KIJHL Notebook: Neil Murdoch battles


It’s the last week of the KIJHL regular season, and while all of the playoff spots have been solidified, there is still positioning to fight for. This will make for an exciting week of action, especially in the Neil Murdoch division. 

The Grand Forks Border Bruins have a two-point lead on Beaver Valley and Nelson, who all have two games remaining. On Friday, Beaver Valley visits Castlegar, while Grand Forks and Nelson face off against each other. Heading into the weekend, Beaver Valley has 13 wins, seven losses, an overtime and shootout loss against divisional opponents. Castlegar meanwhile has eight wins, 11 losses and three shootout losses. The Nitehawks have won four of their seven games against the Rebels.

After being winless in their previous 10 games against Nelson and 6-17-1-0 in the last five seasons, the Border Border Bruins have won five of the seven games against the Leafs. The Border Bruins have 12 wins, eight losses and one overtime and shootout loss in their division.

The Leafs have 11 wins, eight losses, two overtime losses and a shootout loss.

On Saturday, the Rebels take on the Border Bruins in Grand Forks, and the Border Bruins have won four of the seven games. At the Jack Goddard Memorial Arena, the Border Bruins have won 15 of 21 games. Nelson visits Beaver Valley and the Nitehawks have four wins in seven games, with the Leafs having won two of the last three games.At the Fruitvale – Beaver Valley Arena, the Nitehawks have won 15 of 21 games.

In the Eddie Mountain division, Fernie can still take third place from Golden as they trail by two points with two games remaining. In the Doug Birks division, Kamloops is two points ahead of the Sicamous Eagles for second and both have two games remaining.

These should be great games for people to watch. If you can’t make it to the rink, then take in the action on HockeyTV.

Eddie Mountain Division

The Columbia Valley Rockies won the regular season Eddie Mountain division title for the first time in 19 years. They secured the division with two games remaining and are Kootenay Conference regular season champs. Rockies head coach-GM Emery Olauson said accomplishing this was a goal from the start.

“I think it was a lofty goal, but I give a lot of credit to our guys. They took themselves seriously and 42 games later, I feel really proud,” said Olauson. “It was a challenging season and our division is extremely competitive and they have got objective No. 1 done. There is a lot more to do.”

The Rockies recently signed five-foot-11, 178-pound defenceman Damon Byers after losing Blake Hiltermann to a season-ending injury. Olauson said it was a major blow to lose Hiltermann. Byers is a player that Olauson has been watching for a while.

“He won a championship last season with the Estevan Bruins, and started the season in Humboldt,” he said. “One thing our team was a little short on was 20-year-olds, players that have been through the playoff grind. There is no better guy to add to our group with the injury to Hiltermann than Byers who played in the Centennial Cup. We are going to rely on him for his experience. He’s a good two-way defenceman who adds a veteran presence and leadership to the back end.”

Cam Reid of the Kimberley Dynamiters is three points behind Hunter Harwood of the Osoyoos Coyotes for the KIJHL lead in points by defencemen. Reid has 40 points in 39 games and leads all defenceman with 15 goals. When asked about that points race, Reid says he doesn’t think about points much.

“I try not to, it’s a little bit distracting sometimes,” he said. “I’m more about helping the team win and getting a win with the guys. The team is really good this year, so they help me out a lot. I’m setting them up, they are setting me up, it’s working out really well this year.”

Reid says his offensive improvement comes from having played in the league for a few years and learning how it works, plus maturity. Should Reid finish first in points he would be proud of that.

“It’s not like a huge deal, but it’s definitely an accomplishment,” he said.

The Golden Rockets capped their regular season with six wins in their last 10 games and finished with 25 wins. In his last seven games, Levi Lamotte has a goal and nine assists for 10 points, while defenceman Liam Furlong had three goals and five assists. Goalie Levi Hall had a 3.95 GAA with an .892 SP in five games.
Ethan MacDuff of the Fernie Ghostriders joined Luke Chakrabarti and Kayde Kinaschuk in reaching 100 career KIJHL points this season. MacDuff is now at 101 and reached 100 against the Columbia Valley Rockies. MacDuff has three goals and seven assists in his last four games.
With 38 goals, Creston Valley Thunder Cats forward Luke Chakrabarti is just two shy of reaching 40, which is something he set as a goal at the start. Chakrabarti said it’s a “very hard goal to achieve.”

“That would be huge for me to hit because it’s a big mark to have a 40-goal season in a 44-game schedule, especially because I missed two of the games.”

Chakrabarti feels he has been playing really well and head coach-GM Brad Tobin puts him and his line out when they need a goal.

“I think we do a good job,” said Chakrabarti, adding he and Blake Anderson have a lot of chemistry. “We’ve had three centremen now, but they have come on and done their part and helped us produce.”

Winning the KIJHL scoring championship wasn’t a goal at the start, but he wanted to be part of that group that includes last year’s leading scorer Jack Henderson of the Osoyoos Coyotes, who is four points behind him.

Tobin says that he has liked Chakrabarti’s speed and energy on a shift-to-shift basis, which separates him from many players in the league.

“He wants to score every time he steps on the ice,” says Tobin. “It’s been very enjoyable watching him produce consistently throughout the season and have an opportunity to win a scoring title.”

Neil Murdoch Division
The Grand Forks Border Bruins picked up their 24th win on the weekend against the Princeton Posse. Their 24 wins is the most in 30 years and their third winningest season in franchise history. 

Spencer Horning and Karsten Gorrill each had five points in five games, while rookie Russell Kosec had four assists. Ethan Shebansky had a 2.89 GAA with a .914 SP.

In the last six games, Nathan Dominici has led the Beaver Valley Nitehawks with three goals and two assists. Rookies Boris Hristov and Tyson Tokarz each have three points. In goal, Nathan Presley had a 2.64 GAA with a .939 SP.
Nelson Leafs interim head coach Briar McNaney wants to start seeing his team play playoff hockey in their final two games.

“I don’t want to see them just trying to flip a switch in Game 1,” he said. “We have two divisional opponents who we’re realistically going to be playing here in the playoffs.”

McNaney is seeing that playoff mode from his players over the last few games. He added that their 8-1 loss to Columbia Valley “really flicked a switch in our dressing room that was much needed.”

McNaney feels that his group is getting into their groove in practice and during games. The overall attitude and effort from the players has impressed the Leafs coach.

“That Columbia Valley game, the boys got humbled a little bit and really needed to pick up their socks and I think they’ve done so,” he said. “It was good that it happened to us.”

Johnny Carmichael and Ryan Quast led with six points in five games, while rookie Dawson Davis had five points. Goalie Jasper Tait has a 2.59 GAA with a .924 SP.

Rookies Ravnoor Randhawa and Jace Kramer led the Castlegar Rebels with four points in four games. Rookie goalie Matteo Hueston had 71 saves on 74 shots for a 1.50 GAA  and a .959 SP.
Bill Ohlhausen Division
Dayton Nelson had seven goals and two assists in five games for the Princeton Posse. Nelson is on a six-game goal scoring streak with eight goals. Rookie Brennan Watterson had three goals and two assists, while Peyton Trzaska had a 2.00 GAA and a .941 SP in two games.
Osoyoos Coyotes defenceman Hunter Harwood leads all KIJHL blueliners with 43 points in 36 games. He could potentially finish at the top depending on what Dynamiters defenceman Cam Reid does. Harwood says finishing at the top isn’t on his mind. 

“I’m just thinking about the playoffs right now,” he says. “We’re kind of low on bodiesn and we are just hoping to get some guys back and just looking forward to the playoffs. If it comes down to it, and I do come first, it’s an extra achievement. I’m just looking to win for the team.”

Harwood feels he has been up and down with his play.

“I’ve got to work on being more consistent and that comes with guys being out of the lineup,” he says. “We’re hurting pretty bad, but we’re getting a bunch of guys back soon. Hopefully we start a little roll here and take it into the playoffs.”

In their past six games, Coletyn Boyarski and Ethan McKinley have piled up the points. Boyarski had seven goals and five assists, and is on an 11-game point streak with 23 points, while McKinley had four goals and six assists. Rookie Garrett Kurtz had a goal and an assist. Goalie Kenny Gerow had a 2.20 GAA and a .929 SP in three games.

Matthew Johnston had five goals and eight assists in four games for the North Okanagan Knights. Rookie Carson Devine had two goals and five assists in four games. In three games, rookie goalie Austin Seibel had a 1.33 GAA and a .963 SP.
Summerland Steam head coach-GM Mark MacMillan said it’s been an interesting season for his team, primarily due to the injury troubles they have faced. With seven players unavailable for their game Tuesday against the Knights, the Steam used four affiliate players. 

“We have seen some guys do things that maybe they wouldn’t be able to do,” he said. “Playoffs are always a new game and hopefully we can get healthy.”

MacMillan added the injury issues has resulted in players getting opportunities, such as power-play time, and those new opportunities help them develop their skills.

“The big thing for us in the short term is hopefully it helps us in the playoffs. Playoffs is always a different game.”

In the last five games, rookie Kent Moors led with five goals and two assists. Goalie Rogan Bacon had a 2.17 GAA and a .915 SP in three games.

Rookie Max Jugnauth, Jaxson Rebman and Caleb Genest led the Kelowna Chiefs with four points in five games. In three games, goalie Brendan Smith had a 4.02 GAA with a .906 SP.
Doug Birks Division
Carter Bettenson led the Revelstoke Grizzlies with four points in four games, while rookie Daniel Wittenberg had three points. In two games, Jozef Kuchaslo had a 1.51 GAA with a .951 SP.
Ryan Larsen and rookie Jacob Hufty led the Kamloops Storm with five points in five games. In four games, goalie Colton Phillips-Watts had a 2.79 GAA with a .913 SP.
A trio of rookies – Reid Tisdale, Noah Edstrom, and Warren Roberts-Lee led the Sicamous Eagles with three points in four games. Goalie Gage Reimer had a 3.62 GAA with an .860 SP.
Nathan Bohmer led the 100 Mile House Wranglers with three goals and six points in four games, with rookie Jack Mulder collecting five points. Goalie Royce Watson had a 3.60 GAA with a .909 SP.
Rookies Kaleb Preymak and Jalen Davidson led the Chase Heat with four points in five games. Goalie Meyer Gaume had a 2.96 GAA and a .930 SP in four games.