Unless Kent Moors of the Summerland Steam goes on an absolute offensive tear in their final 10 games, Keenan Ingram of the Columbia Valley Rockies will finish as the top rookie producer. Plus, Moors would need Ingram, his KIJHL Prospects teammate to slow down. In 31 games, the Calgary product leads all rookies with 32 goals and is tied with his Rockies teammate Harrison Aldridge with 21 assists.
Moors, however, will finish as the top producing 17-year-old in the KIJHL. He currently has 32 points in 31 games. Jake Phillips-Watts of the Kamloops Storm, who was on the KIJHL Prospects team as well, leads all 16-year-olds with nine points in 32 games.
The top producing rookie defenceman in the KIJHL is Nicholas Hughes, 18, of the Sicamous Eagles with 24 points in 28 games.
In this week’s KIJHL Notebook, coaches in each division were asked about getting ready for the playoffs and what they want to see from their players to conclude the regular season.
Eddie Mountain Division
|The Kimberley Dynamiters have won eight of their last 10 games. Defenceman Cam Reid led with three points in two games, including the game-winner in OT. Goalie Trystan Self played in both games they won last week and had a 15-save shutout against Nelson and stopped 48 of 50 shots for a 0.98 GAA and a .960 SP.
|Like the Dynamiters, the Columbia Valley Rockies have won eight of their last 10, but earned a split in their last two games. Goalie Ewan McDevitt returned to stop 35 of 38 in a win over Princeton. He had a .921 SP. Kobe Mason led the Rockies with four goals and five points in two games.
|The Golden Rockets clinched a playoff berth and are two points ahead of the Fernie Ghostriders for the third spot in the division with eight games remaining. Head coach-GM Chuck Wight wants his team to focus on getting healthy as they are still dealing with illness. In terms of their play, the big keys are getting the consistency and discipline going.
“Going into the playoffs, you want to be ready to get the right execution,” he said. “When we start pressuring the other teams in all three zones, we start to see good things happen. We can force turnovers by playing a physical game and being impactful with our sticks. We’ve worked a lot at the transition game so those are some things I’ve seen big improvement in.”
Dominic Fiorentino and Kade Cochlan have stood out with their play lately. Wight says that Fiorentino has a great shot. He scored four goals in the first three January games.
“It’s great to see his game take up a step and Kade Cochlan as well has been someone who has battled through illness and is very effective at checking,” said Wight. “He’s also improved his numbers quite a bit from last year offensively. He’s a strong leader for us.”
Cochlan has 22 points in 31 games, while last season he had 18 in 42.
|The Fernie Ghostriders clinched a playoff spot and have eight regular season games remaining. Head coach-GM Ty Valin said his team is coming together as a group of late.
“It’s a long season and you want to get the guys built together as quick as you can, but it does take time and you don’t want to peak too early,” he said.
He added that even though they are playoff-bound, they “don’t want to take their foot off the pedal.”
“You want to keep taking steps everyday and keep your group moving forward all the time,” said Valin. “As soon as you get complacent, get stale, that is when you start to lose chemistry and guys take their foot off the pedal and it’s something that sometimes you can’t just flip a switch.”
The Ghostriders are getting contributions from everybody and Valin noted with several players coming out of U18 programs and minor hockey age groups to junior, “it’s a wake up call for a lot of guys. Some guys get it right away, others it takes longer.”
“We are really patient with our young guys this year and now they are starting to contribute as well,” he said. “Even goaltending too, our goalies have battled some injuries, but they are both healthy now and are getting the job done.”
Goalie Rodney Hanson has won all three of his starts in January with a 2.33 GAA and a .917 SP.
|The Creston Valley Thunder Cats have nine games remaining and are looking to clinch the final playoff berth. Head coach-GM Brad Tobin said in the past week his team has been putting in a good, consistent effort. They have the players feeling good about themselves.
“We want to go into the playoffs in stride,” he said. “We haven’t been able to get momentum and consistency to compete for a third or fourth position in our division. The way that we are playing, we think that we have a good opportunity, if the standings stay where they are, to compete against Grand Forks or Beaver Valley or Nelson in the other division.”
It’s about making sure that everything in their game is clicking. Tobin has been happy with the play of Stavros Koutsantonis. While not playing on the top line all season, he has continued to perform well on the second line with 13 goals and 12 assists.
“I think for us to have success, we need to have second and third line scoring and he’s one of those guys that contributes in that way,” said Tobin.
As per Instat, the KIJHL’s analytics and video partner, Koutsantonis averages 18:15 of ice time per game. On Wednesday night against the Columbia Valley Rockies, Luke Chakrabarti scored his 32nd goal of the season for his 100th career point in 66 games.
|Neil Murdoch Division
|The Grand Forks Border Bruins have clinched a playoff spot in their second year under head coach-GM Dave Hnatiuk.
“It’s pretty special. I got a message on my phone the other day after we clinched just saying ‘Congratulations, first time in 55 years the team has clinched in 30 games or less dating back to 1969’, so it’s big for the program,” said Hnatiuk. “Hats off to the guys for making that happen.”
The Border Bruins, who defeated Nelson 2-1 on Tuesday night, have 10 games remaining in their regular season schedule. Heading into the playoffs, Hnatiuk wants to see two things from his group. The first is players playing their role and the second is “pure buy-in on executing the systems as we have been trying to play all year.”
Goalie Ewan Soutar and Jonah Smith have stood out to Hnatiuk with their play. Soutar was signed from the Melville Millionaires in the SJHL.
“He (Soutar) has come in and played lights out for us the last few games and credit to him, he is doing great,” said Hnatiuk. “Smith is closing in on his 20th goal of the season. He has really provided an offensive outburst this year and it’s nice to see guys like that step up and produce above expectation.”
Smith hit the 20-goal mark last night to tie their game with Nelson at 1-1. Smith leads the Border Bruins in goals. Last season he had four goals in 42 games. Soutar has won four of his five games with a 1.55 GAA and a .955 SP.
|The Beaver Valley Nitehawks have won five of their last 10 games and earned a split last weekend. Head coach-GM Terry Jones said his group has struggled with inconsistency and they would like to improve their systems play and special teams.
“We just need to steadily improve in these areas to have a chance to contend in this league,” said Jones. “We have been riding on the back of our goalie Connor Stojan, who has been a great leader in our room in terms of his play and as a role model. He gives us a chance to win every night.”
|The Nelson Leafs have won three of their last 10 games and under interim head coach Briar McNaney, are winless in three games. The last two have been one-goal losses to the Castlegar Rebels and Grand Forks Border Bruins. The Leafs have scored four goals in the three games.
|The Castlegar Rebels have eight games remaining and interim head coach-GM Nick Headrick said their biggest strength when they are playing well is their work ethic and compete.
“I think the nights where we struggle is when we don’t have the effort, but if we show up and we compete, I think we have a good chance to win for sure,” he said.
Heading into the final stretch, Headrick wants to see the team continue growing as a group and build their confidence. It’s about trying to win games and get better. Over the last two weeks, Headrick said their goaltending has been strong.
“Matteo Hueston and Ethan Lawcyznski have been really, really good,” he said. “It was good to see Ethan Lawczynski play his A game in Nelson. He always plays well in Nelson. He definitely stole that one for us.”
In three games, Hueston has a 2.35 GAA and a .935 SP. Headrick added that Calgary product Ravnoor Randhawa has made big steps in the last few weeks. He also praised Daytn Kulynych.
“We rely a lot on Daytn Kulynych for sure, he’s a big part of our team,” said Headrick.
|Bill Ohlhausen Division
|The Princeton Posse have seven wins in their last 10 games and head coach Mark Readman said that everything they have done from the start has been about generating post-season success by how they play and conduct themselves.
“It’s about playing for 60 minutes. As you go through playoff stretches, we found out last weekend with an old fashioned piece of humble pie against Columbia Valley (8-3 loss) and then having a bounce back against Summerland,” he said. “In the playoffs you don’t have much time to dwell on things. We have to make sure we come in with the right amount of energy and a certain amount of focus to right the ship and get the bounce back.”
What Readman has liked about their recent play is their offensive gear “has found another notch.”
“We have talked at length this year about our depth,” he said. “Being extremely strong this year and our offensive guys are ticking and rolling at a good pace. We still need to find a way to get our power-play going a little bit. Our team is playing the right way, it’s finding ways to keep ourselves emotionally centred.”
Forward Dayton Nelson led the Posse last week with five points in two games.
|The Osoyoos Coyotes are the hottest team in the Bill Ohlhausen division with eight wins in their last 10. The Coyotes won both their games beginning with a 12-1 victory over Kelowna, then doubling up Columbia Valley 4-2. New addition Joe Davidson led the Coyotes with seven points. Marko Pavlovic who came to Osoyoos with Davidson has two assists in two games.
|The North Okanagan Knights have won three of their last 10 games and have nine regular season games remaining. Kevin Thomas-Walters led the Knights with four points in three games.
|Summerland Steam head coach-GM Mark MacMillan will play in the BCHL’s Alumni & Friends game as part of their 60th anniversary All-Star weekend in Penticton this weekend. MacMillan said his brother Mitch asked him to play after being approached.
“I’m looking forward to it, it should be a fun experience on Saturday,” said MacMillan, who helped Mitch torch BCHL goalies by scoring 61 goals in 59 games for the Alberni Valley Bulldogs in the 2009-10 season, which led the league. That season, Mitch also led the BCHL with 93 points, while MacMillan had 26 goals, 54 assists for 80 points in 59 games.
“It’s the first time they are doing it, so I’m just excited to be a part of it,” said MacMillan, who played in the BCHL as a 17 and 18-year-old. “They welcomed me to be a part of it and there are obviously lots of really good players in it who played in the league. If it wasn’t for the BCHL, I wouldn’t have got to where I did in my hockey career. It will be fun to be outside playing on the outdoor rink, which I grew up doing with my brother.”
The KIJHL deadline day was an interesting experience for MacMillan as it was really his first since he didn’t make any moves last year. The former Montreal Canadiens draft pick was learning the role of being a first time head coach-GM. This time around was different.
“It was busy, my phone was busy. I felt like a more popular guy than I ever thought I was, lots of people calling and inquiring about different players,” he said. “It was like something I never really experienced before being in that situation. It was a learning experience for sure.”
The biggest move MacMillan made was trading Tristan Weill to Kimberley for Luke Rothfos and future considerations.
“Luke was a guy that I talked to this summer a little bit, someone I was recruiting and he had chose to go to Kimberley, Kimberley obviously has a great team,” said MacMillan. “Derek Stuart had reached out about Tristan and it was a few conversations back and forth over a week or two and that’s what we settled on.
“That was part of the learning experience of how a big deal like that would work out,” he continued.
What MacMillan likes about Rothfos is that he’s a complete player, who is physical and plays with grit. MacMillan said the Steam are not a high scoring team.
“For us to be successful, we’re going to have to commit to being a hard-nosed hockey team that defends well. Both our goalies have played great all year. We’re going to have to be a defensive-minded, hard-to-play team and I think Luke adds to that for us.”
The Steam clinched a playoff berth Tuesday night with their 4-2 win over North Okanagan on the road. MacMillan says he has been happy with the group since Christmas as they collected five of six points in their first three games. He really likes where their group is.
|The Kelowna Chiefs have won one of their last 10 games and have been eliminated from qualifying for the KIJHL Teck Cup championship. With the exception of their loss to Osoyoos to start the week, the Chiefs had one-goal losses to Summerland and Kimberley. In three games, goalie Brendan Smith stopped 127 of 136 shots for .934 SP and a 3.03 GAA.
|Doug Birks Division
|The Revelstoke Grizzlies are one of the hottest teams in the division with seven wins in their last 10 games. They won a pair of home games against the 100 Mile House Wranglers which showcased a potential first round matchup. They then earned a 4-1 win over the visiting Kamloops Storm. The tandem of Jozef Kuchalso and Owen Albers has played well. In those games, they combined to stop 77 of 79 shots and Albers had two wins for 10 in 15 games this season.
|The Sicamous Eagles have climbed ahead of the Storm for second with seven wins in their last 10. Their weekend began with a 2-1 loss to the Storm, but finished with wins over North Okanagan and 100 Mile House. Gage Reimer earned a split in his two starts, while Rhys Netherton picked up another victory for his second with the Eagles. He turned aside 26 of 27 against the Knights, his former team for a .963 SP.
|The Kamloops Storm sit a point back of the Eagles and have won six of their last 10. After defeating Sicamous for their 20th win, the Storm lost to the Grizzlies. Colton Phillips-Watts was in goal for the win. The Storm, like the Eagles, can still catch the Grizzlies for first place.
|100 Mile House Wranglers head coach-GM Dale Hladun has liked that his players believe in where they are going. They have five wins in their last 10 games and earned a crucial overtime victory against the Chase Heat Wednesday night to secure the final playoff spot.
He said they have had moments of playing well, particularly against Nelson and Kamloops. They had the mindset that their Revelstoke games on the road is what playoffs will look like. They went in seeing what they can learn and do.
“None of these kids have been in an environment like that,” Hladun laughs. “It rocks and it’s loud and they boo and they sing. It was a cool environment. It’s almost like writing your exams, to find where ground zero is and prepare. If you don’t bring an A game to Revelstoke, you’re going to have a tough time trying to win. I thought we had our moments of good, but we didn’t have full games of good. Revelstoke is damn good and I thought we learned a little bit.”
The next day in Sicamous, Hladsun said, “those Eagles are as good as anybody.”
“I was just disappointed in how flat we were and how some of the things about defensive zone coverage and finding your man, we forgot. We’re playing a game of snakes and ladders.”
With the victory against Chase, they intend to use the rest of the season to sharpen their sword to prepare for that first round of playoffs. Commit to play away from the puck, focus on defensive hockey.
|Chase Heat head coach Brad Fox is coaching a “resilient” group and he’s talked to them about the playoffs still being possible. Fox wants his players to stay in the moment.
“Trust the process. We have to manage the puck better and quit forcing plays offensively,” he said. “When you manage the puck better, you make better decisions and you have the puck more. Secondly, we have to be very disciplined, which we were the first half of the year.”
Former Heat captain Jacob Biensch is playing in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference for the University of Alberta-Augustana men’s hockey team. He recently helped his Vikings team sweep the defending champion NAIT. Biensch led with three goals and two assists. Biensch’s five-point weekend earned him this week’s Viking’s Athlete of the Week.