Road to RBC takes detour

CJHL announces new regional playoff format for four western provinces.

The Canadian Junior Hockey League has announced a new regional playoff format for its four western provinces beginning in 2013, in Nanaimo.

The B.C. Hockey League, and Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba junior loops will move to a five-team tournament and crown a Western Canadian champion.

The tournament will include a host team and the champion from each of the four western leagues. The 13-game event will include a round-robin schedule. The Western Canadian champion and the runner-up will both advance to the RBC Cup National Junior A Championship.

The 2013 Western Canadian Championship will be held from April 26-May 5.

Vernon Vipers’ head coach Jason Williamson applauds the format change.

“It definitely gets the top two teams to make the tournament. Playing Spruce Grove (Saints) last year (in the Doyle Cup), I thought they were the best team we played outside of B.C.,” he said. “The point of the tournament is to get the best possible teams there, and I think this is the best way to go about that.

“It is a one-game thing, but it still is probably a better format all in all.”

The Western Canadian Championship will subsequently be hosted by the MJHL (2014), AJHL (2015) and SJHL (2016).

Meanwhile, Williamson said injured forward Colton Sparrow and defenceman Max Mowat are questionable for the Vipers’ home game tonight against the Trail Smoke Eaters at Wesbild Centre.

The 18-18-1-2 Vipers are fifth in the Interior Conference, five points back of the Chilliwack Chiefs, who hold the final playoff spot.

In BCHL action Wednesday night, the last-place Smokies (7-26-1-4), scored three unanswered first-period goals to ice the Salmon Arm SilverBacks 3-1 at Cominco Arena.

Connor Teichko, Tanner Clarkson and Brandon Egli scored for Trail. Travis Stephens answered for Salmon Arm with 1:10 left in regulation.

Chad Brears connected twice on the powerplay to give the host Merritt Centennials a 2-1 win over the Westside Warriors Wednesday at Nicola Valley Arena.

Former Viper Marcus Basara assisted on Ben Betker’s lone snipe for the Warriors (14-20-1-5).

SNAKE BITES: There is a fan bus heading to West Kelowna Saturday as the Vipers vist the Warriors at Royal LePage Place. Meet at Wesbild at 5 p.m., depart at 5:15. $20 covers food, bus fare and game ticket, with prizes and trivia on the bus. Reserve a seat by calling 250-542-6022…The Penticton Vees’ star blueliner Mike Reilly is expected to miss about a month with a hairline fracture to a bone in his arm suffered in his team’s 9-2 win over the Langley Rivermen Friday night. Reilly, the younger brother of Penticton twin forwards Ryan and Connor, leads all BCHL d-men with 56 points in 35 games.