The B.C. Hockey League proved it not only has a sense of history, but also geography. All the players from Island teams, and the Powell River Kings, were placed on Team Courtnall for the BCHL three-on-three outdoor all-star tournament in Penticton on Saturday.
Olivier Picard and goaltender Oliver Auyeung-Ashton of the Victoria Grizzlies, Kai Daniells and Ethan Mistry of the Nanaimo Clippers, Ethan Bono of the Alberni Valley Bulldogs, William Elias of the Cowichan Valley Capitals and Karter McNarland of the Kings played for Team Courtnall, coached by Victoria brothers Bruce and former 17-season NHLer Geoff Courtnall.
Team Turris, coached by former Burnaby Express star and former 14-season NHLer Kyle Turris, featured the BCHL all-stars from Lower Mainland teams. Team Hull, named after former Penticton Vees and NHL scoring great Brett Hull, featured players from Okanagan clubs, and Team Ferraro the players from BCHL clubs located in the Kootenays, Northern B.C. and Washington state.
It was part of the blizzard of activities surrounding the all-star weekend, which included the BCHL combine, skills competition and the prospects game on Friday night.
A third Grizzlies player selected for the all-star weekend, defenceman Hoyt Stanley, ranked as the 77th North American skater for the 2023 NHL draft, played in the prospects game on Team West. (Not all players were selected for all events).
Two Victoria products, NCAA Division 1 Northeastern University-bound defenceman Dylan Compton of the Vernon Vipers, and forward Owen Beckner of the Salmon Arm Silverbacks, played for Team East in the prospects game. Beckner is the No. 128th-ranked North American skater for the 2023 NHL draft.
Turris and Clippers coach Colin Birkas guided Team West in the prospects game. Two-time Norris Trophy winner and three-time Stanley Cup champion and former Penticton Panthers blueliner Duncan Keith coached Team East with Fred Harbinson of the Penticton Vees. Birkas and Harbinson were selected for the game because Nanaimo and Penticton lead the BCHL Coastal and Interior conferences, respectively.
Team East defeated Team West 6-2 before 2,508 fans at the South Okanagan Events Centre. NCAA Div. 1 Merrimack-bound forward Ethan Bono of Alberni Valley scored and was named Team West player of the game. Auyeung-Ashton and Eli Pulver of the Surrey Eagles shared the Team West goaltending duties and allowed three goals each.
The whirlwind weekend is a lot to take in for the players. It is at once both fun but serious, with myriad NHL and NCAA scouts gathered, especially for the top prospects game.
“I came to showcase myself and am focusing on that,” said Auyeung-Ashton, the 17-year-old rookie revelation in the Grizzlies crease. “I am riding the wave of the season that got me here but keeping a level head. I treated the prospects game as just the next game up in the season.”
The BCHL all-star three-on-three outdoor tournament Saturday was more for entertainment and enjoyment for the players, a memory maker, although the scouts were still out to watch as the pressure never goes away at this level.