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A quick look at some early-season surprises

The BC Hockey League is just over a month into its season and there are already some surprises to start the 2021-22 campaign. With plenty of hockey to play and the majority of the teams making the playoffs only time will tell what other surprises may come.

Some of the surprises are those that many didn’t see coming especially after last year’s pod season. All BCHL teams have played 10 games or more, with the exception of the Wenatchee Wild, which has been traveling the province for the last month and makes a return to Washington state on Nov. 11 against the West Kelowna Warriors.

All stats were taken from the BCHL website and are current as of the games on Saturday, Nov. 6.

Team surprises

There are a few teams who are right where they should be this year. The Penticton Vees started the season 5-0 before losing their first game to the still-defending BCHL champion Prince George Spruce Kings. The big surprise in the Interior Conference is the Salmon Arm Silverbacks, who are 9-0-1-0 to start the season and the only team that is unbeaten in regulation.

For the Coastal Conference, the big surprise is the Langley Rivermen. After opting out of the 2020-21 pod season, the Rivermen lead the conference over the Victoria Grizzlies with a 7-1-1-2 record.

The Coquitlam Express and Powell River Kings are surprisingly are at the bottom of the standings when normally they would be closer to the top. Coquitlam won the Mainland Division in 2019-20 before COVID-19 halted the playoffs. Powell River suffered the worst loss in a long time, falling 15-1 to Penticton on Oct. 30.

The Chilliwack Chiefs, after a perfect preseason, sit at a 5-6-0-0 in the middle of the pack in the Coastal Conference. The Chiefs are 0-3 against Langley already this season.

The Merritt Centennials might be on their way to setting a record in futility. So far this season, the Cents are 0-11-0-0 and have only scored 21 goals while allowing more than six per game against.

Individual surprises

As much as there are a handful of team surprises to start the season, some individuals have come out of the gate red hot. Matthew Wood of the Victoria Grizzlies is a 16-year-old from Nanaimo, BC. He is tied for the lead in goals with 20-year-old Simon Tassy of the Salmon Arm Silverbacks. They both have found the back of the net 11 times. Wood is tied for fourth in league scoring with 17 points.

Another 16-year-old making waves is Penticton’s Bradley Nadeau. The St-Fran├žois-de-Madawaska, NB native leads the high-powered Vees with nine goals and 14 points. The question is will Nadeau be able to keep this pace going with the likes of Luc Wilson, brother Josh Nadeau, and Fin Williams closely behind.

On the goaltending front, Alberni Valley Bulldogs’ Hobie Hedquist – who is definitely a member of the all-name team – leads the pack with an impressive 1.83 goals-against average, a .936 save percentage, and only 13 goals against. Hedquist has a 5-1-1 record with three shutouts and has the Bulldogs at third place in the Coastal Conference.

All these discussion points might be superficial by the end of the season depending on if the teams and players in question can continue their starts.

With possible injuries or slumps that could come over the next three months and the unpredictability of sports, there are likely more surprises to come after the All-Star weekend in January and down the stretch drive heading into the playoffs.