BCHL Today: Lewis speaks and Cooper commits to Colonials

BCHL Today is a (near) daily feature providing news and notes from around the junior A world.

Welcome to the Jan. 31, 2018 edition of BCHL Today, a (near) daily look at what’s going on around the league and the junior A world.

We start today with a scholarship as Salmon Arm goaltender Reid Cooper commits to Robert Morris U. and turns a big sack of lemons into lemonade.

The 19 year old Saskatchewan native spent last season and the early part of season with the Coquitlam Express, a franchise that, until recently, was producing some of the worst hockey in recent memory. Cooper’s numbers from last year tell the tale of a bad-team goaltender — 33 appearances with a 5.11 goals-against average and .883 save percentage.

Through 12 appearances this season, Cooper had the save percentage up to .905 (decent) and the GAA down to 3.94 (still really bad).

Then the Silverbacks came calling, acquiring the stopper Nov. 13 in exchange for future considerations.

You could make an argument that Cooper actually went from the frying pan into the fire with the move, joining one of the few teams more defensively challenged than the Express. Only Alberni Valley and Cowichan have given up more goals this year than Salmon Arm.

But Cooper’s kept his head up the entire time and now finds himself playing on arguably the hottest team in the league.

The Silverbacks have gone 8-2-0-1 in 2018, and Cooper has six wins in his last seven starts.

The scholarship is his reward for perseverance. He’ll jump to the NCAA ranks next season for a Colonials team that plays in the Atlantic Hockey Association against the likes of Bentley, Air Force, AIC, Army West Point, Canisius, Niagara, RIT, Sacred Heart, Mercyhurst and Holy Cross.

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One of three games on the BCHL sched tonight involves the Powell River Kings, who are on the road for a tough, tough matchup vs the Wenatchee Wild.

It’s less than 48 hours since the Kings shocked the BCHL world by firing longtime head coach/general manager Kent Lewis, and as I suggested yesterday, the reasons for the dismissal had to go far beyond mere wins and losses.

Lewis was on a contract that was due to expire at the end of the season, and the Powell River board has kept the reasons for the firing to themselves. Mostly. Talking to the Powell River Peak yesterday, board president Rob Villani said the team needs a full time head coach/general manager. Apparently, Lewis was operating on a part-time basis, which honestly doesn’t seem to have hurt the on-ice results. Though Villani also told the Peak that “The team has underperformed for the talent we have,” the Kings are still second in the Island division with a very respectable record of 23-15-5-4.

If that’s underperforming, that’s a problem a lot of teams would like to have.

The Peak also spoke to Lewis yesterday, who said the following.

“I don’t know what the feeling is like when you have the carpet ripped from under your feet,” said Lewis. “You conk your head, then you get punched in the gut and you take a knife out of your back all at the same time.

“I wanted to coach this team right through to the end of the season and the playoffs. I’m obviously very upset that there couldn’t have been more lines of communication to fix whatever was deemed to be the problem.”

Assistant coach Brock Sawyer is running the bench for the rest of the season.

– A side note before moving on, Arch Ecker of the Wild says that defenceman Slava Demin will be playing in his 100th BCHL game tonight.

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I talked last week about three BCHL alums being nominated for a 2018 Hockey Humanitarian Award.

One of those was former Langley Riverman Mitch McLain, who now captains the Falcons of Bowling Green State.

Gary Ahuja, an excellent sports writer for the Langley Times, followed up with McLain and wrote a great profile piece.

Check it out here.

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The Chilliwack Chiefs did something pretty cool at last Sunday’s game vs the Prince George Spruce Kings.

Members of the White Spot Kids Club shadowed game production staff before and during the game.

One young girl followed Alexandria McFarlane as she did in-game announcements/promos from the bowl

Some worked as bench attendants and another was up in the press box watching PA announced Dave Mawhinney do his thing.

Dave, who is a true pro, even let her fire off a few announcements.

It was a fantastic and well executed idea. It’s the first time in 10 years I’ve seen this happen and I hope they do it again.

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The Prince George Spruce Kings are in great shape this season, leading the Mainland division standings.

And they’ve just added a piece that will help them next season, securing the commitment of forward Layne Sniher.

The Calgary native has been playing at home this year, skating for the Calgary Buffaloes in the Alberta Midget AAA Hockey League. According to eliteprospects.com he stands five-foot-nine and weighs 154 pounds and he’s fifth in league scoring with 14 goals and 40 points in 30 games.

The Kings are happy to have him.

“Layne has shown on the ice his willingness to get to hard areas to be a very effective offensive contributor,” head coach Adam Maglio said in a team press release. “Off the ice Layne exemplifies characteristics in what we value to be a Spruce King player in which he will fit well into our culture and dressing room.”

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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