We are getting down to the nitty gritty nail-biting time of the season when teams, players, and coaches are feeling the pressure of the post-season looming. Yes, Chilliwack remains at the top of the heap, but there are five other teams within striking distance of the Chiefs. Hey, I could not be more excited about the expected photo-finish.
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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 (29-11-1-0): Chilliwack was taken down at Coquitlam (in OT) before picking up two more home wins over Surrey and Prince George. The Chiefs visit Merritt Thursday before getting the chance to pad the stat sheet in Surrey Saturday and Sunday. BCHL INSIDER SAYS: The Chiefs are beatable, but they are gaining strength as the weeks roll by. This year they might actually earn something.
2 – Penticton Vees (27-12-1-2): The Vees picked up home wins over Powell River and Nanaimo last week and play two of the three games this week on the road. The Vees are in Wenatchee tomorrow night before PG visits Friday. Penticton closes the weekend Sunday in Merritt. BCHL INSIDER SAYS: This will be a hard week for the Vees. They have the pieces needed to get some wins, but it will be an exhausting battle.
3 – Prince George Spruce Kings (26-11-2-3): Prince George shutout Cowichan Valley at home Friday night before falling in a shootout at Chilliwack Sunday. The Spruce Kings are at Penticton, Vernon, and West K this week in a trio of challenging games. BCHL INSIDER SAYS: Still battling to prove they have a championship caliber team, the Spruce Kings have an opportunity to make a statement this week against three red hot opponents.
4 – Victoria Grizzlies (27-13-0-2): The Grizz took two of three games on the road last week. Victoria was beaten at Langley before taking down Wenatchee and Trail. Victoria has two games at Powell River this weekend. BCHL INSIDER SAYS: Victoria can win two different ways. They can either outrun you, or shut you down with their defense and goaltending. Overconfidence may be their weakness.
5 – Merritt Centennials (26-13-2-1): The Cents have opened 2019 with four consecutive overtime games, winning the first three before getting beaten at home by West Kelowna Friday. Chilliwack and Penticton visit Nicola Valley Memorial Arena this weekend. BCHL INSIDER SAYS: Two of the BCHL’s elite on the same weekend! If they don’t sell out that NVMA, they never will. Cue the fireworks!
6- Wenatchee Wild (25-15-2-0): The Wild move back up to #6 after splitting the set of weekend home games. Penticton crosses the border tomorrow night before Trail visits Friday and Saturday. BCHL INSIDER SAYS: The Wild continue to sputter along, looking sharp one night, looking flat the next. You just never know which team is gonna show up.
7 – Powell River Kings (25-16-1-0): The Kings managed just a single win in three road games last week losing at Penticton Friday before getting the OT win at Salmon Arm. Powell River closed the weekend in Sunday’s loss at Vernon. Victoria visits Hap Parker Arena Friday and Saturday before the Kings travel to Alberni Valley Sunday. BCHL INSIDER SAYS: Someone should probably tell Powell River that the Clippers are hot and heavy on their tail, and if the Kings don’t shape up, they’ll be opening the playoffs on the road.
8 – Coquitlam Express (23-17-2-0): The Express racked up five of a possible six points in their three home games last week. Merritt got past the Express in OT Thursday night before Coquitlam got wins over top-ranked Chilliwack and Alberni Valley. Surrey and Langley visit Wednesday and Friday before the Express close the week at Langley Saturday. BCHL INSIDER SAYS: More Mainland Division opponents means good things for the Express. Still unlikely they’ll finish top two, but they’ve already proven they’re a dangerous club.
9 - West Kelowna Warriors (24-19-0-1): The Warriors bounced back from last week’s disappointing lass at Coquitlam with a nice OT win at Merritt Friday night. That 6-5 home win against Alberni Valley was a hair raiser. Vernon and PG visit this weekend. BCHL INSIDER SAYS: The Warriors are gearing up for the postseason by grinding out some midseason matchups. Expect a strong showing from the Warriors at home this weekend.
10 - Salmon Arm Silverbacks (20-17-5-0): The ‘Backs slide to #10 after getting just a single win in three tries last week. Salmon Arm lost at Vernon 4-1 before falling in OT at home against Powell River. The smiles returned with the 6-3 home win over Nanaimo. BCHL INSIDER SAYS: The Silverbacks still have enough punch to do some damage. They know where they stand in the big picture, and embrace the challenge.
11 – Nanaimo Clippers (22-20-0-0): Nanaimo got the OT win at Trail Friday before losing at Penticton and Salmon Arm last week. The Clippers visit Cowichan Valley Friday before Salmon Arm visits Saturday. BCHL INSIDER SAYS: Nanaimo has playing over their head for a few weeks now, and finally crashed back to Earth. Probably a bit of a relief.
12 - Vernon Vipers (17-16-7-3): The snakes picked up the road win at Surrey on Tuesday before ripping Salmon Arm (4-1) and Powell River (5-2) at home. The Vipers are at West K Friday before PG visits Kal Tire Place on Saturday. BCHL INSIDER SAYS: The Vipers might be starting to find their stride, as we’ve expected all year. This weekend will reveal the truth on that matter.
13 - Langley Rivermen (20-21-1-0): The Riv nabbed a pair quality wins over Victoria and Cowichan Valley to move to just a single game under .500. This weekend’s home-and-home set with Coquitlam could be outstanding. BCHL INSIDER SAYS: I said it once earlier this season, Langley is a .500 team. They have the skill to be better, but lack the leadership and temperament.
14 - Trail Smoke Eaters (16-20-6-3): Trail earned just a single point from their pair of home games with Nanaimo (4-3 OTL) and Victoria (5-4 L). The Smokies play two at Wenatchee this week. BCHL INSIDER SAYS: The close calls against two teams who are playing great hockey show just how close Trail is to busting out and becoming a powerhouse threat.
15 - Alberni Valley Bulldogs (14-26-3-0): As we expected, the ‘Dogs had a rough time visiting Wenatchee, West K, and Coquitlam on consecutive nights last week, losing all three. Salmon Arm and Powell River visit this weekend. BCHL INSIDER SAYS: That’s disheartening, traveling all that way to come home with nothing. The challenge is in keeping this team interested.
16 – Cowichan Valley Capitals (11-28-4-1): The Caps appear to be in the “just happy to be here” mode. The games are competitive enough, but Cowichan Valley simply has a very difficult time getting the wins. Nanaimo and Salmon Arm visit this week. BCHL INSIDER SAYS: As the season slips away, it’s harder and harder to find moral victories. Still, the Caps have enough power to surprise anyone who makes the mistake of looking past them.
17 – Surrey Eagles (9-30-1-2): The Eagles gave Chilliwack fits in Saturday’s 5-4 road loss before beating the Capitals Sunday at home. Surrey visits Coquitlam Wednesday before Chilliwack visits Friday and Sunday. Yikes. BCHL INSIDER SAYS: Send your get-well soon cards to the Surrey Eagles, care of South Surrey Arena. I do hope things improve for Surrey. Having a team as bad as this one is bad for the league as a whole.