BCHL Today: Trail depth steps up as Smoke Eaters avoid elimination

BCHL Today is a (near) daily look at what’s going on around the league and the junior A world.

Welcome to the April 5, 2018 edition of BCHL Today, a (near) daily look at what’s going on around the league and the junior A world.

With their backs to the wall, the Trail Smoke Eaters saved their season Wednesday night, taking down the Wenatchee Wild by a 5-2 count at the Cominco Arena.

While Kale Howarth and Ross Armour continued to be disturbingly silent, the Smokies depth finally stepped up. Andre Ghantous had two goals and an assist and Carter Jones had three helpers. Levi Glasman, Ryan Murphy and Seth Barton also scored for Trail in a forgettable outing for Wenatchee goaltender Austin Park. The Wild outshot the Smoke Eaters 40-24 and deserved a better fate, but Park had a bad night and Trail netminder Adam Marcoux was outstanding.

Park’s 19 saves on 24 shots was good for a dismal .792 save percentage, lowering his overall playoff SP to .895.

Marcoux stopped 38 of 40 for a save percentage of .950, with August (Baron) Von Ungern and Zak Galambos the two Wenatchee shooters to beat him. His team is down 3-1 in the series, but Marcoux hasn’t been the biggest issue for Trail. He’s faced a high volume of shots (32.4 per game) and fared reasonably well against the most stacked offensive team in the BCHL.

When the Smoke Eaters inevitably lose this series, it will be because their big guns were shut down by the Wild. Updating the numbers for Howarth and Armour, through game four Howarth has just one assist while Armour has two helpers.

Of course, Howarth and Armour do a lot of damage on the power play, and that is a big-picture issue in this series. Trail had just two PP chances Wednesday night and they’ve had just six power plays in four games. It could be that Wenatchee is playing the cleanest hockey in the history of hockey. More likely, the postseason standard of officiating is contributing to Trail’s demise, and that’s not likely to change as the series shifts back to Wenatchee.

The path to victory for the Smoke Eaters is now ridiculously narrow.They have to win three straight games, including two at the Town Toyota Center in Wenatchee where the Wild have yet to lose in seven playoff outings.

Odds are very, very good that this series ends tomorrow (Friday) night.

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West Kelowna Warriors grad Adam Plant has turned pro.

Plant’s NCAA career came to a close March 25 as his University of Denver Pioneers lost 5-1 to the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Div-I Midwest Regional Final. Five days later the defenceman made his American Hockey League debut for the Laval Rocket in a 3-2 loss to the Binghamton Devils. He was back in the lineup the next night for a 6-3 loss to the Hershey Bears and put four shots on goal last night in a 3-2 loss to the Rochester Americans.

Plant spent parts of three seasons (2011-14) in the BCHL, posting 14 goals and 75 points in 115 regular season and playoff games. The 22 year old Penticton native spent four seasons at the University of Denver (2014-18).

Here’s a fun video of Plant during his first year with West K.

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The Nanaimo Clippers have a new Director of Scouting.

The team has announced the hiring of John Stuart, who brings 17 years of experience in minor, junior B, junior A and major junior hockey.

My biggest takeaway from the Nanaimo press release is that the Clippers will have the best softball squad in the BCHL.

John Stuart (right) coaching with Softball Canada. SOFTBALL CANADA PHOTO

Here are a few bullet points from Stuart’s resume.

– Head coach Team Canada Men’s Softball 2014 to current.

– Assistant Coach Team Canada Men’s Softball 2010 – 2014

– 2015 World Champions.

– 2015 Pan Am Games Champions

– 2012 Pan American Champions

– 2015 Petro Canada Coach of Year

– 2015 World Baseball Softball Confederation Coach Of Year

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Sticking with the Clippers, former Nanaimo superstar Sheldon Rempal signed a National Hockey League contract with the Los Angeles Kings last Friday. Rempal put his name on a two year entry-level pact, leaving Clarkson University after just two seasons.

They were good seasons. As a freshman in 2016-17, the Calgary native had 11 goals and 23 points in 39 games. This season he led the Golden Knights with 23 goals and 46 points in 39 games, numbers that had him on the radar of several NHL teams.

Rempel spent three seasons (2013-16) in Nanaimo and posted video-game numbers in his final BCHL campaign when he posted 59 goals and 110 points in 56 outings.

Rempel is expected to travel with Los Angeles for the remainder of the NHL season, but he will likely end up apprenticing with the Kings’ AHL affiliate, the Ontario Reign.

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As we get closer to the end of the Fred Page Cup playoffs, it’s time to starting checking in on the other Canadian junior A leagues.

The Alberta Junior Hockey League playoffs are down to a final three.

The Spruce Grove Saints are through to the final after sweeping the Whitecourt Wolverines in the North division series. The Brooks Bandits and Okotoks Oilers are tired 2-2 in the South division series, with game five going tomorrow in Okotoks.

Having a peek at the regular season standings reminds me just how top-heavy the AJHL is.

Only seven of the league’s 16 teams posted records above .500, led by the Oilers, who had 52 wins in 60 regular season games. The Saints (47-10-3) and Bandits (45-14-1) are solid squads but there’s a whole lot of mediocre in that league.

Also mediocre? The name of the championship trophy. Sponsorship has invaded every area of hockey, and AJHL players vie for the coveted Inter Pipeline Cup.

We get it. Alberta loves its petroleum products, but that is just really disappointing.

I’ll be the first to say the Fred Page Cup isn’t a super dynamic name, but at least it pays tribute to a guy who was super important to the growth of junior A hockey in Canada. The AJHL trophy pays tribute to a Calgary-based company that is, according to interpipeline.com, a major petroleum transportation, storage and natural gas liquids processing business.

But they do have a very solid corporate video, so there’s that.

As the season winds down, BCHL Today will now shift to a weekly schedule, appearing Wednesdays through the championship series and on into the offseason.

Eric Welsh is the sports editor at the Chilliwack Progress and has been covering junior A hockey in B.C. and Alberta since 2003.

Email eric.welsh@theprogress.com

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