BCHL Today: Powell River Kings fire coach/GM Kent Lewis

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

Welcome to the Jan. 30, 2018 edition of BCHL Today, a (near) daily look at what’s going on around the league and the junior A world.

There’s an obvious starting point this morning, and that’s in Powell River where the Kings have fired head coach/general manager Kent Lewis.

The team issued a statement yesterday that quotes Powell River board president Rob Villani saying, “We (the Board) just felt this course of action was in the best interests of the Powell River Kings moving forward. It was an incredibly difficult decision.”

I bet.

Not often do you see teams making this sort of change so late in the season, and you certainly don’t see it with a team that is two points out of first place in its division. The case for firing Lewis can’t be based on on-ice success, with Powell River holding a 23-15-5-4 record. The Kings have lost three straight, but games against Prince George (4-2), Penticton (4-1) and Nanaimo (4-3 in OT) were competitive, and none of those teams are cupcakes.

Powell River is 4-4-1-1 this month, so it’s not like they’re cratering.

Lewis has been connected with the organization for more than two decades in various capacities and oversaw some of the Kings’ greatest seasons, including seven Coastal conference titles. He hit the 500 win mark as a head coach way back in 2011 and has only continued to add W’s since.

I guess what I’m saying is, on the surface this just doesn’t make any sense and there must be something big that happened behind the scenes.

We’re lacking context.

Assistant coach Brock Sawyer is taking over as bench boss for a Wednesday night road game in Wenatchee and he’ll hold that role for the rest of the season, with Kyle Bodie staying on as his assistant.

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Catching up on some scholarship news, Salmon Arm forward Rhett Kingston has committed to the University of Western Michigan Broncos, and will jump to the NCAA ranks next season.

The native of Okotoks, Alberta has made a big leap offensively in his third junior A season.

Last year, with the Cowichan Valley Capitals, Kingston collected 16 goals and 30 points in 55 games, for an average of .55 points per game. In 44 games with the Silverbacks this year, the 20 year old has 21 goals and 41 points, for an average of .93 points per game.

Not only is he an excellent hockey player, but Kingston is also a top-notch movie reviewer.

An interesting side note here. Andy Murray is the head coach at Western Michigan. I haven’t heard that name in a long time, not since he was fired as head coach of the National Hockey League’s St. Louis Blues seven years ago.

He coached the Blues from 2006-10. Prior to that he was the head coach of the Los Angeles Kings for seven years, 480 games and 215 wins. His NHL resume goes back far enough where he was an assistant coach for the Minnesota North Stars from 1990-92.

Internationally, he has three gold medals coaching Canada at the IIHF World Hockey Championships and six coaching Canada at the Spengler Cup.

In short, Kingston’s getting a pretty good coach.

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Sticking with scholarships, Surrey Eagle Desi Burgart is the latest in a long list of BCHLers who’ve gone to play for the Quinnipiac Bobcats.

Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold has been a friend to the BCHL, and BCHL skaters have powered a program that has been a perennial contender in the East Coast Athletic Conference over the last five seasons. Quinnipiac has two Frozen Four appearances in the last five years.

This year’s team is 9-12-4 overall with a roster that includes BCHL grads Matthew Creamer (Nanaimo), Chase Priskie (Salmon Arm), Luke Shiplo (Vernon), Landon Smith (Salmon Arm), Nick Jermain (Merritt), Craig Martin (Trail), Scott Davidson (Chilliwack), Bo Pieper (Coquitlam) and Andrew Shortridge (Vernon).

Burgart, a North Vancouver native, is finishing up his third BCHL season and his second campaign with the Eagles.

The 19 year old forward has good size (six-foot-one and 181 pounds according to eliteprospects.com) and has produced 17 goals and 39 points in 43 games.

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When the Penticton Vees announced player signings it’s best to pay attention, because chances are they’ll end up A) leading the BCHL in scoring or B) being an NHL draft pick or C) playing a key role on a Vees championship team.

So file away the name Henri Schreifels for future reference.

The 17 year old California native is playing for the Anaheim Junior Ducks this season in the Tier 1 Elite Hockey League. He leads that circuit with 52 points, including 25 goals, in 32 games and will join Penticton for the 2018-19 BCHL season.

You may be saying to yourself, Henri Schreifels is from California?

Answer = Yes. According to the Vees press release he is a dual citizen with Swiss descent on his mother’s side.

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Heading back to Salmon Arm to finish up, Tanner Campbell has been named the BCHL Player of the Week after putting up eight points in three games.

The Kelowna native had two goals and an assist in a 5-2 win over Langley, followed by a two point night (1G, 1A) in a 7-6 double overtime win over Alberni Valley. He capped the week with a three point outing (1G, 2A) in a 4-3 win over Surrey.

Here’s Campbell in a get-to-know-ya interview published by the Silverbacks three weeks ago.

There are a lot of West Kelowna Warriors on the honourable mention list.

Ryan Steele collected four goals and seven points in three games, including a hat-trick in a 5-0 win over Coquitlam.

Teammates Chase Dubois (3-1-6-7) and Michael Lombardi (3-3-3-6) were also in the mix along with goaltender Nik Amundrud, who posted one shutout, a 2.37 goals-against average and .925 save percentage in three starts.

Victoria Grizzly Alex Newhook made the list with three goals and five points in two games.

Wenatchee goalie Seth Eisele made two starts, stopping 52 of 56 shots with a 1.91 GAA and .929 SP.

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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