Without a doubt the most anticipated game of the past week was Saturday night in Wenatchee where the Mainland leading Wild hosted the league leading Penticton Vees. It was a matchup of the top two teams in the BCHL and two of the top ten ranked teams in the entire country.
Only the matchup unfortunately completely failed to live up to the billing.
The Vees mustered a measly 16 shots on goal beating backup Anthony Yamnitsky just once en route to a 4-1 Wild victory. Wenatchee’s starter, Garrett Nieto mysteriously hasn’t played since early October. He has not been placed on the IR and the team has been mum on what’s ailing the 18 year-old. The Wild have certainly missed him and it looked as if their tremendous start was in jeopardy of being overshadowed with back to back losses to Surrey and Coquitlam a couple weeks ago but they’ve responded nicely winning three in a row over Chilliwack, Merritt, and the Vees.
Not only did the Wild limit the Vees to just 16 shots but they put up 48 of their own against Mathew Robson in a statement win.
The real winners of the night, however, was the 3,000-plus strong crowd at the Town Toyota Center and both teams who wore their “Hockey Fights Cancer” jerseys raising funds for the fight against the horrendous disease. Kudos to both clubs are in order.
The Trail Smoke Eaters had themselves a good weekend with a pair of home wins, 4-2 over Salmon Arm Friday and 4-3 over Victoria Sunday. The Smokies have won three of their last four and at 9-8-1 sit tied with Merritt for third in the Interior, just one point back of second place Vernon.
It’s been a bit of a rough go for the Centennials who after a very good start to the season have dropped four in a row. Those four have come against some pretty stiff competition (Penticton, Chilliwack, Wenatchee, Vernon) and all four were closely fought contests. The Cents have a tough weekend coming up too with an Island road trip including stops in Powell River, Alberni, and Nanaimo. With the Warriors coming out of their seven-game losing skid West Kelowna is just one point back of the Silverbacks for fifth in the division and four back of Trail and Merritt with games in hand on both. Things are certainly heating up in the league’s most competitive division.
Those Warriors took advantage of a pair of sliding Island teams on the weekend getting a much-needed 3-2 win over the Cowichan Valley Capitals followed by a 2-1 overtime win in Port Alberni on Sunday. West Kelowna did just what they needed to do, feast on struggling teams. This is a club that is far better than their record indicates and the defending RBC champions just haven’t been getting many bounces. Four of those seven losses in a row were by a single goal. This weekend could have been a real turning point.
I think it is now indeed safe to say the Capitals’ Cinderella-esque start to the season has come to a crashing halt. The Caps have now lost three in a row and have not won in regulation in six. A tightly fought battle against Nanaimo in Duncan on Tuesday went the Clippers’ way but the Caps then got absolutely destroyed 9-0 by the visiting Powell River Kings on Friday night. Saturday night’s game against the Warriors was certainly much better but the result was the same: a loss. Things don’t get easier for Cowichan either as they host Vernon and Chilliwack this coming weekend.
While the Capitals struggle the Kings are rolling. Since starting the season 0-4, Powell River has gone 14-3 and having won six in a row they now sit atop the Island division, one point ahead of Victoria and five up on Cowichan. The Kings open up a five game home stand Friday night against Merritt and we all know how difficult it is for opposing teams at Hap Parker Arena.
I wrote about Alberni’s struggles last week and since then things have only become worse. The Bulldogs picked up a point in Sunday’s OT loss to West Kelowna but Alberni has now dropped 10 in a row. The Bulldogs have scored a league low 39 goals and are tied with Coquitlam for the worst goal differential at -30. Not only are the Bulldogs losing consistently but they are getting blown out with regularity. Four of those ten straight losses have been by three or more goals. Something has got to give and soon.
While the Wenatchee Wild have cemented their place at the top of the Mainland division the second place Chilliwack Chiefs took a bit of a stumble over the past week or so. The Chiefs have just one win in their last five games but did pick up a pair of overtime loss points over the same span. Chilliwack had just one game over the weekend, a 4-3 OT loss at home Friday night to Victoria. It gives head coach Jason Tatarnic an opportunity to reset and regroup. Not that the Chiefs are in any sort of trouble, they have a five point lead over third place Prince George but will certainly want to rebound quickly. Perhaps it’s the perfect time for them to hit the road on the Island for three games against Nanaimo, Cowichan, and Powell River.