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Coastal Conference Round 2 Playoff Preview

Yesterday, we took a close look at the two Interior Conference matchups in Round 2. Today, it’s the Coastal Conference’s turn as we dive deep into the two series, both starting tomorrow night.

#1 Alberni Valley Bulldogs vs. #4 Langley Rivermen

Head to head:

Alberni Valley won the season series 3-0-1-0, with Langley’s lone win coming in overtime.

Top playoff performers:

Alberni Valley – F Brandon Buhr (8 points), D Braden Blace (6 points), G Hobie Hedquist (2.00 GAA)

Langley – F Max Dukovac (7 points), D Joseph Messina (7 points), F Max Bulawka (6 goals), G Ajeet Gundarah (.908 SV%)

Breakdown:

The Bulldogs took the season series, winning three of four games, which helped them overtake the Rivermen in the standings late in the season and clinch first place in the Coastal Conference.

Alberni continued their score-by-committee approach in their Round 1 sweep over the Cowichan Valley Capitals with four different players averaging over a point per game, but their biggest offensive producer was Brandon Buhr who scored five goals and added three assists for eight points. Buhr had multi-goal games in two of four contests against Cowichan and multiple points in three games in the series. They also got a big push from their back end with Braden Blace contributing six assists, including a three-helper night in the clinching Game 4. As usual for the Bulldogs, they received stellar goaltending from their workhorse Hobie Hedquist who let in more than two goals on just one occasion.

Langley is coming off a convincing 4-1 series win over the high-powered Victoria Grizzlies, winning three straight to close out the series. Although they won in five games, several of the games went right down to the wire. The Rivermen won Game 1 on a last-minute goal by defenceman Joseph Messina and they took Game 3 in overtime on a Riley Wallack power-play winner. Messina tied for the team lead in points and is tied for the playoff scoring lead among all BCHL defencemen with seven points. The Rivermen also got six goals in their first-round series from Max Bulawka, which is second most in the league. Maybe most importantly, the team got a huge boost when goaltender Ajeet Gundrah returned to the lineup to start the series after recovering from a lingering injury that kept him out for most of the final two months of the regular season. He posted a .908 save percentage in Round 1.

#2 Chilliwack Chiefs vs. #3 Nanaimo Clippers

Head to head:

Chilliwack won the season series 3-1-0-0

Top playoff performers:

Chilliwack – F Dawson Good (9 points), F Cameron Johnson (7 points), D Abram Wiebe (6 points), G Grant Riley (2 shutouts)

Nanaimo – F Sean Donaldson (5 points), F Brody Waters (5 points), F Keighan Gerrie (5 points), G Cooper Black (.924 SV%)

Breakdown:

This is the closest matchup on paper that we have seen so far in the BCHL Playoffs. The teams finished with the exact same amount of points and nearly identical records with 33 wins each, 17 losses and four losses via overtime or the shootout. The Chiefs only have the higher seed because of the head-to-head tiebreaker.

Chilliwack is coming off a hard-fought seven-game series win over the Coquitlam Express in the first round. The two teams alternated wins the entire series with the Chiefs finishing things off in Game 7 with a 6-0 win on home ice. Dawson Good has stepped up for Chilliwack since the postseason began, leading the team in scoring in Round 1 with nine points, including a three-point night in Game 7 on a goal and two assists. Defenceman Abram Wiebe is another player who has been crucial to their success so far these playoffs, especially with fellow blueliner Xavier Henry out the final two games of their first-round series due to a suspension. Henry will return for Game 1 against Nanaimo. In net, it’s the same story it has been all year with Grant Riley holding down the fort. Two of his four wins in Round 1 came via a shutout. He averaged one goal against in the four Chiefs victories in the series.

Nanaimo had the opposite experience in their first-round series. They were the first team to advance to the second round after they swept the Surrey Eagles and have not played a game since Tuesday of last week. When they drop the puck tomorrow night in Game 1, it will have been 10 days off between games for the Clippers. They were led in Round 1 by netminder Cooper Black, whose .924 save percentage is the second highest in the BCHL Playoffs. On offence, Nanaimo’s league MVP finalist Sean Donaldson had five points in five games, as did Brody Waters and Keighan Gerrie. One line to watch out for is the Donaldson, Tristan Fraser and Max Itagaki trio. They proved to be one of the most dynamic lines in the BCHL during the regular season, leading the Clippers to the fourth most goals scored this year.