The holiday season is behind us as we move into the new year. The first British Columbia Hockey League rankings of 2019 is topped by the defending Royal Bank Cup Champion Chilliwack Chiefs. We’ll talk about that and more in today’s BCHL Report.
The BCHL Insider is exactly that...a coach, or employee, with incredible insight into the league.
Now for the disclosure… the following is my opinion and not written under the influence of anything or anybody.
1 – Chilliwack Chiefs (27-11-0-0): Chilliwack came back from the holiday break with a pair of home wins over backsliding Coquitlam. The Chiefs visit the Express Friday before hosting Surrey and Prince George Saturday and Sunday. BCHL INSIDER SAYS: The schedule keeps stacking up nicely for the Chiefs, who will gain ground again this week.
2 – Prince George Spruce Kings (25-11-2-2): PG lost at Merritt, Cowichan Valley, and Victoria on consecutive nights and find themselves at #2 to start the new year. Cowichan Valley visits Friday before the Spruce Kings are at Chilliwack Sunday. BCHL INSIDER SAYS: The travel is what threw PG for a loop this past weekend. Watch for a huge bounce back weekend.
3 – Victoria Grizzlies (25-12-0-2): The Grizz lost their first game back from the break before ripping off wins in three-straight games. The next six games are all on the road starting this weekend at Langley, Wenatchee, and Trail. BCHL INSIDER SAYS: The Grizzlies are loaded and if they stay healthy, can finally make it over the hump. All three opponents this week are struggling.
4 – Penticton Vees (25-12-1-2): The Vees were beaten by Salmon Arm Friday before returning the favor with a road win Salmon Arm Sunday. Powell River and Nanaimo visit the South Okanagan Events Centre this weekend. BCHL INSIDER SAYS: Head Coach Fred Harbinson called his power play “pathetic”. They’ll need to whip that into shape to slow down two hot Island clubs.
5 – Merritt Centennials (25-13-1-1): The Cents took down PG in a shootout at home Friday before losing in overtime at Vernon Saturday. The boys are at Coquitlam tomorrow before West K visits Friday. BCHL INSIDER SAYS: The Cents are enjoying every minute of the Interior Division race for the crown. Growing confidence translates into victories.
6 – Powell River Kings (24-14-1-0): The Kings returned from the break with three-straight wins over Cowichan Valley (twice) and Wenatchee. Powell River visits Penticton, Salmon Arm, and Vernon this week. BCHL INSIDER SAYS: The ever present battle to catch Victoria, coupled with the recent Clipper uprising, means there’s not a lot of room for error. PR will have to be sharp to protect what they’ve earned so far.
7- Wenatchee Wild (24-14-2-0): The Wild drop to #7 this week after losing two of three games at Powell River (loss), Alberni Valley (OT win), and Nanaimo (loss). The next eight games are all at home with Alberni Valley and Victoria visiting this week. BCHL INSIDER SAYS: This team outshoots everyone and loses games they should win. A fat run of home games may help, but maybe the problem runs deeper than that.
8 - West Kelowna Warriors (22-19-0-1): The Warriors lost three more games after the break to extend their winless streak to five games. The loss at Vernon was competitive enough but getting doubled up at home by Trail will leave a mark. That was an ugly loss last night at Coquitlam. The Warriors visit Merritt Friday before Alberni Valley visits Royal LePage Place Saturday. BCHL INSIDER SAYS: West K has managed to stay in the conversation despite swimming upstream most of the year. Unlikely they’ll challenge for a top spot, but as long as they’re playing well come playoff time, anything can happen.
9 – Coquitlam Express (21-17-1-0): The Express were hoping that the holiday break would give their team the opportunity to reset and get back into the win column. Like a sputtering sports car on a cold morning; it took a few games to get going and everything was clicking last night in the 8-1 win over visiting West K. Merritt visits tomorrow night before Chilliwack is in on Friday. Alberni Valley caps the week when they come to town Sunday. BCHL INSIDER SAYS: The Express talent pool is deep enough that they can shake off their current slide, but they’ll need to get after it soon or they’ll be a sub-.500 club again.
10 – Nanaimo Clippers (21-18-0-0): Yes, Santa was very good to the Nanaimo Clippers. Winners of nine straight games, the Clips are rocking the BCHL boat again. Let’s see what happens this week when Nanaimo visits Trail, Penticton, and Salmon Arm. BCHL INSIDER SAYS: The Harbour City is hearing a lot of “told ya so” lately, and with nine straight W’s they’ve earned that right. Still got a ways to go to catch the Kings and the Grizz.
11 - Salmon Arm Silverbacks (19-16-4-0): The ‘Backs looked good in their wins at Penticton and at home against Surrey. Sunday home loss was very interesting. Salmon Arm is at Vernon Friday before hosting Powell River and Nanaimo later this weekend. BCHL INSIDER SAYS: If you’d have said Nanaimo at Salmon Arm in January would be interesting, who would have believed you? But its shaping up to be a quality matchup that will be well worth a look.
12 - Vernon Vipers (14-16-7-3): The Vipers have won just 14 of 40 games this season, there are just so many ways to sugar coat that reality. Thursday’s home win over West K was entertaining while Friday’s OT loss against Merritt was their tenth overtime or shootout loss of the year. Vernon is at Surrey tomorrow before Salmon Arm and Powell River visit later in the week. BCHL INSIDER SAYS: We’ve all been waiting for the real Vernon Vipers to show up, but as it turns out, maybe they’ve been here all along.
13 - Trail Smoke Eaters (16-19-5-3): Trail picked up important wins over Surrey and West K to move to just three-games under .500. Nanaimo and Victoria visit this week. BCHL INSIDER SAYS: Trail is starting to mature and find their groove, and that makes Cominco Arena a dangerous spot for visiting teams.
14 - Langley Rivermen (18-21-1-0): The Riv ripped Coquitlam 5-0 on the 30th before picking up losses at Victoria, Nanaimo, and Alberni Valley. Four of the next five games are all at cozy George Preston Arena starting this weekend when Victoria and Cowichan Valley call on Langley. BCHL INSIDER SAYS: If ever a team liked to shoot themselves in the foot, it’s Langley. To be fair, they will be hard pressed to finish higher than third anyway with Chilliwack and PG having such great years.
15 - Alberni Valley Bulldogs (14-23-3-0): The ‘Dogs picked up points in each of their four games after the holiday break. This week’s roadie to Wenatchee, West K, and Coquitlam won’t be a vacation. BCHL INSIDER SAYS: The Bulldogs have very little to play for. They are likely dialed into a fourth place finish no matter how well they play the next seven weeks. But still, they bring a solid effort every night.
16 – Cowichan Valley Capitals (11-25-4-1): The Caps have a tendency to sneak up on opponents from time to time and that’s what happened in the 5-2 home win over PG last week. Those results are like a sugar pill after mouthful of lemon juice. It’s nice but we need so much more. The bus rolls to PG, Langley, and Surrey this weekend. BCHL INSIDER SAYS: PG is chomping at the bit for another whack at the Caps, so that will be a long night. Langley and Surrey should both be good matchups.
17 – Surrey Eagles (8-28-1-2): The Eagles opened the new year with a pair of losses at Trail and Salmon Arm. Vernon visits tonight before Surrey goes to Chilliwack Saturday. Cowichan Valley comes to South Surrey Arena Sunday. BCHL INSIDER SAYS: If Surrey has visions of making the postseason, they’ll need to win 2 of these 3 games. If not, the clock’s tickin’.