The Chilliwack Chiefs’ grip on to the top spot of our British Columbia Hockey League rankings continues to loosen as both Prince George and Coquitlam close in. They say close only counts in horseshoes and curling and the Chiefs are at #1 for the fifth straight week.
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1 – Chilliwack Chiefs (17-7-0-0): The Chiefs picked up a road win at Langley before being taken down by Salmon Arm at home on Friday. Saturday’s 7-4 win over Alberni Valley was expected. Chilliwack is at Surrey Monday. BCHL INSIDER SAYS: When you win as much as Chilliwack does lately, you can overlook a team like Salmon Arm and pay the price. Can’t let it happen too many times.
2 – Coquitlam Express (14-6-1-0): The Express suffered a home loss at the hands of Merritt on Halloween night before bouncing back with a solid win over Vernon to close the weekend. Coquitlam is at Trail Friday before dropping in on Wenatchee Saturday. BCHL INSIDER SAYS: This team is showing signs of maturation that will serve them well in the later part of the season.
3 – Prince George Spruce Kings (14-6-0-1): PG pulls up and even with Coquitlam after picking up a pair of home wins over Alberni Valley and Penticton. Langley visits this weekend for two. BCHL INSIDER SAYS: Expect the Spruce Kings to keep their foot on the gas. Could be a long weekend for Langley.
4 – Victoria Grizzlies (14-7-0-1): The Grizz leap up a spot after a pair of home wins over Trail and Nanaimo. Victoria is at Cowichan Valley Friday. BCHL INSIDER SAYS: The Grizz have enough high-end talent to hang around the top of the division, considering most of the rest of the division (excluding Powell River) isn’t exactly playing great hockey.
5 - West Kelowna Warriors (13-7-0-1): The just-win-baby Warriors climb into the top ten with a trio of wins last week. Winners in seven-straight games, West K slayed the Wild twice to start the weekend before edging Powell River at home. Surrey visits Saturday before the boys visit Merritt Sunday. BCHL INSIDER SAYS: The game against Merritt will be a great test. That would be nine straight wins. West K is smokin’ hot right now.
6 - Salmon Arm Silverbacks (12-7-1-0): The ‘Backs have their foot on the gas with four straight wins. Salmon Arm picked up road wins at Vernon and Chilliwack and find themselves at #6. The bus rolls to Penticton Friday before Vernon visits Saturday. BCHL INSIDER SAYS: No one expected this team to be anywhere but at the bottom but they’ve proven they belong among the league’s best.
7 – Merritt Centennials (13-8-0-1): The Cents sit at #7 after a shootout loss at Penticton before a tougher than expected home win over Alberni Valley. Vernon and West K visit this weekend. BCHL INSIDER SAYS: The Cents owned the division early on but West K is nipping at their heels. Having something to fight for makes the Cents more dangerous than ever.
8 – Penticton Vees (10-6-1-2): The Vees continue their progression with another home win (4-3 shootout over Merritt) to go an overtime loss at PG. Penticton goes to Vernon tomorrow before hosting Salmon Arm and Trail this weekend. BCHL INSIDER SAYS: Penticton isn’t used to having to work so hard, but it may pay off in the long run.
9 – Powell River Kings (12-8-0-0): The Kings take might fall after going 1-2 in their three-game roadie. After getting the win Friday at Surrey, Powell River was ripped 6-3 at Wenatchee before losing Sunday’s thriller at West K 5-4. BCHL INSIDER SAYS: Injuries and suspensions on top of travel could be playing a role in the Kings rough weekend, but they have better days ahead.
10 - Vernon Vipers (8-6-4-1): The Vipers close out the top ten after going 1-1-0-1 in three games last week. Vernon was beaten by Salmon Arm in a shootout on Halloween before getting shutdown at Coquitlam 4-1 on Friday. The weekend was salvaged with a solid 5-1 home win over the cold-again Rivermen of Langley. The Vees visit tomorrow before the snakes go to Merritt and Salmon Arm Friday and Saturday. BCHL INSIDER SAYS: The Vipers have good veteran presence but somehow just aren’t the same as in recent years. Still looking for their mojo, but when they find it, look out.
11 - Wenatchee Wild (10-9-2-0): Despite Wenatchee dropping two of three games last week, the Wild hold fast at #11. Wenatchee took some of the sting out of getting beat twice by West K with a solid home win over Powell River on Saturday. Surrey and #2 Coquitlam visit this weekend. BCHL INSIDER SAYS: The whole division is upside down from last year, and the Wild are struggling. They’ll get a couple of convincing wins and then drop a few stinkers. They’ll need their younger players to grow up in a hurry.
12 - Langley Rivermen (9-10-1-0): The Riverman hold at #12 after another strange weekend of games. The high-note was the improbable 4-3 at #2 Coquitlam on Halloween night. The boys also looked good while getting edged by #1 Chilliwack at home 3-2. The sugar-crash occurred in the 5-1 home stinker against Vernon. This weekend’s trip to PG could be troublesome. BCHL INSIDER SAYS: Said it before, and I’ll say it again, the Riv are streaky. PG will be a tough trip.
13 - Trail Smoke Eaters (8-10-3-1): The Smokies put a stop to their big slide with the shootout win at Surrey on Sunday. #2 Coquitlam visits Friday before Trail goes to Penticton Saturday. BCHL INSIDER SAYS: From the conference finals to below .500 is a harsh drop, but the Smokies are a proud bunch with a lot of fight in them.
14 - Alberni Valley Bulldogs (7-13-1-0): The ‘Dogs are now four games into a slide after dropping three-straight over the weekend. Alberni Valley is at Nanaimo Friday before Powell River visits Saturday. BCHL INSIDER SAYS: The ‘Dogs may drop a few but you always know you’re in a battle with them. Looking past them would be a mistake on any given night.
15 – Nanaimo Clippers (7-13-0-0): It’s way too early to say that the Clips hopes for 18-19 have sunk. As the trade deadline approaches the horizon, it may be time for Nanaimo to start giving the youngsters a good look with an eye on next season. This is one of the league’s proudest organizations and expectations are always going to be elevated in Nanaimo. Alberni Valley and Powell River visit this week. BCHL INSIDER SAYS: The Clippers are proud of their home barn and that means a tough scrap for the visitors this weekend.
16 – Cowichan Valley Capitals (5-13-2-1): The Caps were edged in overtime at Nanaimo before cutting down Trail at home last week. Powell River and Victoria visit this week. BCHL INSIDER SAYS: Tough break for the Caps. They get a big emotional lift with the home win over Trail but here comes Vic and PR to rain on the parade.
17 – Surrey Eagles (6-16-0-1): Like their North American Hockey League counterparts in Minnesota, the Eagles will never have an excuse to be near the bottom of this list. Surrey is sitting in the hockey hotbed of Vancouver where expectations should always start with having a team that can compete for the division title. The reality is that has simply not been the case. Losers of three-straight, the Eagles are at Wenatchee and West K this weekend before hosting Chilliwack Monday. BCHL INSIDER SAYS: It’s hard to see why this team loses so consistently when they have a roster full of good players. There’s a breakdown somewhere, but where?