BC Intercollegiate Hockey League

BCHL alumni help VIU Mariners capture BCIHL title

With British Columbia Hockey League alumni playing key roles, the Vancouver Island University Mariners captured their first British Columbia Intercollegiate Hockey League championship on Mar. 3.

In the championship tilt against the University of Victoria, the Mariners triumphed 6-2. Logan Kurki, who played a few games in the BCHL with Coquitlam, lit the lamp twice in the final. Some of the other ex-BCHLers who contributed to the win were captain Gavin Rauser and Caleb Franklin, who each scored, and goalie Derek Krall, who made 30 saves. VIU was the runner-up in the past three seasons, so what allowed the Mariners to prevail?

“Without question, it came down to the chemistry of our players and coaches,” said VIU Men’s Hockey general manager Andrew Riddell. “I know it is cliché to say, but this was without question one of the tightest locker rooms I have had the pleasure of working with.”

“We had 26 best friends playing for each other every practice, workout, and game. So not only did we have a highly skilled and determined group, but we had 26 best friends all working towards one goal. There were a lot of ups and downs to begin the season, but these guys worked as a group and I believe some of that adversity early on allowed them to grow closer as a team.”

The Mariners posted a 17-3 record during the regular season. In the league tournament in Logan Lake, B.C., they beat the University of Victoria twice — 4-3 and 6-2. The VIU squad built its strong roster with alumni from various junior leagues, including the BCHL.

“The BCHL is the premier junior league in Canada,” Riddell said. “Any time a player joins your program from a BCHL team you know a very driven and well-coached player (has) just elevated your program.”

Rauser and Krall play big roles

27-year-old Rauser played for the then-junior B Campbell River Storm in his hometown before suiting up for the BCHL’s Powell River Kings for three seasons. The forward joined the Mariners for 2018-19. With the COVID-19 pandemic keeping the team off the ice in 2020-21, Rauser recently completed his sixth and final season with the Mariners. He was third on the team in scoring with 35 points, including 14 goals, in 18 games.

“I have had the honor of working with some mature players over my short time managing hockey teams but none more mature than Gavin,” Riddell said. “One of the greatest parts of university sport is we are working with mature men who know what they want in life, and working each day to achieve their career aspirations all while playing a sport they grew up loving.”

“Gavin was able to bring a very calm demeanor to the game, which was excellent for our large group of first-year players to learn from. It also helps that Gavin never took a single shift off, so when your captain is playing hard each shift all the rest of the guys followed his lead.”

Krall, a 25-year-old, completed his third season with the Mariners in 2023-24. He joined the team after playing NCAA Division I at the University of Albama-Huntsville in 2020-21. Krall spent time in the BCHL with the Powell River Kings and Penticton Vees. He also played in the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League’s Nanaimo Buccaneers. This past season Krall had a 3.44 goals-against average for VIU.

“No one is going to play a perfect game, there will be mistakes made,” Riddell said. “But, your last line of defense is your goalie, and when you have Derek Krall as your goalie you can play a bit more relaxed out there knowing if (or) when that puck is given up, Derek will be right there to bail our guys out. It also helps that Derek plays his best when the big games are on the line. He is a winner, no question about it.”

“Further, Derek was a mentor to our other goalies on the team. His preparation is next level before and during games, and he always shared this with our other goalies, which instills a lot of confidence for our program moving forward with the returning goalies.”

BCHLers help the Mariners

Kurki paced the Mariners in scoring this season with 50 points over 17 games. Kurki played two BCHL contests in 2018-19 as an affiliated player with the Coquitlam Express and then six with the Mainland Division squad the next season before heading to Humboldt of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.

He played parts of three seasons in the SJHL before capping his junior career with the Comox Valley Glacier Kings of the VIJHL in 2021-22. He was selected this season as the BCIHL’s Rookie of the Year and a First Team BCIHL All-Star.

Franklin also played in the SJHL, spending his final two junior seasons with the Flin Flon Bombers. Before that, the forward played in the BCHL for the Cowichan Valley Capitals and the VIJHL’s Kerry Park Islanders. In his third season with VIU, Franklin was the team’s sixth top scorer with 25 points in 19 games.

Alternate captain Ethan Jones was the Mariners’ fourth-leading scorer in his second season with his hometown college team, posting 33 points over 13 games. He was also named to the BCIHL Second All-Star team. Jones spent time in the BCHL with the Nanaimo Clippers, Alberni Valley Bulldogs, and Powell River. He also played for the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s Fort McMurray Oil Barons and the VIJHL’s Storm.

Blake Power collected seven assists over 14 games for the Mariners. The Port Alberni, B.C. product played for BCHL’s Bulldogs and Clippers as well as his hometown Port Alberni Bombers of the VIJHL.

In addition to their players who are BCHL alumni, the Mariners included other players who spent time in BC junior leagues, including BCIHL MVP Brock Palmer. The BCIHL First Team All-Star led the team with 26 goals in 19 games and had 40 points. He played his junior career with the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League’s Kimberley Dynamiters.

Other Mariners who spent time in BC junior leagues include:

Tyson Lautard Nelson Leafs (KIJHL)

Jordan ReaKamloops Storm, Revelstoke Grizzlies (KIJHL) / Dawson Creek Canucks (NWJHL)

Noah DanforthKelowna Chiefs, Kimberley Dynamiters (KIJHL)

Austin Daniels – Kimberley Dynamiters (KIJHL)

Will NormanNanaimo Buccaneers, Oceanside Generals (VIJHL)

Austin Daniels – Kimberley Dynamiters (KIJHL)

Sebastien Archambault Chase Heat, Sicamous Eagles, Revelstoke Grizzlies (KIJHL)

Dylan Franklin – Campbell River Storm, Victoria Cougars (VIJHL)

Wyatt FournierCreston Valley Thunder Cats (KIJHL)