BCHL Today: Surrey Eagles in the driver’s seat and Ethan Martini takes a seat

BCHL Today is a (near) daily look at what’s going on around the league and the junior A world.

Welcome to the March 20, 2018 edition of BCHL Today, a (near) daily look at what’s going on around the league and the junior A world.

We had two games in the league last night and let’s start in Surrey where the Eagles trounced Prince George 5-1 to take a 2-1 lead in their second-round series.

Jeffrey Stewart scored a pair for Surrey with John Wesley, Jackson Ross and Aaron White adding singles. The Eagles put 38 shots on Spruce Kings stopper Evan DeBrouwer, who has now turned in two straight shaky games. DeBrouwer posted a .842 save percentage in game two and a .868 save percentage last night, and his overall playoff numbers (2.14 GAA and .913 SP) are heading in the wrong direction.

Away from the stifling confines of the Rolling Mix Concrete Arena, Surrey was able to A) skate and B) draw penalties.

Prince George was flagged for seven penalties and Surrey cashed in with three power play goals (Stewart with two and Ross). The lone Spruce King goal came on the power play, with Ben Brar beating Eagle stopper Mario Cavaliere. Since getting shelled in game one, Cavaliere has bounced back with save percentages of .958 and .968 and he is winning the goalie duel versus DeBrouwer.

This series resumes tonight with a 7 p.m. start at the South Surrey Arena.

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Victoria scrambled back into their second round series with a big 3-1 road win last night in Powell River.

Back in net after riding the bench in game two, Grizzly goalie Kurtis Chapman turned in a first star performance with 35 saves.

At the other end, Matteo Paler-Chow, who was just named the BCHL Player of the Week, had another solid game. The Vancouver native stopped 30 of 32 pucks, with the third Victoria goal going into an empty net in the final minute.

In seven playoff starts, Paler-Chow’s save percentages have been .933, .943, .938, .882, .968, .951 and .938.

Cameron Thompson had two goals for Victoria. The 19 year old is quietly up to seven goals in the postseason, the second highest total in the BCHL behind Surrey’s Desi Burgart (nine). Marty Westhaver also scored for Victoria with Ben Berard scoring the long Powell River goal.

I am still wondering about Alex Newhook. The 17 year old has three goals and seven points in 10 playoff games. Remove a two goal, three point night in game five of the Alberni Valley series and the Newfoundland native is at 9-1-3-4.

This is a kid who had 66 points in 45 regular season games, operating at a 1.47 points-per-game pace. Seeing his numbers drop so precipitously brings back those questions about how healthy he is and whether rushing back from that late-season wrist injury has hampered his production.

Then again, it could be a team-wide offensive malaise as he’s not the only big gun on Victoria to be struggling.

This series resumes tonight, with a 7 p.m. start at the Hap Parker Arena.

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Penticton is in Trail tonight for game three of their second-round series, and the Smoke Eaters will be without the services of defenceman Ethan Martini.

The Trail native has been suspended five games for a dangerous blow(s) to the head to Penticton forward Jack Barnes. I attached the video to yesterday’s column and you can see it again below. It appears that Martini cross-checks Barnes into his own goaltender (Adam Marcoux) and then takes exception to Barnes making contact with Marcoux.

From the long-distance view of the video, he seems to slam Barnes into the glass behind the Trail net and deliver several shots to the back of the Vees’ head.

Someone I was in contact with yesterday called it “honestly, one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen in a junior hockey game.”

I’ve been around long enough to see a lot of dumb things, and yes, this wasn’t smart, particularly because the ensuing major penalty led to two Penticton goals that broke open a tight game. Martini was trying to walk that fine line between tough and dirty, and fell off on the wrong side. Chances are this ends his season, because it’s unlikely his Smoke Eaters rally to win this series.

Hopefully Martini, who is only 17 years old, takes a look at the tape of this incident and recognizes that you can play tough and be hard to play against without crossing the line.

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Jumping back to Victoria now with scholarship news. Forward Dayne Finnson has committed to the University of Alabama-Huntsville for the 2018-19 season.

The 20 year old is finishing up his second season in the BCHL.

Dayne Finnson (right) of the Victoria Grizzlies has secured an NCAA Div-I scholarship to the University of Alabama-Huntsville. KYLE ROBINSON PHOTO

As a rookie in 2016-17 the Manitoba native produced four goals and 22 points in 58 games. He upped his numbers to 56-5-36-41 this season and makes the NCAA leap with a UAH Chargers squad that plays in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA). Alabama-Huntsville was seventh in the 10 team league this season with a 10-16-2-1 record in conference play. They were 12-23-2 overall with a roster that is light on BCHL imports.

The Charger roster had two this season, former Chilliwack goalie Mark Sinclair and former Alberni Valley blueliner Kurt Gosselin.

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The Langley Rivermen have had a couple alums jump into the pro ranks over the last week.

Mitch McLain wrapped up a four year run at Bowling Green State U and signed on with the American Hockey League’s Iowa Wild. The 24 year old debuted last Saturday in a 2-1 win over the Grand Rapids Griffins and scored his first pro goal yesterday (Monday) in a 5-2 loss to the Rockford IceHogs.

Iowa has back to back home games against Grand Rapids Friday and Saturday followed by a Sunday road game versus the Milwaukee Admirals.

See theahl.com for more info.

McLain spent the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons in Langley, wearing the captain’s C in his second campaign.

Meanwhile, a former Rivermen teammate of McLain’s has signed an amateur tryout agreement with the AHL’s San Diego Gulls.

Defenceman Chris Forney just finished his fourth and final season at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell. He has yet to suit up for the Gulls.

And Matt Ustaski, who skated alongside both McLain and Forney during the 2013-14 BCHL season, has made the jump to pro hockey with the ECHL’s Jacksonville IceMen. The 23 year old has played six games for Jacksonville so far, scoring three goals. The University of Wisconsin alumn collected his first pro goal March 11 in a game against the South Carolina Stingrays, and Ustaski has lit the lamp in three of his last four games.

Ustaski has a knack for putting pucks in nets by any means possible.

His IceMen are on the road this weekend for games Friday and Saturday against the Greenville Swamp Rabbits.

See echl.com for more info.

Eric Welsh is the sports editor at the Chilliwack Progress and has been covering junior A hockey in B.C. and Alberta since 2003.

Email eric.welsh@theprogress.com

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