BCHL Today: Express shut out Eagles and Vees chase attendance mark

BCHL Today is a (near) daily feature providing news and notes from around the junior A world.

Welcome to the Feb. 2, 2018 edition of BCHL Today, a (near) daily look at what’s going on around the league and the junior A world.

There was one sneaky mid-week matchup in the league yesterday as the Coquitlam Express visited the Surrey Eagles in a meeting of Mainland division foes.

With a whole bunch of school kids taking a break from math studies to take in the game, the energy in the South Surrey Arena was great and the Eagles threw 41 shots at Coquitlam keeper Brock Hamm. But not a single one of them evaded the netminder in a 6-0 Express win.

Earlier in the season, when Coquitlam was a dumpster fire on ice, Surrey didn’t have any trouble with them. But since the Express hired Jason Fortier as their new bench boss, they’ve beaten the Eagles in three of four games, including an 8-1 whomping Jan. 17.

Josha Wildauer led the offence with a pair of goals in Thursday’s win, with Jack MacNab, William Lawrence, Christian Sanda and Jonathan Sheardown adding singles.

Coquitlam has become a tough out for a lot of teams. Don’t forget their 2-1 upset home-ice win over the mighty Vernon Vipers Jan. 21. The Express also beat Vernon 3-2 in Vernon Dec. 6 and how fascinating would it be if the Express crossed over to the Interior division for the playoffs and met the Vipers in a first round series?

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The Penticton Vees are on the verge of setting a Canadian junior A attendance mark.

Vees play-by-play man Craig Beauchemin says the team has packed an average of 3,036 fans into the South Okanagan Events Centre for 23 home games this season. Penticton has five home dates remaining, starting next weekend when they host Trail (Feb. 9) and Vernon (Feb. 10) followed by the Coquitlam Express (Feb. 14), Wenatchee Wild (Feb. 24) and Salmon Arm Silverbacks (Feb. 25).

Beauchemin pulled out the calculator and he figures the Vees need to average 2,824 fans per game to keep themselves at the 3,000 mark.

No Canadian Junior Hockey League team has ever done that and Beauchemin feels good about their chances with the Vipers coming in and the awards-night in the regular season finale.

Winning is a big reason for the attendance, but Beauchemin also believes credit should go to assistant coach Matt Fraser, who added ‘Director of Community Events’ to his title this season, and has helped expand the team’s presence within Penticton and within surrounding communities.

That includes visiting five elementary schools, with more visits planned this month.

“Taking on a new role this year I had an idea of some things I wanted to try out,” said Fraser. “To me, the biggest one is the school visits because the kids at the elementary schools love seeing the players up close and in person. The look on the kids faces when they get to play floor hockey with their favourite Vees is something that shows you how important it is to get out in the community.”

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It’s been a very tough season for the Cowichan Capitals, but one of the bright spots has been Ty Pochipinski.

The Colorado product leads the Caps with 18 goals through 37 games, and his 31 points is one behind Troy MacTavish for the team lead.

On Wednesday, Pochipinski became the first Cowichan player this season to secure an NCAA scholarship, committing to the Colorado College Tigers. The division-one team plays in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, home of powerhouse programs North Dakota, Minnesota-Duluth, St. Cloud State and Denver along with Miami U (Ohio), Nebraska-Omaha and Western Michigan.

Colorado College is 11-11-4 overall this year with a roster that includes several BCHL grads.

Side note: Why is this team called the Tigers when there are no Tigers living outside of captivity in North America?

Side note: When I hear Ty Pochipinski I think of this guy.

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Sticking with scholarships, Victoria Grizzlies play-by-play man Scott Didmon says goaltender Zach Rose has committed to the Bowling Green State Falcons.

In 27 games this year, Rose has 14 wins with a 3.07 goals-against average and .918 save percentage. The 18 year old is a rare Newfoundlander playing in the BCHL, hailing from a lovely sounding town called Paradise. Side note on that. Whoever named that town Paradise set some crazy-high expectations.

Anyhow, Didmon notes that Jordan Sigalet was the last Victoria goalie to go to Bowling Green, making the jump after leading Victoria to a Fred Page Cup in 2001.

Sigalet’s story has always held a certain fascination for me, because my wife Tracie was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1999. Sigalet was diagnosed with MS in 2003, while he was still at Bowling Green. He was ultimately forced to retire because of it, but like my wife he has persevered and is now the goaltending coach for the National Hockey League’s Calgary Flames.

Here’s an excellent story on Sigalet’s journey.

And here’s an equally excellent video.

Back to Rose. He joins a team that currently sits second in the 10-team Western Collegiate Hockey Association Standings with an overall record of 16-8-6. Other teams in the conference are Northern Michigan, Minnesota State, Bemidji State, Michigan Tech, Ferris State, Alabama-Huntsville, Alaska, Lake Superior and Alaska-Anchorage.

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Following up on yesterdays thoughts about Nathan MacMaster, Steve Bull and the BCHL Tour conducted by Together We Can Addiction Recovery and Education Centre, here’s a very interesting article about former National Hockey League defenceman Ken Danyko.

It’s well worth the read.

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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