BCHL Today: Goalie greatness and a Nanaimo Clipper scholarship

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

Welcome to the Jan. 26, 2018 edition of BCHL Today, a (near) daily look at what’s going on around the league and the junior A world.

We start today on the scholarship front.

The Nanaimo Clippers announced Tuesday that forward Jake Harris will join the Brown Bears in 2018-19. Nanaimo will send two grads to Brown U next season, with Tristan Crozier also making the NCAA leap with the Bears.

Harris is interesting. Did any player make a bigger statistical leap from his 18 to 19 year old season than the Toronto native?

Last year he posted nine goals and 18 points in 56 games, for a meh average of .32 points per game. But he’s blown up in a big way this year, collecting 18 goals and 40 points in 35 games so far for an average of 1.14 ppg.

Crozier and Harris are 1-2 in Clipper scoring, with Crozier holding a six point edge.

Harris has missed the last three weeks with a knee injury, but hopes to be back in the lineup this weekend and chasing down his teammate as Nanaimo faces Victoria and Powell River.

Nanaimo play-by-play man Dan Marshall interviewed Harris about the scholarship and other matters. You can hear that here.

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Former Victoria Grizzlies stopper Matthew Galajda continues to make waves as an NCAA freshman. For the second time this season the Cornell U netminder has been named the East Coast Athletic Conference’s Goalie of the Week.

Kind of a no brainer pick when you post back-to-back shutouts, as the Ontario native did, stopping 47 pucks combined in 2-0 victories last Friday and Saturday.

Galajda has tied former All-American David McKee’s Cornell mark for shutouts in a season by a freshman goalie (five). Among all first-year goalies in the NCAA ranks this year, Galajda has the second best goals-against average (1.66) and sixth best save percentage (.930) and leads all of them in wins (12).

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Cornell has been a good landing spot for BCHL goalies in recent years.

Galajda took over for former Chilliwack Chief Mitch Gillam, who logged four successful seasons with the Big Red and graduated to the pro ranks. Gillam spent most of this season with the Worcester Railers, an ECHL team based in Worcester, Massachusetts.

He compiled seven wins with a 2.68 goals-against average and .902 save percentage in 17 appearances, and just this week the 25 year old has signed a player tryout offer with the American Hockey League’s Utica Comets.

The Comets, the AHL affiliate of the National Hockey League’s Vancouver Canucks, have a top-flight starter in Thatcher Demko and a veteran backup in Richard Bachman, so Gillam will be hard pressed to see any action.

But it’s an achievement in itself just getting to that level.

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Staying with the topic of goaltenders, Mario Cavaliere is making an excellent first impression in Surrey.

The 20 year old was acquired from the Ontario Junior Hockey League’s Georgetown Raiders on trade deadline day and debuted Jan. 12 with a 29 save 5-0 shutout win over the Langley Rivermen.

Two nights later the Mississauga native stopped 43 pucks in a 7-0 drubbing of the Cowichan Valley Capitals.

Cavaliere was hit hard Jan. 17, coughing up eight goals to the Coquitlam Express, but he bounced back Jan. 21 with a 48 save 1-0 shutout of the Nanaimo Clippers.

Four games. Three clean sheets.

Normally, in a small sample size, giving up eight goals would wreak havoc on the GAA and SP.

But because of his work in his other starts, Cavaliere sports a shiny 2.06 GAA and even shiner .946 SP for a Surrey team that is tied for first (with Prince George) in the Mainland division standings.

The Eagles, by the way, have won seven straight in the friendly confines of the South Surrey Arena, which is great for fans who’ve endured many a rough night over the last few seasons.

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Ending with a longer one.

With all the negative news we’re hit with every day, it’s good to read about three BCHL alums who have been nominated for the 2018 Hockey Humanitarian Award.

The Hockey Humanitarian Award Foundation presents this award annually to “college hockey’s finest citizen — a student-athlete who makes significant contributions not only to his or her team, but also to the community at large through leadership in volunteerism.”

Mitch McLain, a native of Baxter, Minnesota, spent 2012-14 with the Langley Rivermen and is now in his fourth season at Bowling Green State U.

He captains the Falcons and is an academic standout.

Taken from the Bowling Green website, Mitch is a “full-time student, and student teaches at Woodlane School in Bowling Green, Ohio. McLain’s involvement with his special education students and with the Bowling Green hockey program join annually, as he connects the students with the team when he organizes a field trip in which they visit the Slater Family Ice Arena. In addition to volunteering more than 150 hours at Woodlane, McLain has also worked with the Crim Elementary Reading Tutor Program and its first grade students and has coordinated fundraisers and activities including the Rally Cap and Special Olympic Bowling.”

Bryant Christian, a native of Moorhead, Minnesota, spent 2012-14 with the Prince George Spruce Kings and is in his fourth season at American International College.

From the AIC website, Bryant “has devoted time to many causes in the community, including working as a volunteer youth hockey coach both in the Springfield area and his native Moorhead, Minnesota. He has volunteered for Red Cross blood drives, local food banks, local tree-planting initiatives and the Moorhead Police Department.

“He has also worked closely with six-year-old Xavier Pereira, his teammate through Team Impact, which pairs children with serious illnesses with local college sports teams, providing meaningful, life- long relationships. Christian regularly attends Xavier’s hockey practices and games in addition to spending time after school playing with Xavier and his younger brother.”

The final nominee with BCHL ties is Luke Rivera, who spent just four games with Wenatchee in 2013-14.

He’s now in his third year at SUNY-Fredonia in New York and he has an interesting story.

His mother, Dana, had a stroke eight years ago. She’s recovered fully, but the experience motivated Luke to approach his coach to add a ‘Stroke Awareness Game’ to the schedule. His Blue Devils wore special red camoflage jerseys for a Nov. 11, 2016 game vs Potsdam and held a second event this past fall.

Through the events, Luke and his teammates have raised $20,000-plus for the Foundation of Kaleida Health.

Luke, Mitch and Bryant will find out if they’re finalists in February.

The 2018 Hockey Humanitarian Award will be handed out April 6 as part of the NCAA’s Frozen Four weekend in St. Paul, Minnesota.

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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