The Beaver Valley Nitehawks are the highest scoring team in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League with 60 goals in 10 games for an average of six a game. Their top guns are Adam Redding and Tim Josza with six goals each. The Princeton Posse are the second highest with 46 goals in 10 games, averaging 4.60 per game. They are led by Dayton Nelson who has eight goals in eight games. The Sicamous Eagles come in at third averaging 4.33 goals per game with 52 in 12 games. Rookie Hayden Evans leads their team with 10 goals in 11 games. At No. 4 are the Fernie Ghostriders averaging 3.90 goals per game with 39 in 10 games and are led by Kyler Watson who has seven goals. And at No. 5, averaging 3.83 goals per game are the Columbia Valley Rockies with 46 goals in 12 games. Rookie Tysin Mulligan has nine goals to lead the team.
One thing these teams have in common is that four of the five are in the top-five in the overall standings. The Ghostriders are just outside of it.
Now let’s get into the KIJHL Notebook.
Eddie Mountain Division
Kaelen Shelton netted the winner, his fourth goal of the season, in a 2-1 win for the Columbia Valley Rockies over the Kimberley Dynamiters. Goalie Nate Glenn made 28 saves, while Jaiden Jakubowski earned his second shutout in a 4-0 win over the Summerland Steam and improved to 3-0. Glenn and Jakubowski have combined for a 1.66 goals against average and a .948 save percentage.
Head Coach Tayler Sincennes on Shelton: “He’s been doing an awesome job of taking care of the little details in his game and it’s translated into ponts. He kind of started a bit slow, but has turned the corner and has probably been one of our best forwards for the last two to three weeks.”
Matt Fleet turned aside 33 of 35 shots for the Kimberley Dynamiters in a 2-1 loss to the Rockies. On Oct. 21, the former CNHA U18 Canuck stopped all 26 shots he faced in a 2-0 win over Creston Valley. Head Coach Derek Stuart said Fleet was excellent in those games.
“He is playing with confidence and is challenging shooters very well,” said Stuart. “Like all good goalies, he saves what he can see and his big body covers a lot of the net on rebound shots.”
Fleet is 4-3 this season with a 1.87 GAA and a .935 SP and since taking over the starter’s role during the KIJHL Teck Cup Finals last season, he is very comfortable in that role. In all but one of his games this season, Fleet has a save percentage above .906.
In winning two of three games on their recent road trip to Kamloops, 100 Mile House and Chase, Fernie Ghostriders Head Coach Ty Valin saw more consistency in their play which made him happy.
Their penalty kill “is still a work in progress” but Valin says the players are starting to get the concepts and understand the structure with it.
Goalie Nick Kunyk won both his starts with a 2.06 GAA and a .923 SP after stopping 60 of 65 shots.
“He just competes so hard any time he is in net,” said Valin. “Even in practice, he is a workhorse. He is definitely getting success from the work he is putting in and wants to get better every day. He is patient with his game and understands it takes time.”
Kunyk is 4-0 with a 1.80 GAA and a .928 SP.
The Creston Valley Thunder Cats earned a split last weekend as they defeated the Summerland Steam, then lost to the Dynamiters. Head Coach Brad Tobin felt his team played pretty well Friday night, getting offence from throughout the lineup. On Saturday they couldn’t get anything going.
“We came out a little flat in the first period and Kimberley had two quick goals in the first,” he said. “We couldn’t find our scoring. Definitely something we need to be working on this week.”
Goalie Dario Cantini made 27 saves in the 2-0 loss and Tobin said the Cap-Pele, New Brunswick native kept them in the game.
“He has been playing really well and we’re happy we brought him in,” said Tobin of Cantini, who is 2-2 with a 2.00 GAA and a .935 SP. “He’s going to develop into a pretty solid goaltender in the KIJHL this season.”
In earning wins over Grand Forks and Summerland by a combined score of 7-2, Golden Rockets Head Coach Chuck Wight said the team “finally seemed to find a little bit of offence.” They defeated the Border Bruins 3-2 in a shootout, with Levi Hall in goal and Kaeden Serpa’s first KIJHL win came in a 29-save shutout.
“We had a high-energy game on a Sunday, which is great,” said Wight. “We got some solid goaltending from Serpa.”
Wight said Serpa anticipated the shooters well and had solid rebound control. Moving forward Wight wants to see the group keep the momentum going as they continue to find line chemistry.
“It’s starting to click,” he said.
Neil Murdoch Division
Connor Drake had a three-assist performance to help lead the Beaver Valley Nitehawks defeat the Nelson Leafs 7-1. Drake is now fifth on the Nitehawks in points with nine in eight games. Head Coach Terry Jones said he played with the speed, quickness and intelligence that he is capable of.
“He made some very nice passes to set up his teammates,” said Jones as Joel Smyth scored twice and Cade Reber benefitted from Drake passes. “He has meshed well with the Smyth brothers.”
Despite some inconsistencies, Jones said that Drake is showing to have high potential.
With a 2-1 win over the Beaver Valley Nitehawks to end their undefeated start, and a 6-2 win over the Spokane Braves, Castlegar Rebels Head Coach Nick Headrick felt that was their strongest weekend of the season.
“It was nice to go into Beaver Valley, which is a tough place to play, and play the right way for 60 minutes and get the result we wanted,” he said.
The Rebels used both their goalies – 20-year-olds Matteo Hueston, who defeated the Nitehawks, and Ethan Lawczynski, who turned aside 40 shots against the Braves.
“Hueston, as always, was very calm in goal, composed,” said Headrick. “He handled the puck very well and made some timely saves when we needed them against Beaver Valley. I felt against Spokane, in the first 10 minutes, Ethan made some big stops for us to keep the game scoreless. As the game went on, he continued to look very strong.”
The Rebels will go with both goalies during the season to give their team the best shot to win. Headrick also pointed out with several back-to-back games in their schedule, having two 20-year-olds gives them the best chance each night. It’s the third year that Hueston and Lawczynski have played together.
In 38 career regular season games, Hueston, a former CAC Canadians U18AAA product, is 12-19-1. Lawczynski, a Castlegar minor hockey product, is 24-46-0 in 80 career games.
The Grand Forks Border Bruins defeated the Rockies 4-2, then lost to the Rockets 3-2 in a shootout last weekend. Levi Astill led with a goal and three assists, while JP Desabrais had two goals.
Heading into this weekend, Head Coach David Hnatiuk is seeing improvement in their play, and more buy in.
“Now being at game pace, and identifying situations, we’re getting a little sharper,” he said. “We’re getting more consistent and that is going to be the key to our success. We’re on our way and this last weekend I think we saw more definitely Friday night.”
Hnatiuk said goalie Ethan Shebansky was the key to their success Friday.
“He played great, made some huge saves, and was sharp all game,” he said. “Levi again, he is another player who has been producing since he got here. Levi’s our leading point producer with 14 in 10 games.”
The Nelson Leafs opened the week with a 7-1 loss to the Nitehawks. Ty Nykyforuk scored the lone goal with his fifth. Leighton Partington led the Leafs with three goals and an assist in two games.
“The best part about him was he’s a guy who plays a good grinding style that creates space for other players,” said Head Coach Briar McNaney of Partington. “He’s creating his opportunities, scoring-wise, because he’s not trying to do it. He’s not trying to look pretty and like a super star out there. He’s doing the little things that give him the opportunities to score. He’s hit his shots and is playing very well.”
The improvements in Partington’s game comes from the energy he is bringing along with a year of experience.
“He’s being twice as physical as last year,” added McNaney. “He’s bought into the system and other guys are starting to follow. We’re very happy to see his progress.”
Last weekend the Spokane Braves were outscored 14-2 (8-0 loss to the Nitehawks, 6-2 to the Rebels) and heading into the weekend, Head Coach Darin Schumacher needs his group to focus on playing as a team.
“We have had moments of success and failure which has taught us a lot,” he said. “The most important lesson that we have learned is we must work hard for the other guys in the room.”
An area needing attention following the weekend is puck protection and Schumacher added they are working hard to limit turnovers.
As Jack Wood, 17, works to earn his first KIJHL win, Schumacher said the former Tri-Cities Jr. Americans “is a great teammate” is striving towards that.
“He has the backing of his teammates and will continue to be a big part of our team,” said Schumacher.
Wood played junior hockey last season for the Sheridan Hawks in the North America 3 Hockey League and won seven of his 12 games.
Bill Ohlhausen Division
Princeton Posse Head Coach Mark Readman called it a good bounce back as they picked up wins against Nelson and North Okanagan. He added it’s about understanding the work rate necessary to have success, regardless of their opponent.
“I thought our group showed up and had a pretty good team effort against Nelson. Our special teams showed up. Saturday against North Okanagan, missing key players, the rest of our lineup was able to fill some of those shoes. I thought we really dominated play 5-on-5 for the majority of the game.”
Readman has also seen the details in their defensive play increase. Next up for the Posse are the 100 Mile House Wranglers on Saturday, and the Braves on Sunday. The Wranglers game has been marked on their calendar following a 7-0 pre-season loss, which they look to avenge.
Re-acquired by the North Okanagan Knights from Revelstoke, goalie Josh Hager stopped 69 of 73 shots in back-to-back shootout losses to the Kelowna Chiefs, 2-1, and the Princeton Posse, 4-3.
“Josh has been very good the last couple games. We feel that he has improved in a lot of areas and brings confidence,” said Head Coach Liam McOnie. “We like his compete level and ability to make timely saves and keep the ship level while under duress. He has been a great addition in the room as well.”
McOnie added that Hager and Michael Malinowski have been very good in supporting and pushing each other. Malinowski has won three of his eight games with a .903 save percentage and a 3.95 GAA.
Brendan Smith stopped 49 of 53 shots for a .925 save percentage for the Kelowna Chiefs in a win over North Okanagan and a loss to Revelstoke. Head Coach Travers Rebman said Smith played well.
“He is calm and stays level. I’m sure he’s frustrated about the offensive support, I’m sure both goalies are, but they don’t show it,” said Rebman. “Brendan doesn’t get overly upset if someone makes a mistake leading to a goal, or if he is screened so it helps everyone move forward.”
Smith’s play is giving the Chiefs a chance to win and Rebman added they need to score for the results to come in the standings and reward the goalies.
Hosting Revelstoke and North Okanagan this weekend, Summerland Steam Head Coach Morten Kjolby wants his players to focus on details, especially after losing three close games last weekend.
“Details in everything we do matters because it decides the outcomes of games,” said Kjolby, who wants to see their high compete level continue. “We have learned what kind of level we have to compete at. We need to take and put it together with being better with our details and we will start winning.”
Defensively he feels they are better, but it’s turnovers in the wrong areas that are “killing us.”
“It’s not playing 5-on-5 in our own zone,” he said.
He’s also happy that their penalty-kill recently went 6-for-7. He said their box play was fantastic and the lone goal they surrendered came at the tail end of a 5-on-3 advantage.
Hunter Arntsen made 54 saves for the Osoyoos Coyotes in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Nelson Leafs. He made an incredible save when they led 2-1, which can be viewed on www.kijhl.ca or the KIJHL YouTube channel.
“Some of his saves were just highlight robbery,” said Head Coach Ken Law. “They came at us pretty hard and he gave us a chance to stay in the game until the end. He’s the only reason we are in games right now. Our guys are so used to him making saves they are not defending that well because they know he will stop the puck.”
Giving Arntsen support and cleaning up their defensive zone play are things they have talked about. Law would like to see them cut their shots against down to 25 a game. They have been over that. For the season, Arntsen has two wins and has allowed 30 goals on 281 shots for an .893 SP.
“We knew going in with a younger team that we would struggle right off the bat,” he said. “We’re a number of games into the season and we’ve got to start responding. We’re not going to score a lot of goals so we have to make sure we don’t give up a lot.”
Law knows the defensive problems can be fixed and it’s happening by making adjustments. They will see after the weekend if the adjustments are effective.
Doug Birks Division
The Sicamous Eagles picked up their ninth straight win with a victory over the 100 Mile House Wranglers, then had their winning streak snapped by the Kamloops Storm in a 3-0 loss. During their nine-game win streak, the Eagles outscored opponents 45-21.
“Regardless of our goals against total, we have the ability to improve on our defensive play,” said Deschenes.
The Eagles have a bye this weekend and are using that time to cover things in practice, including adding more compete to replicate game play. They have also touched up on things they haven’t worked on and to tighten their play.
“We’re definitely appreciative of this break and it will give us a bit of a reset,” said Deschenes, who has six injured players.
Ty Horner scored a big OT winner for the Kamloops Storm against the 100 Mile House Wranglers in a 3-2 final Tuesday. Head Coach Jan Ludvig said it wasn’t pretty, and gave credit to the Wranglers.
“(Dale Hladun) Duner is a good coach. He’s a smart old fox,” said Ludvig. “It was tough to play and they always give us a hard time.”
When talking about the spread of offence led by Evan Clark, Teaghan Mullin and Lochlan Stefanishyn – four points each in two games – Ludvig gave a description about the team.
“We view ourselves to be a blue -collar group,” he said. “Some guys are really coming on because our development program is really strong. The results are getting better.”
Some standouts are the three mentioned above, and Ludvig has seen enough from Evan Douglas to believe the 6-2, 190-pound forward is better as a defenceman.
“I think he can be a really dominant defenceman now and even going forward, he’s a latecomer,” said Ludvig, as Douglas is tied for the team points lead with 10. “He’s a guy that has huge value for us.”
As the Storm pulled out their OT win, Ludvig’s son John, a Storm alum, made his NHL debut with the Pittsburgh Penguins. It was cut short due to an injury when John delivered his second and final hit after playing five minutes, 29 seconds.
John called his father the next day and let him know he’s ready to play.
“You look at the team, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Erik Karlsson, Kris Letang, you have some really unbelievable players he can watch, practice against and learn from,” said Ludvig. “John is a learner and was a captain in Portland. I’m really happy for him to be on that team where he can be around guys like that.
“I’m an immigrant, I came here 43 years ago and didn’t know anything. I didn’t speak the language,” he added when asked what this achievement means to him. “My wife and I made sure that our kids, and Johnny in this case, were exposed to everything Canadian, which I fell in love with in this country. Hockey is a huge part of our life and gave me everything. I just feel happy for John. He’s a hard worker, he’s a true Canadian and is getting his shot.”
Rookie defenceman Diego Smith has two assists in seven games for the Revelstoke Grizzlies. He collected assists in his second and third KIJHL games against the Grand Forks Border Bruins and Chase Heat. He is plus-4 based on Hudl Instat information. The Grizzlies scored seven goals on 64 shots against the Kelowna Chiefs in two games and Luke Aston had three of those goals.
Heading into this weekend, Chase Heat Head Coach Brad Fox wants to see his team defend better and play with better puck management.
“We need to increase our shot total. We’re not getting enough goals in the short areas,” he said. “It comes down to making good decisions with the puck and winning 50/50 battles. We’ve got to win in those hard areas. The teams we play, they do and we have to.”
The Heat are visiting the Castlegar Rebels and Grand Forks Border Bruins. He wants to see his team come out strong, play hard and be disciplined. He also wants the players to help their goalies.
“Our goaltending has been solid, but we’re relying on them too much,” he said. “We have to be more consistent.”
Ivan Tolsma has stopped 112 of 125 shots in three games for the 100 Mile House Wranglers. Nearly half that, 50/53 came against the Border Bruins. The former Leduc Roughneck has a .896 save percentage in that stretch.
Head Coach Dale Hladun said Tolsma is a rock.
“He’s a very technical goalie who is competitive and always trying to improve himself. He asks a lot of questions,” said Hladun. “Should a goal go in or something he has struggled with, the next practice he wants those kinds of drills to help him improve.”
Hladun said Tolsma’s performance against the Border Bruins is consistent with his other games.
“Ivan makes every routine save, but he’s made game saves, which certainly has kept us in the game,” he said. “He always gives us a chance to win. He’s calm.”
Tolsma earned his lone win against the Spokane Braves on Oct. 13 when he stopped 39 of 41 shots.