March 31, 2019
Prince George Spruce Kings vs. Victoria Grizzlies
Prince George opened the series with two home ice wins over the Victoria Grizzlies, Friday and Saturday.
The Spruce Kings won both games 4-2.
In game 1 Friday, PG outshot the Grizzlies 40-27. They opened a 1-0 lead after the third on a goal from Dylan Anhorn, and then shocked the Grizzlies three straight quick ones in the second, to open a 4-0 lead, before Victoria clawed two back.
Patrick Cozzi scored just 10 seconds into the Fram, and then Ben Poisson added another 11 seconds later. Corey Cunningham made it 4-0 just 6:51 into the frame.
Alexander Campbell and Cameron Thompson, narrowed it to 4-2 but that would be it – there were no goals scored in the third.
Logan Newton got the win, Kurtis Chapman took the loss, with 36 saves.
In game 2 Saturday, Victoria opened a 1-0 end of first lead, on a power play goal from Riley Hughes 7:57 into the game.
PG then scored two, on markers from Corey Cunningham and Dustin Manz (pp), before Cameron Thompson evened it up 2-2 at the 14:31 mark, on another powerplay.
Cunningham then scored again lat in the period to give PG a 3-2 lead heading in the third.
Manz scored his second midway through the final frame to finish the scoring 4-2.
The Spruce Kings outshot the Grizzlies again, 29-21.
Newton and Chapman were in nets again.
The series will move to Victoria for games three and four on Monday and Tuesday.
Prince George lost in the league finals last year and are hoping to avenge that loss with a league title this season.
Spruce Kings forward Ben Brar and Grizzlies forward Ryan Nolan are set to be college teammates next year at Merrimack, while Prince George’s Sean Donaldson and Victoria’s Carter Berger are both committed to Connecticut.
Prince George forward Nolan Welsh spent the 2016-17 season with Victoria where he had 11 assists in 52 games and Spruce Kings backup goalie Keenan Rancier, who is from Victoria, started the season with the Grizzlies, making five appearances.
Despite all the firepower on both teams, the biggest matchup in this series will be in the crease.
Spruce Kings goalie Logan Neaton entered the BCHL record books by recording a league-best 1.92 goals-against average, the seventh-best mark in a single season, while his five shutouts were tied for sixth-best in history.
Meanwhile, Grizzlies netminder Kurtis Chapman posted a .933 save percentage to lead the league, tying him for the third-best number in a single BCHL season.
Both goalies have carried their stellar play into the postseason, each recording two shutouts.
Neaton currently leads the playoffs with a .943 save percentage and a 1.29 goals-against average, while Chapman’s save percentage is .929 and his goals-against average is 2.26.
By the numbers:
Prince George has 12 players committed to NCAA Division I programs, while Victoria has eight.
Victoria has four players listed on NHL Central Scouting’s North American Skaters: Alex Newhook (#16), Alexander Campbell (#42), Jeremie Bucheler (#113), Carter Berger (#181 – above).
Prince George defenceman Layton Ahac is also listed as #114 among North American skaters.
Both Ahac and Berger are North Vancouver natives.
Grizzlies forward Riley Hughes is the only NHL Draft pick in the series. The Westwood, MA product was taken in the seventh round by the New York Rangers in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft.
Prince George is looking for it’s first Fred Page Cup title after losing in the finals last season.
The Grizzlies franchise has one previous BCHL championship – in 2001 when they were known as the Victoria Salsa. The City of Victoria also raised the Jr. A title when the Victoria Cougars took home the BCJHL trophy in 1969-70, downing the Penticton Broncos in the final.
Wenatchee Wild vs. Vernon Vipers
This series is tied 1-1 after games Saturday and Sunday in Wenatchee.
In game one Vernon jumped out to a 2-0 lead after twenty, and then scored in OT to secure the win.
Micheal Young and Lane Zablocki got the first two.
Vernon’s Josh Latta then made it 3-0 early in the second before two goals from Wenatchees PJ Fletcher closed the gap to 3-2, end of second.
Midway through the third the Wild’s Brian Adams tied it at 3-3 to force OT.
It was a short OT – Young scored his second just 26 seconds in to close out the game.
Aidan Porter got the win on 22 saves. Cal Sandquist relieved Austin Park after the first two goals, and stopped 20 in relief.
In game two, Wenatchee responded with a 3-0 EN shutout.
Jacob Modry scored the first one 6:31 into the second frame to take a 1-0 lead into the third.
About midway through the final frame, Matt Gosiewski made it 2-0 on a power play maker. PJ Fletcher finished the scoring at the 18:10 mark, with an empty netter.
Wenatchee got the win on just 16 shots on Porter. Vernon fired 26 on Park.
The series moves to Vernon for games Tuesday and Wednesday, then returns to Wenatchee for game five on Friday.
These teams played in the second round of last year’s playoffs where the Vipers won the first two games, but Wenatchee stormed back to win four straight, including the final two games in overtime to advance.
Wenatchee is the defending league champion and is looking to be the first team to repeat since Vernon won three in a row from 2009 to 2011.
Vernon is the lowest-remaining seed in the playoffs, coming is as the #8 ranked team, finishing #4 in the Interior, and have the lowest goal differential of all four remaining teams (+4).
Victoria’s Ben Sanderson (00, Calgary) and Wenatchee’s Chad Sasaki (98, Cypress, CA) are set to be college teammates next year at Colorado College.
The biggest matchup in this series is between two veteran leaders on their respective teams – Wenatchee Wild captain Lucas Sowder (98, Trinity, FL) and the BCHL’s current regular-season games leader Jagger Williamson (98, Lumby, BC), the Vipers captain.
Sowder has been all-world for the Wild in the playoffs. He leads the playoffs with 20 points in 13 games and has at least a point in 12 of his team’s 13 postseason games, including 11 straight.
Williamson, who’s played all of his 233 regular-season games in Vernon, is leading his team with 14 points in 12 games.
Both players bring a wealth of experience to this series, Sowder having won a championship last season and Williamson with his 38 points in 47 playoff games over the past five years.
By the numbers:
Vernon has 13 players committed to NCAA Division I programs, while Wenatchee has 12.
The Vernon franchise has 12 Fred Page Cup titles to their name, starting with their first in 1970 when they were the Vernon Essos and most recently winning their third-straight trophy in 2011.
Wenatchee won its first and only title last year in their third season in the BCHL.
The Wild have nine players returning from last year’s championship team.
Vipers forward Lane Zablocki (98, Wetaskawin, AB) is the lone NHL draft pick in this series as he was taken in the third round by the Detroit Red Wings in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.