junior Hockey League season came to an end on Sunday in front of a national televised audience on TSN as the host and MJHL champion Portage Terriers beat the CCHL's Carleton Place Canadians 5-2 to claim the 2015 RBC Cup. Shawn Bowles had a goal and two assists in the win for Portage. For the Terriers, it's the second national championship in team history, as Portage won the Centennial Cup in 1973. With the loss, Carleton Place is the first team to ever drop back-to-back RBC Cup final games.

The Terriers had a truly dominant season, losing only five games outright in the regular season, playoffs, and RBC Cup, finishing with a 74-5-5 record. Portage is the seventh RBC Cup host team to win the championship and the first home team in ten seasons. The win also marks the first time a team from Manitoba has claimed a national title since the Selkirk Steelers did in 1974. It also extends the BCHL's drought to three years, although BCHL clubs have still won five of the last ten RBC Cups (Penticton - 2012, Vernon - 2009, 2010, Burnaby - 2006).








There was some buzz created on Tuesday when Brad Schlossman, who covers college hockey for the Grand Forks (ND) Herald, tweeted out that Penticton super rookies Tyson Jost and Dante Fabbro were looking to gain early admittance to NCAA this September. The pair are both considered excellent prospects for the 2016 NHL Entry Draft and there is a lot of speculation whether they will play in the WHL or NCAA next season or beyond.
The Vees felt compelled to respond indirectly to the claim.
Jost (Everett, 7th overall) and Fabbro (Seattle, 8th overall) were both first round WHL Bantam Draft picks in 2013. Based on what Penticton tweeted, we'll likely see Jost or Fabbro (or both) back with the Vees next season, or in the WHL.

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The Wenatchee Wild have planned a major announcement for May 31st. It's expected the announcement is official word the Wild are joining the BCHL for the 2015-16 season, although Commissioner John Grisdale has confirmed it's pretty much a done deal that Wenatchee join the league as an expansion team.

WENATCHEE WILD FANS BIG NEWS ON MAY 31st On May 31st We will be sharing a press release that involves exciting news...

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Langley Rivemen forward Ryan Coulter has decided to quit competitive hockey to instead play lacrosse for the Hamilton Jr. B Bengals this summer and attend John Hopkins University in September. He was committed to Bowling Green University on a full hockey scholarship starting this fall, but the school wanted him to return to Langley for the 2015-16 season. Coulter wanted to move on with his life, so as such, he's heading to Hopkins. Teri Pecoskie of the Hamilton Spectator has Coulter's story here.








The Cowichan Capitals continue to reap the benefits of future considerations from trades made last season. First it was the Caps acquiring 19-year-old forward Nicolas Carrier from Nanaimo earlier this month. Then on Tuesday, Cowichan announced the futures from the January 10th trade which saw 20-year-old forward Thomas Gobeil head to Victoria. In return, the Caps receive 18-year-old forward Ayden MacDonald and 18-year-old defenseman Chris Harpur.

MacDonald, who's from Langley, had 13 points (five goals, eight assists) in 45 games with the
Grizzlies last season. He also had no points in five games with Vernon before being traded to Victoria in October. MacDonald averaged over a point-per-game in junior B before making the jump to the BCHL last season. It will be interesting to see if his production progresses now that he has a season of junior A under his belt.

Harpur is from Niagara Falls, ON. He had 15 points (two goals, 13 assists) in 56 games on the blueline for Victoria in 2014-15. Harpur added a goal and an assist in six playoff games with the Grizzlies.

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Alberni Valley forward Eric Therrien is off to Concordia University Wisconsin this September. The 21-year-old has committed to the NCAA Div. III school after putting up ten points (one goal, nine assists) in 30 games with the Bulldogs last season. Alberni acquired the Willow Bunch, SK native from the Drayton Valley Thunder in the second week of December. He's a veteran of 145 Alberta Junior Hockey League games, all with Lloydminster. During his junor A career, Therrien finished with 70 points (25 goals, 45 assists) in 175 games.

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Defenseman Jordan Schneider won't be back with Langley in 2015-16 as he's committed to Clarkson University and will begin his NCAA hockey career this September. The 20-year-old was acquired last August by the Rivermen from St. Michael's of the Ontario Junior Hockey League. He finished 2014-15 with 26 points (five goals, 21 assists) in 52 games with Langley. In 98 OJHL games over three seasons - all with the Buzzers, Schneider had 24 points (three goals, 21 assists).








One of the most coveted play-by-play positions in the province of BC is open with news that Jeff Hollick won't be back next season with the Kootenay Ice. Hollick has called games for the Ice over the last 16 years, including Kootenay's Memorial Cup win in 2002. The job is one of the most coveted simply because at the WHL level in BC, there are only five positions available (Vancouver, Victoria, Kamloops, Prince George, Kelowna, Kootenay). It's the next highest level of hockey to call in BC than the NHL and it'll be interesting to see who the Ice and The Drive/B104 replace Hollick in the booth with.








Despite a valiant effort, men's hockey isn't returning to Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops anytime soon. Trevor Bast, whose son Desmond was the final recruit announced for the Wolf Pack last July, had spearheaded a movement to revive the TRU hockey program, but didn't seem to get the support necessary from the school.

"I don't think there was ever a chance of bringing hockey back to TRU but that doesn't mean the fight wasn't worth it," explained Bast via email. "I think it is very important for someone in Kamloops, preferably a hockey alumni to keep the torch burning to a small degree. The attitude and climate may change over time and it's important to be ready just in case."

Bast is clear that finances wasn't the hurdle the team needed to overcome to be resurrected.

"I was close to having three seasons of hockey funded between player fees and private donations. That was without any advertising or fundraising commitments," he said. "It's important to know money was the least of the obstacles to saving or reviving hockey. Once the cause went public, donors came out of the woodwork. We also had a hockey operations department standing by ready to go."

During the 2013-14 season's winter semester, the TRU team was forced to forfeit a handful of games for using players who were ineligible to play due to academic reasons. Bast feels that's the main reason why the program can't get off the ground now.

"There is no way any collegiate program could ever survive the academic failure of eight players losing eligibility at once. That is a black mark on any institution and they needed to separate themselves from it as quickly as possible," Bast continued. "The idea that TRU even gave the program a chance to redeem itself with the same personnel running it, in my opinion, was a very charitable gesture. Baseball has survived as a club team at TRU for 13 years. They've had their ups and downs financially, but have avoided drawing that type of negative attention to themselves and the school. The reality is, hockey started at TRU under an athletic director and an administration that was fully supportive of hockey. The current AD has his preferences and when hockey became difficult to deal with and put itself in this position, it was an easy decision to nudge them off the cliff."

Ultimately, Bast concludes that it's graduating junior hockey players who are hurt the most by the failed attempt to bring back Wolf Pack hockey.

"I will always hope hockey comes back to TRU. I feel badly for the players aging out of junior hockey who won't play collegiate hockey because there is now one less place to play."

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The University of Victoria added a veteran junior A player for 2015-16 with the commitment for forward Riley Hunt. The 20-year-old from Revelstoke, BC, spent this past season with Yorkton of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, putting up 37 points (15 goals, 22 assists) in 51 games. He's also played 71 games in the BCHL during his career, posting eight points (one goal, seven assists) split between Vernon and Salmon Arm. Hunt will forgo his final season of junior hockey to get his college career started at UVic in the BCIHL.