BCHL Today: Merritt’s Buckley nets scholarship and Vees slam Salmon Arm

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

Welcome to the Feb. 22, 2018 edition of BCHL Today, a (near) daily look at what’s going on around the league and the junior A world.

We start off today with news on the NCAA scholarship front, as Merritt captain Tyrell Buckley locks down a commitment to Michigan Tech, a Div-1 team playing in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA).

Since I started tracking results league-wide a few weeks ago, it seems to me that Buckley has played a central role in the success of the surging Centennials, and I’m not wrong about that. As the Merritt offence has turned the corner in February, the Penticton native has indeed upped his production. He has five goals and nine points in nine games this month. He had 28 points in 45 games entering February.

Merritt Centennial Tyrell Buckley has secured an NCAA Div-1 scholarship with the Michigan Tech Huskies. MARK BRETT PHOTO

Going from a .62 points-per-game player to a point-per-game could be a small sample size blip from a guy who isn’t known for his offence. Maybe it’s a function of ice time, linemates and situational use, but Buckley is turning it on at the right time.

This is a player who has gone wire-to-wire in a Centennial jersey.

Buckley joined Merritt as a 16 year old in 2014-15 and has logged 210 regular season and 13 playoff games in red, black and white.

I mentioned this isn’t a player known for offence and I meant it. In 156 games leading up to this season, Buckley had three goals.

He’s got 11 this year.

“Bucks is extremely deserving of his commitment,” Centennials assistant coach Brandon Shaw said in a team press release. “He works extremely hard and leads by example. He has stepped up his play throughout the year and is a constant leader for us. He’s a great competitor night in and night out, playing against other teams best players.”

Side note: Bucks? How did we get here with hockey nicknames?

Side note: As a Green Bay Packer fan, every time I see the name Tyrell Buckley I think of this guy.

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There were three games in the BCHL last night and we start in Nanaimo where the Clippers stretched their win streak to nine games with a 4-1 win over Chilliwack.

Taz Burman had a strong game in the Nanaimo net. Chiefs forward PJ Marrocco beat him at 10:33 of period one and he was perfect the rest of the way as the Clippers came back with goals by Cal Babych, Maxwell Crozier, Tristan Crozier and Brady Lynn.

Daniel Chenard got the start in the Chilliwack net, stopping 28 of 31 shots (Lynn’s goal came into an empty net).

Nanaimo’s Preston Brodziak whacks at a puck in front of the crease of Chilliwack Chiefs goalie Daniel Chenard as Chiefs skaters Bryan Allbee and Tommy Lee defend during Wednesday’s BCHL game. GREG SAKAKI PHOTO

Here’s a stat that I’ve been sitting on for a while with the Chiefs, and it seems as good a time as any to bring it out.

Facing teams with a win percentage below .400 (Cowichan/Alberni Valley/Coquitlam), Chilliwack has 10 wins, one loss and a tie.

Facing teams with a win percentage above .600 (Powell River/Victoria/Penticton/Wenatchee/Vernon/Prince George), they have two wins, 13 losses and two ties. Throw Nanaimo and their .596 win percentage in there and you can add three more losses to Chilliwack’s totals. Those numbers predict a short playoff run for the Chiefs, who won’t be facing any cupcakes in the post-season.

Nanaimo, meanwhile, has to be feeling good about where they are.

They’re in a three-way tie with Victoria and Powell River for first place in the Island division and they’re playing their best hockey at the right time of year. The Grizzlies and Kings are also playing good hockey which should make the two-vs-three series in the Island playoffs a must-see matchup.

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Speaking of teams kicking it up a notch as the post-season looms, we check in on the Penticton Vees, who embarrassed Salmon Arm Wednesday night.

Eight hundred and 33 Silverback fans had to sit through an 8-1 drubbing at the Shaw Centre as the Vees flexed their offensive muscles. Wyatt Sloboshan and Taylor Ward scored two apiece with Owen Sillinger, Dakota Boutin, Jared Nash and Cassidy Bowes adding singles.

Sillinger is on fire, riding an 11 game point streak where he has tallied nine goals and 21 points.

Rhett Kingston had the lone Salmon Arm goal in what was otherwise an easy night for Vees netminder Adam Scheel. In fact, with his team up by seven midway through the third period, Scheel was given the rest of the night off by head coach Fred Harbinson.

Backup Nolan Hildebrand checked in, facing just one shot in 9:56 of work.

Penticton is very close to clinching first place in the Interior division for the 436th straight season, with a magic number of one point.

Meanwhile, a Salmon Arm team that was playing so well after Christmas has hit a wall over their last five games, taking four losses while being outscored 22-7. Their one win was a 5-2 triumph against Coquitlam, one of the league’s lesser lights.

The Silverbacks have now dropped into seventh place in the Interior, which could set up a series against the next team we’re talking about.

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Matt Dorsey scored the overtime winner Wednesday night as his Wenatchee Wild beat the West Kelowna Warriors 7-6.

This one was as wild as the score indicates, at least from the second period on. The first period was rather sleepy, with the teams combining for 15 shots and one goal, off the stick of West Kelowna’s Ryan Steele.

The Warriors led 4-2 after two, but Wenatchee came roaring back in the final frame. Chad Sasaki scored at 2:37, followed by Lucas Sowder at 4:44, Sam Morton at 7:58 and AJ Vanderbeck at 12:21 as the Wild scored four unanswered to take a 6-4 lead.

West K got one back at 18:15, with Parm Dhaliwal collecting his second of the game.

Twenty five seconds later, with the Warrior net empty, Michael Ryan sent the game to OT, rifling a five-hole shot through Wenatchee goalie Seth Eisele.

West Kelowna’s Michael Ryan fires a puck through the wickets on Wenatchee goalie Seth Eisele to send Wednesday’s BCHL game to OT. TAMI QUAN PHOTOGRAPHY

The Wild survived a penalty scare in the extra session when they were flagged for too many men. Fifty one seconds after returning to full strength, Dorsey snuck behind the West Kelowna defence and beat Warriors keeper Nik Amundrud with a backhand-forehand move.

So, what to make of this.

Wenatchee first. The Wild kept alive their slim hopes of an Interior division title, but it’s far more likely they’ll be battling Vernon for the second seed. Both teams are tied at 79 points and this will almost certainly be settled Friday night when Wenatchee visits the Vipers.

West Kelowna, meanwhile, has pretty much locked down the Interior’s fifth seed.

They’re five points ahead of Merritt with two games to play. The Warriors would need to lose their remaining games (vs Merritt and Salmon Arm) and have the Centennials win out to slip down the standings.

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Finally, let’s take a quick look at the BCHL’s awards nominees, revealed Wednesday afternoon.

The big one is the Vern Dye Memorial Trophy as league MVP, which will go to one of Alex Newhook (Victoria), Ethan De Jong (Prince George) or Jasper Weatherby (Wenatchee).

With Newhook getting injured and Weatherby winning the scoring title, Jasper’s a good bet to get this one.

Nominees for the Top Defenceman Award are Cooper Zech (Wenatchee), Max Crozier (Nanaimo) and Colin Bernard (Langley).

I don’t know how you can take this one away from Zech, who has put together a historical season for a blueliner. He is second in the BCHL scoring race and has 19 more points than the next highest scoring defenceman (Vernon’s Michael Ufberg).

Unless the other guys are bring Rod Langway-ish D, this one’s got to be Zech.

For the first time, the Goaltending Award is being put to a vote this season and the contenders are Ty Taylor (Vernon), Evan DeBrouwer (Prince George) and Taz Burman (Nanaimo). With each division allowed one nominee, Taylor gets the nod over Penticton’s Adam Scheel, which is surprising to me. I’m almost tempted to go with DeBrouwer here. While his numbers aren’t as great as Taylor’s, he’s had a much heavier workload behind a roster that isn’t the calibre of Vernon’s.

I have no opinion on who should win the Bob Fenton Trophy as most sportsmanlike player.

The nominees are Gavin Rauser (Powell River), Ben Poisson (Prince George) and Nicholas Wick (Merritt) and I’m sure they’re all very nice guys.

The Bruce Allison Memorial Trophy for rookie of the year will go to one of Newhook, Corey Andonovski (Chilliwack) or Josh Prokop (Vernon).

If Newhook is a nominee for league MVP I don’t know how he can’t be a slam dunk for this award.

Finally, the nominees for the Joe Tennant Memorial Trophy as coach of the year are Matt Hughes (Alberni Valley), Adam Maglio (Prince George) and Bliss Littler (Wenatchee).

Someone from Alberni Valley would have to fill me in on why Hughes is in there, based on what his team has done this year.

I guess you’d have to give Maglio the nod for leading PG to its first ever Mainland division crown.

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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