The Chiefs capped a weekend to forget Sunday, losing to the Langley Rivermen by a score of 4-2 at the Langley Events Centre. Chilliwack has now dropped four straight, and were unable to win the two games they had in hand over Surrey. As a result, the Chiefs remain eight points back of the Eagles for the final playoff spot in the Mainland division.
Chilliwack opened the scoring on Sunday, with Austin Plevy cashing in on a three way passing play at the side of the net. Blake Gober found the captain at the right post after Zach Diamontoni held the puck onside near the left point. The Chiefs were able to generate chances and shots on Langley ‘keeper Brock Crosswaithe, and they took the 1-0 lead to the dressing room after one period. It was a first period closer to the one the team played Friday against Powell River.
Langley got the only two goals of the second period, and both stung in their own way. Kevan Killistoff got two whacks at the puck at the tail end of a power play, and put the second shot past Josh Halpenny to tie the game 28 seconds into the second period. The two teams traded chances until Langley’s Matt Ustaski took advantage of a poor pass back to the blueline on a Chiefs powerplay, and broke in on a shorthanded breakaway. Halpenny got a piece of the shot with his blocker, but the puck floated over the shoulder for the goal – the fourth shorthanded goal the Chiefs have allowed in the last four games. That marker was a killer, and gave Langley a lead they would not squander the rest of the night.
There were three fights in this game, with Chilliwack’s Keifer McNaughton, Andrew Silard, and Shay Laurent all dropping the gloves. While all three scraps were entertaining, it was of little consolation to the Chiefs, who lost the big battle on the board for good in the third period. Victor Dombrovsky’s power play goal put Langley up by two, and then Will Cook took advantage of a poor breakout pass in the Chiefs zone, and outwaited Halpenny to slide in the fourth goal.
McNaughton added one late for the Chiefs on a 5 on 3 in the final minute. The Chiefs will get back to practice this week, and prepare for three games on the Island, beginning Friday in Powell River.
After putting some thought into a 9-4 Chiefs loss to Penticton on Saturday night at the SOEC, I can break it down into three sections. Not three periods. Three sections.
Indulge me, won’t you? (All 39 of you! You guys are great!)
Part 1: After a superb first period Friday night against Powell River, you felt like the Chiefs could do something similar Saturday night, especially with the catalyst second line of Tibbet/Hand/Silard out first. The tone was ready to be set – but not the way the Chiefs hoped. It was Penticton scoring first, with Paul Stoykowych’s point blank chance deflecting in off of Cody Deporcq’s skate. The Vees were off and running after stumbling a bit in the previous two weeks. In my three years of paying occasional attention to Penticton’s hockey club, I know it’s not smart to give them momentum in their own building. They had it early, as the Chiefs weren’t able to generate too much. When Brad McClure finished a breakaway off a terrific faceoff win/breakout to make it 3-0, the thought was the Chiefs were in for a long night.
They eventually were. Just not yet.
Part 2: Give the boys a ton of credit here. They certainly could have shut ‘er down after the McClure breakaway, but a late power play and ensuing cannon from Cooper Rush brought the Chiefs some life. What a great shot from Cooper as well – he can do that, and it’s quite a weapon back there when the puck gets through, as Hunter Miska found out. Rush would add another just 34 seconds into the second period, this one coming at 5 on 5 from the left point. High and over the glove. A heater. 3-2. Andrew Silard was stoned by Miska on a breakaway moments after that to keep the deficit at one, but the Chiefs would continue to press, and when Blake Gober banged one in from the side of the crease, the Chiefs were alive. Man, they were alive. Great resiliency from the group to climb out of a hole like that.
Enter Brad McClure again.
Part 3: McClure beat his man off the rush wide to the right circle, and put one of those sharp angle Mario Lemieux jobs over the shoulder of Spencer Tremblay, who had the knee down against the post, but left some room up top. Room for a premier player in this league to put the puck, as McClure did on the eventual game winner.
That wasn’t the killer. Riley Alfred supplied that when he outmuscled Shay Laurent to the front of the net, and put a backhander past Tremblay in tight. 5-3 Penticton after two. The Chiefs could erase one deficit in that building, but two was too much to ask. The Vees rolled from there, adding four more in the third before Kurt Black got a late one for the Chiefs.
With only 16 shots on goal, the Chiefs certainly made their opportunities count. Give ‘em that, no question. But it’s very hard to ignore the 17 goals allowed in the last two games. Chilliwack can put the puck in the net with any team in the league. What’s frustrating is when you get a five spot at home, followed by four on the road against a good team, and still come up with zero points in the standings.
It starts from the goaltenders on out. They’ll learn from it and be better. They’ll also have no choice, as a quick turnaround sees them battle the Rivermen in Langley at 2pm on Sunday afternoon.
The Powell River Kings showed why they’re the best team in the BCHL at the moment, falling behind early, but turning it on late to defeat the Chiefs 8-5 Friday at Prospera.
Here’s what I’ll take:
1. As I tweeted after it happened, very pleased with the Chiefs first period tonight. The three goals helped, but the energy was there. The forecheck was there. The little things were there. It was the complete opposite of what happned against Langley last Saturday. Chilliwack jumped on the Kings right away, and leading the way was the Hand-Tibbet-Silard line. Really liked what they did to begin the game. Tibbet and Hand finished with two points each, and those three seem to play off each other real well.
As a group, the Chiefs even limited the high powered Kings to nine shots in the first period. They killed off the only penalty. You know….
(Here it comes)
…If they could just find a way to play three periods like that….
(And there it is. Heard that before this season, haven’t we?)
2. Look – You knew the Kings were going to provide an answer in the second period. This is a veteran team Kent Lewis has over there, and there’s a reason they’ve lost four games in regulation all season. Jeff Smith came on in relief for Jonah Imoo to give the Kings a boost, and when Drew Dorantes cut the Chilliwack lead to 3-2 on a shorthanded breakaway (third shorthanded goal allowed by the Chiefs in the last two games) it felt like the Kings were on their way.
Powell River would add the next two as well, until Austin Plevy was fed a hard centering pass by Zach Diamontoni in between the circles. Plevy made no mistake for his team leading 12th, and we were tied at four going to the 3rd. The teams traded goals early in the final period, including Cochrane’s second from near one of his favourite spots – the left circle – but the Kings answered with three in a row to close, and that was it.
Chilliwack had to play mistake free hockey to beat Powell River Friday night. Funny thing about mistake free hockey: Playing it is nearly impossible. While they will make mistakes, they must have the same jump Saturday night in Penticton against an ornery Vees team that’s dropped three of their last four games, including the last two at the South Okanagan Events Centre – Saturday night’s venue.
Chilliwack Chiefs (7-16-1-2, 5th in Mainland Division) VS Powell River Kings (19-4-1-1, 1st in Island Division) (Friday, November 29th, Prospera Centre - 6:30 pregame/7pm faceoff on 89.5 The Drive)
The Chiefs enter the weekend eight points back of the final playoff spot behind Surrey, with three games in hand on their rivals. The Chiefs are also entering a very difficult portion of their schedule. Powell River has cruised along this season, as you can see by their record at the top of the page. You may recall that they handled the Chiefs 6-1 back on opening night at the League Showcase.
Plenty has happened since then, but with the Kings here tonight, followed by road games in Penticton and Langley, nothing comes easy for the home side.
New Chiefs defenseman Cody Bardock will join his new teammates Friday, but it remains to be seen if he’ll play against Powell River after driving down from Trail.
“We just felt we needed to improve in that area.” Harvey Smyl said of the acquisition Thursday.
“Cody’s a big man who’s decent defensively, and has a good shot. He’s played Junior A for a number of years, so lots of experience. Certainly an area we felt needed to be addressed to make a push here before Christmas.”
As for Friday’s game, it’s clear the Chiefs need to have that focus and intensity, because they didn’t have those things against Langley. It starts there, and when you consider what the team had done before last Saturday – finding the back of the net with regularity, while shoring things up a bit in their own end – They’ll be sure to give the Island division’s best a good game. Easier said than done, of course.
Powell River is a beast because they can score, and they’re really stingy. The Kings lead the league in goal differential by a mile at +41, and boast some real talent up front in the form of Ryan Scarfo, Drew Dorantes, and Jarid Lukosevicius. Both the Kings PP and Penalty Kill ranks second in the league, including the best power play on the road.
Jeff Smith and Jonah Imoo provide a formidable tandem in goal. Smith has nine wins in ten starts as an 18 year old rookie.
You may have seen this by now. If not, a quick primer:
Former Chiefs goaltender Mitch Gillam (2 time Team MVP, Conference MVP, League All-Star, Owner of a beauty wardrobe) made his first start Tuesday night with Cornell in a game on home ice against Niagara.
He won his first start with Big Red, which is enough cause for celebration.
But then this happened:
Gillam becomes the 8th NCAA goaltender to score, and the third to do so in his first game. He was kind enough to give me a few minutes on Wednesday morning to talk about it:
A little late, but needless to say, there wasn’t much to say following last night’s loss to the Langley Rivermen.
If anything it was frustrating – frustrating when you consider what this group had begun to string together. Not just in terms of wins, but in terms of work ethic, and consistent play. There was a good vibe going into Saturday night at home against a division rival.
Unfortunatley, Langley hijacked that good vibe and didn’t look back.
Special teams made the difference in this game, just as they did the night before in West Kelowna. Langley has the best PK in the circuit, and had proven going in that they could score shorthanded. The Chiefs allowed two shorthanded goals last night, and both were real momentum killers. Nathan Craft scored the first shorty off the rush in the first period – this was on Chilliwack’s opening powerplay of the game when it was still scoreless. Craft took care of that opening goal, and there was some deflation on the home side.
The second shorthanded goal came when it was 3-0 in the second. A bad turnover on a breakout – something that had dogged the Chiefs in their early season struggles – quickly led to a Mitch McLain goal on a point blank chance, and that was pretty much it at 4-0.
Take the special teams battle out of this, and it’s 1-0 Langley. That’s why a proposition like that is hypothetical. If you’re giving up two shorthanded goals, you’re in trouble.
Credit to Langley as well. Aside from special teams, they were better 5 on 5, won a ton of the little battles, and limited the Chiefs offensively, holding them to just 27 shots, and only a handful of quality scoring chances. Remember, this was a Chiefs team that had really found their mojo in the attacking zone. We didn’t see that team Saturday night.
Doesn’t get any easier next weekend – three games in three nights, all against stiff competition in Powell River, Penticton, and Langley again next Sunday.
The Chilliwack Chiefs opened up their weekend on a high note, going into Royal LePage Place and defeating the West Kelowna Warriors 6-3 on Friday night. It marked the Chiefs seventh win overall, their fourth win on the road, and for just the second time this season – consecutive victories. The team has also scored 32 goals in their last six games.
Here’s what stood out on Friday night
Spencer Tremblay made his third straight start, and was terrific in this game. The shot count for the Warriors WAS a little inflated (61 registered shots, when there was probably close to 50) but I don’t mean to point that out to take anything away from Tremblay’s performance in any way. He was sound all night, and he made some big saves, too. David Pope was robbed in the second period on a one timer in the slot. Tremblay did well moving post to post to get the right pad on it. I thought that was his biggest. Aside from that, his rebound control and general calm in the crease really stood out. He was especially sound in that first period, when the Warriors had plenty of zone time, but went to the room tied at one.
Chilliwack opened the scoring early in this game, and they scored often once again. That’s 12 in two games. The Chiefs scored three times on the powerplay in this game, winning the special teams battle decisively. Austin Plevy’s two PP goals came on the same three way passing play. Good looks from Gober and Zach Diamontoni to find the Chilliwack captain alone at the side of the goal for two tap-ins.
Plevy is now finding the back of the net with regularity, and it has plenty to do with the development of BCHL rookies Blake Gober, and Diamontoni, no question. There’s that sense of consistency with the top line, now. That’s what this Chiefs team relied on more often than not the last two seasons.
It’s not just the top line, though. When you score 32 in six games, you’re getting contributions from everyone. Kyle Westeringh’s goal to make it 4-2 in the second (and chase Warriors starter Cody Porter) was his third in as many games. Jake Hand added one himself on a nice shot in the second as well.
Officiating on both sides wasn’t very good tonight quite frankly. Warriors coach Rylan Ferster was teed up and tossed after arguing a particularly chintzy call against his team. That led to the 5 on 3 that Plevy would score on to make it 5-3 halfway through the 3rd. Big swing there. The Chiefs by contrast, killed off eight of nine Warrior powerplays, including two in the final seven minutes.
A stretch against some good opponents continues Saturday night at home against the Langley Rivermen. Should be a great divisional matchup. Langley will be feeling good about themselves after a home ice OT win on Friday.