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BCHL Power Rankings: Penticton continues to set the pace

Christmas has come and gone and the new year is just around the corner. With that, BC Hockey League teams have begun to reassemble in preparation of getting back on the ice this weekend — and as early as Wednesday night for some teams.

The Christmas break seemed to come at a good time for the league and its players, as things were really starting to heat up and intensify as we approached the holiday season. We saw a few big divisional duels as the pre-Christmas schedule winded down, which also included some underdogs upsetting their big-dog rivals.

A perfect example of this was the Cowichan Valley Capitals beating the Clippers in Nanaimo on Dec. 17, in a game that featured 96 minutes in penalties and resulted in six games worth of suspensions from the BCHL Department of Player Safety.

All that aside, December was a highly competitive month for the league, and as far as the standings are concerned, we continued to learn what teams really are as we head for the dog days of January. The top four teams remain the same from my last power rankings on Nov. 30.

The cluster of teams in the middle of the pack essentially stays the same, although Chilliwack started to shoot up the Coastal Conference standings. Likewise, the stragglers at the bottom of the standings remain relatively unchanged, however we’ve seen the Wenatchee Wild elevate themselves of late.

In addition to Chilliwack and Wenatchee moving up, there is some additional movement up and down the standings. Here are the current BCHL power rankings as the Christmas break comes to a close.

1. Penticton Vees

Record: 20-3-0-1 (.854%)

Previous rank: No. 1

Prior to losing the last game before the holiday break, Penticton had won 12 of its last 13 contests. Included in those 12 wins was a 10-game unbeaten streak between Nov. 10 and Dec. 10.

In addition to leading the BCHL standings, the Vees also continue to lead the league in goals-for, goals-against, and goal differential. Their 124 goals this season are 26 more than the next closest team. 

2. Salmon Arm Silverbacks

Record: 19-4-1-0 (.813%)

Previous: No. 2

Much like Penticton, the Silverbacks continued their strong momentum through the first half of the season. They’ve won eight of their last nine games to maintain second overall at the Christmas break.

Salmon Arm also continues to lead the league in penalty killing, with an 85.7 percent success rate while down a player.

3. Langley Rivermen 

Record: 17-5-1-2 (.740%)

Previous: No. 3 

The Rivermen continue to be the top team in the Coastal Conference, despite some hungry teams chasing them down.

Langley won back-to-back home games before the break, and is 7-3-0 in its last 10 games.

4. West Kelowna Warriors 

Record: 16-9-0-0 (.640%)

Previous: No. 4

Since winning seven straight contests between Oct. 29 and Nov. 13, West Kelowna has won just five of its last 12 games.

Included in the Warriors’ rough stretch was a four-game losing streak, but they did manage to pick up wins against the two teams ahead of them in the Interior Conference standings.

5. Alberni Valley Bulldogs 

Record: 15-8-3-0 (.635%)

Previous: No. 7

The Bulldogs are the first team on this list to experience a change from the previous rankings, as they jump two spots this time around. 

The Dogs rode a three-game win streak into the Christmas break, and are 7-2-1 in their last 10 contests.

6. Nanaimo Clippers 

Record: 17-10–0-0 (.630%)

Previous: No. 5

Nanaimo is just 5-5-0 in its last 10 games and lost both of its contests on the final weekend before the break.

The Clippers have relied on some big performances from their star players, and are the second-best special teams club in the Coastal Conference.

7. Chilliwack Chiefs 

Record: 13-8-0-1 (.614%)

Previous: No. 8

I just mentioned that the Clippers have the second-best special teams units in the conference — they are only second to Chilliwack.

The Chiefs lead the Coast in power play and penalty killing and also rank second in the entire BCHL in both. Chilliwack went 7-2-1 in its last 10 games to crawl back into Coastal Conference contention.

8. Prince George Spruce Kings 

Record: 13-9-1-0 (.587%)

Previous: No. 6

Prince George is riding a couple of key stats into the second half of the season, owning the league’s top power play at 31.3 percent, and the second-fewest goals-against with 57.

The Spruce Kings have lost three straight games, but they are 5-4-1 in their last 10.

9. Cranbrook Bucks 

Record: 13-10-1-0 (.563%)

Previous: No. 10

The Bucks entered the holiday break on a three-game winning streak, which included beating their Kootenay rivals from Trail in their last two games to leapfrog the Smoke Eaters in the standings.

Cranbrook went through a rough stretch where it seemed to lose its identity as a stingy defensive team, going 2-5-1 in its eight games prior to the three-game win streak.

10. Trail Smoke Eaters 

Record: 12-10-1-0 (.543%)

Previous: No. 9

As just mentioned above, the Smoke Eaters lost their last two games to Cranbrook — which extended their losing streak to three games overall.

While Trail’s last three games mirror Cranbrook’s, so does the previous stretch, as the Smoke Eaters went 7-3-0 in the previous 10 games before losing three straight. 

11. Surrey Eagles 

Record: 13-12-0-0 (.520%)

Previous: No. 12

Despite losing its last three games before Christmas, Surrey has been on a steady incline up the Coastal Conference standings in recent weeks. 

Prior to their last three losses, the Eagles won eight of their previous nine games, which included a five-game winning streak earlier this month.

12. Victoria Grizzlies 

Record: 13-14-0-0 (.481%)

Previous: No. 11

While watching teams like Chilliwack and Surrey soar up the Coastal Conference standings, Victoria has trickled in the other direction, really struggling to find consistency this season.

The Grizzlies are 8-14-0 since opening the season with five straights wins, and just 2-8-0 in their last 10 games.

13. Wenatchee Wild 

Record: 8-10-4–1 (.457%)

Previous: No. 16

Wenatchee makes the biggest jump in these latest power rankings, thanks in large part to three straight home wins against the struggling Merritt Centennials. The Wild have won five straight overall, including four against Merritt. 

Part of Wenatchee’s resurgence is a big jump in its special teams play. The Wild own the second-best powerplay in the BCHL at 31 percent, and the fourth-best penalty kill at 82.9 percent.

14. Powell River Kings

Record: 9-14-2-0 (.400%)

Previous: No. 13 

The Kings continue to struggle to find any consistency this season, as they’ve gone just 2-8-1 in 11 games since winning four straight from Nov. 6 – 18.

Their 126 goals-against and -47 goal differential trail only Merritt for worst in the league.  

15. Vernon Vipers

Record: 7-12-3-3 (.400%)

Previous: No. 15

The Vipers played a little better of late, but they’ve gone just 3-6-1 in their last 10, as it has been a difficult campaign overall.

The lone bright spot for Vernon would be its 6-6-1 record in 13 home games, as the statistics beyond that don’t paint a pretty picture.

16. Coquitlam Express 

Record: 7-14-1-2 (.354%)

Previous: No. 14

Despite beating Powell River 6-0 in the last game before the holiday break, this season has seen a rough ride for the Express.

Coquitlam is 3-6-1 in its last 10 games and sits near the bottom of the league in most statistical categories.  

17. Cowichan Valley Capitals 

Record: 7-18-0-1 (.288%)

Previous: No. 17

The Capitals continue to play the role of Coastal Conference cellar-dwellers and sit just one spot ahead of Merritt in the basement of the BCHL. 

Cowichan has played better of late, however, going 4-5-1 in its last 10 games and winning three of its last four.

18. Merritt Centennials

Record: 1-20-1-0 (.068%)

Previous: No. 18

After winning just one of their 22 games prior to the Christmas break, the Centennials continue to sit last in the league. 

Merritt made a coaching change just before Christmas and hopes that a more experienced Curtis Toneff can help right the ship.