Prince George, Coquitlam, and Victoria are all trying to crack the Chilliwack Chiefs’ hold on to the top spot of our British Columbia Hockey League rankings. The funny thing is, eleven of the seventeen teams are still above .500 with another three within striking distance of ground zero. The BCHL has just a trio of teams at the bottom that are likely already looking at building for next season.
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Now for the disclosure… the following is my opinion and not written under the influence of anything or anybody.
1 – Chilliwack Chiefs (18-7-0-0): The Chiefs got to enjoy a little eight-day rest before destroying Surrey Monday afternoon. Chilliwack is at Powell River and Alberni Valley this weekend. BCHL INSIDER SAYS: The Chiefs look like world beaters but it’s not like Surrey was much of challenge. The break had to help some as well.
2 – Victoria Grizzlies (15-7-0-1): The Grizz have shutouts in their last two games (also four wins in a row) to propel themselves to #2. Victoria has three tough games this weekend going to Coquitlam, Penticton, and Vernon. BCHL INSIDER SAYS: Victoria is finally starting to live up to their preseason hype. Reality check coming this weekend. It’ll be interesting.
3 – Coquitlam Express (15-7-1-0): The Express drop a spot after splitting to road pair at Trail and Wenatchee. The loss to the Wild may leave a mark as Wenatchee outshot Coquitlam 31-14 in a game that was over after the first period. #2 Victoria and Surrey visit this weekend to provide a good opportunity for the Express to redeem themselves. BCHL INSIDER SAYS: It’ll be a hard week of practice for the Express and they’ll come hard at Victoria. They’re eager to prove their early season success hasn’t been a fluke.
4 – Prince George Spruce Kings (15-7-0-1): PG crushed Langley 8-1 on Friday before losing to the same Rivermen on Saturday 2-1. I’m thinking the boys will be focused with this week’s bus trip to Powell River, Alberni Valley, and Nanaimo. BCHL INSIDER SAYS: Once again, a perfect example of what happens when you show up thinking it’ll be easy. Spruce Kings got a bit full of themselves, and Langley made them pay.
5 – Penticton Vees (13-6-1-2): The Vees are back into the Top Five after three-straight wins. Penticton is at West K tonight before hosting the Warriors and Victoria this week. BCHL INSIDER SAYS: Three tough games for the Vees, but if you ask Fred Harbinson, he likes it that way. Best path to the top is to beat the guys above you. This week offers them a chance.
6 – Merritt Centennials (15-8-0-1): The Cents continue to climb the ladder after another pair of wins last week. Wenatchee visits tomorrow night. Merritt is at Salmon Arm Friday before hosting Trail Saturday. BCHL INSIDER SAYS: Three big division games. It’s early, but the Centennials have the pieces, and the coaching to make a real run.
7 - West Kelowna Warriors (14-8-0-1): The Warriors can now remind is all that there are no days off in the BCHL. West K ripped Surrey 6-2 Friday before getting shredded themselves 8-3 at Merritt Saturday. It does not get any easier this week with a home-and-home set with Penticton scheduled for tonight and tomorrow. Vernon visits Friday. BCHL INSIDER SAYS: The Warriors would be best advised to be prepared, because the Vees are looking to make a statement and all the ground West K has earned could disappear very quickly. However, it’s also possible the Warriors could be the ones to make a statement that will linger for awhile.
8 - Salmon Arm Silverbacks (13-8-1-0): Salmon Arm’s streak came to a screeching stop at Penticton before the ‘Backs got another one started with the overtime home win over Vernon. #6 Merritt and Wenatchee visit the Shaw this week. INSIDER SAYS: Losing a game to Penticton doesn’t mean the wheels are coming off. Salmon Arm has a solid club that will continue to win enough games to stay right in the mix.
9 - Wenatchee Wild (12-9-2-0): Señor Ochocientos (800-win coach Bliss Litter) and the Wild move back into the Top Ten after a pair of home wins over Surrey and Coquitlam. Wenatchee will put that three-game win streak on the line this week with bus trips planned to Merritt, Trail, and Salmon Arm. BCHL INSIDER SAYS: Before the Wild get too carried away, remember Surrey is, well, Surrey. And they’re heading into some buildings that are tough to win in for visitors.
10 – Powell River Kings (13-10-0-0): The Kings went 1-2 last week and fall to #10. The good news is that Powell River gets the next seven games all at home. PG and Chilliwack visit this week. INSIDER SAYS: When is good news not good news? When you get to play at home but have these two Mainland heavy hitters. PR’s been struggling lately and it’s not getting easier.
11 - Vernon Vipers (8-7-6-2): The Vipers lost all three games last week, dropping out of the Top Ten. Vernon visits Trail (tomorrow) and West K (Friday) before Victoria visits Kal Tire Place on Sunday. BCHL INSIDER SAYS: If you consider that overtime and shootout losses are still losses, Vernon has only won 8 of 23 games. Maybe it’s the lack of scoring, as the Vipers have the fewest goals in the division. They’ll need to find that scoring touch again or it’ll be a short postseason.
12 - Langley Rivermen (10-11-1-0): The Riverman hold at #12 despite turning in an inspiring performance Saturday at PG. Langley bounced back from Friday’s 8-1 nightmare with a solid 2-1 win on Saturday. I’m thinking the bus ride home had to be enjoyable. The weekend double with Surrey should get the Riv back up and over the .500 mark. BCHL INSIDER SAYS: We know the Rivermen can be streaky, but if they don’t sweep Surrey, Bobby Henderson should bag skate them until Christmas.
13 - Trail Smoke Eaters (8-10-4-2): The Smokies picked up points in the home shootout loss against Coquitlam and overtime loss at Penticton. Vernon and Wenatchee visit this week before Trail is at Merritt Saturday. BCHL INSIDER SAYS: Something is missing in Trail, but they aren’t far from being a nightly threat. However, they aren’t there. Can they turn the corner before the holiday break?
14 – Nanaimo Clippers (9-13-0-0): There’s nothing like a pair of nice wins to change perspective. The Clips lit the lamp ten times in their wins over Alberni Valley and Powell River. Now if they can do that trick again in this weekend’s home dates with Cowichan Valley (doable) and PG (unlikely), we’ll be thinking the ship is coming in. BCHL INSIDER SAYS: Nanaimo stays afloat because of strength (or lack thereof) of schedule. But, at least they’re afloat.
15 - Alberni Valley Bulldogs (8-14-1-0): Alberni Valley ended a five-game slide with a rock-solid 4-0 win over Powell River. Cowichan Valley visits tomorrow before Prince George and Chilliwack is in Saturday and Sunday. BCHL INSIDER SAYS: The Dogs better hope they get points against the Caps, because if they don’t they may well get skunked this week.
16 – Cowichan Valley Capitals (5-15-2-1): The Caps went 0-2 in the weekend home set against Powell River and Victoria. Cowichan Valley visits Alberni Valley tonight before going to Nanaimo Friday. BCHL INSIDER SAYS: The Caps showed a glimpse for a minute there, can they find that stride again? This weeks road games offer an opportunity to start building for the second half.
17 – Surrey Eagles (6-19-0-1): Is it official yet, have the wheels fallen completely off the Eagles’ bus? Things went from bad to worse yesterday when the Chiefs scored three times (on all three shots) in the first four minutes of the game before rolling to a 10-2 win. The Eagles will be dragging their six-game slide into the home-and-home set with Langley before capping the week with a little roadie to Coquitlam on Sunday. BCHL INSIDER SAYS: I’d say it’s official. The guys they have work hard, and that’s to their credit. But they are spiraling quickly. As the losses pile on, it gets harder to buy in every night.