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.
Penticton stars Tyson Jost, Dante Fabbro are accelerating to open door for NCAA this fall. Return to BCHL/signing in WHL also in play.— Brad E. Schlossman (@SchlossmanGF) May 19, 2015
The Vees felt compelled to respond indirectly to the claim.
— Penticton Vees (@PentictonVees) May 19, 2015
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.