Revelstoke Grizzlies goalie Jozef Kuchaslo recorded his second shutout of the season against the Columbia Valley Rockies. It’s the 11th career regular season shutout for the Mission, B.C. native in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League. As a rookie, he had four shutouts. Last season, his first as a starter, he had five. Will Kuchaslo set a new career mark in blanking opponents? Both his wins this season are by shutout and in his career he has 29 wins. What’s impressive about his stats so far is that his .940 save percentage is .009 per cent higher than his previous two seasons, which were both .931.
In this week’s KIJHL Notebook, Grizzlies head coach Jiri Novak talks about Kuchaslo’s importance to the team.
Eddie Mountain Division
The Columbia Valley Rockies earned a split last weekend with a 5-2 win over Golden after losing to the Grizzlies. Rookie Tysin Mulligan had two goals and now leads the team with six in seven games. Four players have scored winning goals. Carter Velker, another rookie, has 10 points to lead the team, including seven assists. Velker earned the second assist on Teo Fath’s winning goal against the Rockets.
Kimberley Dynamiters Head coach-GM Derek Stuart is happy that their power-play is “clicking early” and that his team has been disciplined.
“The penalty kill is starting to be a factor as well,” said Stuart, following a pair of wins against North Okanagan and Castlegar, in which their power play combined to go 4-for-15, while the penalty-kill went 11-for-12, including killing off all seven Castlegar man advantages.
The Dynamiters penalty kill is benefiting from strong veteran players excelling in that role again.
“Our power plays have done a great job creating scoring chances,” said Stuart. “The addition of Nick Hughes has also helped round out that unit.”
Tristan Weill had six points in those games and Stuart liked how he shot the puck against North Okanagan and went to the net. Weill’s performance on Saturday offensively to assist on the Dynamiters’ first three goals in a 5-3 win, “is a sign of an elite player.”
Yesterday, with BC Hockey, the PJHL and VIJHL, the league announced that the Dynamiters would host the Junior A Championship in April. Stuart said it’s exciting news.
“Our board put together an excellent bid and we are grateful we were chosen to host the championship,” he said. “It’s nice knowing we’ll be competing for a provincial championship and it’s going to be great for the community. The fans and all of our supporters deserve this. It will be a fun way to wrap up our season.
“The players were excited when I told them, especially the 20-year-olds and players from last year,” he continued. “I think we will see their full excitement once the tournament arrives in April.”
The Creston Thunder Cats won two of their three games last week, defeating Nelson and North Okanagan. Jace Litoski and Lucas Hughes scored the winners. The Thunder Cats scored 12 goals, five coming off the stick of captain Luke Chakrabarti, who was named the Top Forward earlier this week. Chakrabarti is third in the KIJHL with 13 points. Landon Hedges had a goal and four assists, while Tyson Tokarz had a goal and three assists. Defenceman Max Chakrabarti had four assists. Dario Cantini earned his first KIJHL win in goal.
The Fernie Ghostriders won two of their three games, picking up wins against Creston Valley 3-2 and Golden 6-1. Taylor Haggerty and Kyler Watson scored the winners. Watson led the Ghostriders with three goals, all in their Golden win. Watson, Andrew Kennedy and Kaden Slobodian each had four points.
The Golden Rockets dropped both their games to Fernie and Columbia Valley by a combined score of 11-3. Brayden Bissell led with two points, both assists, while Isaiah Stotz and Draeden Bear scored their first KIJHL goals. Bear scored shorthanded. Dominic Fiorentino leads the Rockets with three goals and eight games.
Neil Murdoch Division
The Beaver Valley Nitehawks improved to 4-0 with a come from behind 6-4 win over the Castlegar Rebels. Even though they fell behind early, Head Coach Terry Jones liked that his players stayed poised and stuck to their game plan.
“There is still lots to improve upon, however staying even keel through this process was a big step in the right direction,” he said.
Jones added there is lots to learn from those games, giving up leads, coming from behind, “there are lots of ways to win, but staying steady and handling the times in a game when it doesn’t go your way – official calls, goals against, momentum swings – these are the parts that you have to be able to withstand to be successful.”
Castlegar Rebels Head coach Nick Headrick said their loss to the Nitehawks on Tuesday was their worst of the season.
“Beaver Valley just did what they do against lots of teams and simply outworked us,” said Headrick. “They were hungry and wanted it more. I was pretty disappointed with our effort.”
Playing better in their defensive zone and having players pick up coverage and sticks in front of their net will be emphasized to the players. He also noted that the “ability for our defence to make plays in our own end has to go way up if we are going to get the puck out.”
Rookie Antonio Ferrise made his season debut against the Dynamiters and collected an assist. He scored two goals against the Nitehawks.
“I think he has a really good shot for our league. We just tell him to shoot the puck from everywhere,” said Headrick. “I liked the way he played. He’s really hungry for the puck, always moving his feet and his first idea when he gets the puck is to take it to the net.”
The Grand Forks Border Bruins had balanced offensive production in their two-game split last weekend. At this point of the season, the offensive production is spread with 16 players having a point. More depth offensively was key for Head Coach-GM David Hnatiuk as he assembled this season’s team.
“Last year we kind of leaned on a few guys to score for us,” said Hnatiuk, who will be the head coach for the KIJHL Prospects team again in the BCHC Prospects Game. “So far it has been going well with scoring from three lines on a regular basis and the fourth line has chipped in.”
The Border Bruins have 12 players who have scored a goal, including seven rookies. Jace Koole and Keanan Pearman led the group with two goals each on the weekend.
“They are finding their way in junior hockey and both guys are getting better each week,” said Hnatiuk. “They are getting comfortable, learning the systems and getting rewarded for their efforts.”
Aidan Turner, 19, is making Nelson Leafs Head Coach Briar McNaney very happy with his play. Turner, who played in the USPHL Premier League last season, and the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League the season before, led the team with two goals and five points in three games.
“He has bought into everything that we want to do,” said McNaney, named an assistant coach for the KIJHL Prospects team. “He is an old school guy. We made a couple changes to our lineup to position him to succeed and it looks like it worked out.”
This weekend the Leafs look to snap their four-game losing streak against the 100 Mile House Wranglers, however, McNaney knows the Wrangler are a physical team that is always good in front of their net.
“Their coach Duner (Dale Hladun) has done a great job for years instilling that hard work, no give up mentality. We have to work on a few things in the gritty areas to be able to help out our goalies,” said McNaney, adding they let in too many uncharacteristic goals. “We have definitely stepped up the intensity in practice throughout the week.”
Tie Schumacher had a goal and six assists in the Spokane Braves’ two games last weekend. What Braves Head Coach Darin Schumacher liked about Tie’s performance was that he kept his feet going and moved the puck well to his teammates.
“His line did a great job maintaining offensive zone time and pressure,” said Schumacher. “He is blessed to skate with Dante and Zach, they are very good linemates.”
The trio combined for 20 points, with Zach Baumann having seven and Dante Hughes four goals and six points. The line scored six of the Braves’ 12 goals.
In their 8-3 win over Nelson to earn a split, Schumacher liked that they limited the quality shots Nelson got and the defence delayed the Leafs allowing the forward to get in the play and provide support.
“Nelson is a very fast team and used their speed to produce a lot of odd man rushes,” he said. “Our guys also did a good job preparing for the game led by our leadership group.”
Bill Ohlhausen Division
Playing a “top-notch team” from the Kootenay Conference, Princeton Posse Head Coach-GM Mark Readman wanted to make sure his team was prepared to play the Grand Forks Border Bruins. They earned a 3-1 win as Readman said they talked about a “playoff type atmosphere in that game.”
“It was a really good hockey game. I thought both teams had their chances, had their looks,” he said. “Both goalies played really well.”
The Posse earned their fourth straight win with a 4-2 victory over the North Okanagan Knights in the first of a home-and-home set. Readman said this is a big week for them with three games in four days.
The Knights have a win in their last five games, their most recent loss coming Wednesday to Princeton. In their games this week Head Coach-GM Liam McOnie wants to see his players battle and compete.
“We need to remain focused on doing things the right way,” he said.
“In our game against Fernie, we competed really hard. We did a lot of little things right and were consistent shift to shift.”
McOnie on rookie Gage Parrell, who has four points in four games.
“He is a strong skater who is strong on pucks, is patient and does a lot of little things really well that convert into scoring chances. He’s been demanding of himself and doing a really good job at both ends of the ice.”
Parrell has 11 points in eight games to lead the Knights.
The Summerland Steam earned a 6-5 overtime win over Osoyoos on Friday and a 6-4 victory against 100 Mile House Saturday. Head Coach-GM Morten Kjolby said his team learned from the previous weekend and played with a “high competitive level.”
Captain Keenan Conn leads the charge as Kjolby said he is “like a Duracell Bunny.” (Note, the Duracell Bunny first appeared in 1973 – the Energizer Bunny came in 1988.)
“He’s a guy that brings a lot of energy and a lot of fun and smiles. He plays the same way,” said Kjolby of Conn, who had three goals in two games. “It was nice to see him getting rewarded for his work.”
Kjolby was happy to see goalie Zackery Garnett earn his first junior A win against 100 Mile House, making 25 saves on 29 shots.
“After a bit of a rough start, he settled down and was absolutely fantastic in the last two periods,” said Kjolby. “He’s big (6-3), so calm, collected. He’s a good skater and uses his body to be in the right position. It helps everybody settle down around him.”
The Kelowna Chiefs picked up four of six points from a win and two OT losses. Head Coach Travers Rebman said the OT losses were frustrating because they had one-goal leads heading into the third period. He added their execution wasn’t where it needs to be either which is mostly a mental thing for the players.
Improving the power play (20.4 per cent) is a focus, but has had moments of being very good. Rebman said it’s sticking to their plan and systems to be prepared mentally to capitalize.
On rookie Campbell Pinsonneault, who had four points in three games: “He has been great and is one of those very low maintenance guys, typical Saskatchewan kid. He is very coachable, keeps it simple and tries to play to the game plan. He’s a durable, hard-nosed player who doesn’t try to play with flash. I think his success is coming from that. He goes where you need to score goals and doesn’t dust the puck off, just gets it on net.”
The Osoyoos Coyotes head into the weekend after a pair of losses, including one in overtime to Summerland. In a tough loss to the Sicamous Eagles, Head Coach Ken Law said the team was on its heels the entire game.
Rylan Konecsni had two goals and three points and Law said he is good in all three zones and trusted on the penalty-kill.
“He generates a lot of speed and he kind of drags guys along with him,” said Law. “He plays bigger than he is (5-8, 145 pounds).
Konecsni did exactly what they expected of him.
“He’s a guy that skates and handles the puck well,” said Law. “He’s got a heck of a shot and he likes to find those quiet areas. Against Summerland I thought he was our best player.”
Doug Birks Division
The Sicamous Eagles scored 17 goals in their two wins on the weekend over Chase and Osoyoos. Head Coach Nick Deschenes liked that “we scored a ton of goals.”
Looking deeper though, Deschenes knows they haven’t played consistently to this point and expects some highs and lows – learning curves.
“I feel like our group has a high offensive ceiling and if things connect well, those numbers might be more common than not,” he said.
Hayden Evans and linemate Everett Boutcher scored eight of the Eagles’ 17 goals.
“They are both really smart players and epitomize right now it takes multiple players to score,” said Deschenes. “They are really using each other well. They are seeing the ice, creating opportunities. They complement each other the way they think and play the game. Even Owen Dewitt – all three of them.”
On Wednesday, they earned a 5-4 road win over Chase. They erased a 3-0 first period deficit to score five straight in the second, with Evans netting the winner. He finished with two goals while Duncan Paradis had three points.
The Chase Heat lost to Sicamous after having a 3-0 lead. Jalen Davidson led them with two goals, while goalie Meyer Gaume made 39 saves. In their three games they killed off nine of 13 power plays and their power play struck three times on 14 chances.
Lynden Robertson and Davidson led with six points in four games from Oct. 2 to 12.
The Kamloops Storm return to action for the first time in 10 days and host the Revelstoke Grizzlies to start a five-game home stand. Head Coach Jan Ludvig said they worked on everything, but a lot of time was spent on individual skills.
“Your systems and special teams are only as good as the ability to execute individually,” said Ludvig, who played seven seasons in the NHL with New Jersey and Buffalo from 1982-89, playing in 314 regular season games. “It is a lot of individual skills. We’re big on development.”
As mentioned earlier in the Notebook, Kuchaslo earned his second shutout in a 3-0 win over Columbia Valley, turning aside 28 shots. Head Coach Jiri Novak said they know how good a goalie he is and last season’s KIJHL Top Goalie is proving “he is the best goalie in the league.”
“I hope that he will be our key piece this year. He can help our group build confidence and be better every night,” said Novak.
Kuchalso made several key saves, one in the first period before Jett Patola scored the opening goal, and then denying two breakaway opportunities.
“If we didn’t have these saves, it could go the other way,” said Novak.
Patola, acquired in a trade from the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s Flin Flon Bombers, displayed his skating ability and Novak said he is patient with the puck.
“I do like how he manages the puck in the defensive and offensive zone,” said Novak. “I think he played really well. Once he becomes more familiar with the system and even the pace, I really believe that he can be better and better. It is always kind of hard for new guys to catch the pace.”
100 Mile House Wranglers Head Coach-GM Dale Hladun is seeing his team playing well enough to win, but discipline – leading to penalties has been an issue.
“We’re pretty much taking twice as many penalties as we get power plays. In talking to the kids, basically you take 10 penalties – a full period shorthanded – how are you going to win games,” he said. “The penalty kill guys are working hard. We’re in the hunt. We’re making it the hard way and we’ve got to change that.”
The Wranglers penalty kill has gone 8-for-46 for 82.6 per cent.
Defenceman Memfis Burgeson scored four goals in two games, including a hat-trick against the Summerland Steam.
“I’ve always thought Burgeson could be one of the most exciting offensive defencemen in our conference. He’s starting to really become that,” said Hladun. “He is finding his stride, but he’s also acting like a leader, taking a lot of responsibility. He was definitely one of the shining lights of our team this weekend.”
Other players who impressed were Jackson Altwasser and Kelton Shinde.
Altwasser has been effective on the power play and in the defensive zone.
“He’s really stepped his game up,” said Hladun. “Shinde is starting to become the player I believe he could be. He’s quite an offensive threat. He’s a very powerful, built player (5-10, 190 pounds).”