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Tough Night In Vernon

October 28, 2012 Leave a comment

I suppose they were due for a clunker. Much like Vernon was due for a complete hockey game.

One day after a stirring victory over the Coquitlam Express, the Chilliwack Chiefs made it look like Opposite Day in Vernon Saturday, losing 5-1 in a game that was never close.

The Vipers had entered Saturday’s game entrenched in a six game losing streak. They had been struggling to score, puzzling their fans, as the Vipers boast as much talent in the BCHL as anybody. It all came out Saturday at Wesbild Centre.

Here’s what I saw:

– No coaching staff in the world is ever going to cite ‘bus legs’ as an issue, but the Chiefs certainly had a case of it in the first period, putting forth one of the weaker efforts of the season in the first twenty minutes. Too many individual battles were lost in this one, and it really set the tone. Credit the Vipers for playing like the desperate hockey team I expected to see going into this one.

Pearce Eviston’s powerplay goal got the Vipers on the board early on. Considering he was between the faceoff circles when he let the glove-high wrist shot go, he was given far too much time by the Chilliwack penalty killers. That’s purely an effort thing, and it will be addressed during the week.

Much of the penalty killing duty in this game was drawn by Luke Esposito, Austin Plevy and Josh Hansen. They wore down as the game went on because of that. You could really see how they missed the services of Ryan Donohoe, and Tanner Cochrane. Donohoe missed his third consecutive game with a shoulder problem, while a bruised kidney for Cochrane has him in a day to day situation.

The Vipers’ Logan Mick made the play of the game, and the true turning point. After Shea Laurent had tied the game at one in the second period, it appeared that the Chiefs would take the game to the final frame still up for grabs despite the spotty effort. With just over a minute left in the second, Mick outhustled Kiefer McNaughton in the right corner of the Chilliwack zone, and fed a centering pass to Pearce Eviston. Eviston beat Gillam for the late 2-1 lead, which took the wind out of the Chiefs’ sails.

– Vernon would pile it on in the third period with three more. Adam Tambellini came to life with a goal and two assists in this game. Vipers captain Brett Corkey finished with two points as well, and was a steady force out there. It was a game the Vipers needed in every conceivable way. Credit to them for a good effort.

Two games left in this long road swing, with the Smoke Eaters and Vees up next.

– With the loss, and Spruce Kings overtime victory over West Kelowna, the Chiefs now find themselves sitting in second place in the mainland division.

Categories: Chiefs Hockey

Chiefs Derail Express In Coquitlam

October 27, 2012 Leave a comment

Mitch Gillam made 32 saves and was named the game’s second star. Photo: Garrett James

That was quite the effort from the Chilliwack Chiefs, I must say.

A 4-1 victory. Outshot the Coquitlam Express on this night 42-33. Austin Plevy scored twice. Josh Hansen added his team leading 12th, matching his total from all last season, Kiefer McNaughton scored his first as a Chief…..

But there was more to it than that. There’s always more to it then that.

Here’s what I saw:

– Chilliwack’s first goal came less than five minutes in on a powerplay. Plevy finished off the play, as he had six times previously with the extra man, but it was Shea Laurent who made it happen with a crisp cross-seam pass from the left circle. Good communication in finding Plevy open at the side of the goal for the first of the game.

– Cole Huggins really locked in after that, though. The Chiefs had numerous chances to blow the game wide open, including a tremendous individual rush by Trevor Hills, but Huggins was certainly up to the task through the rest of the first period, and nearly all the way through the second.

– Back to Trevor Hills – he didn’t score, although he probably should have. This kid currently exudes confidence when he carries the puck. Some of the moves he made in tight spaces were….well…absurd. Fun to watch on this night.

– Coquitlam (for whatever reason) saved their big push to the third period, when they were already trailing 3-0. They’ve won just once against divisional opponents this year.

– Now, as for how the Chiefs increased a 1-0 advantage (which felt like it stayed that way forever, thanks to the great work of Huggins) to a 3-0 advantage…We’ll come back to Plevy again. Ben Israel made a nice play at centre ice late in the second period to create some room for a rush into the zone. He put the shot on net, which Huggins committed to fully, and stopped. He didn’t freeze it, however, kicking it into the slot, on to the waiting stick of Austin Plevy.

If you’re going to kick a rebound into the slot to Austin Plevy, you’re gonna have a bad time.

– Josh Hansen scored. Again. Next. (A real back-breaker, too. Right at the end of the second period shorthanded to go up 3-0. A shot I’m sure Huggins would like to have back.)

– At least, that goal seemed like a back-breaker. Kiefer McNaughton opened the scoring in the third period to make it 4-0 for his first as a Chief, which Garrett Forster, who set the goal up with a clean faceoff win, celebrated by falling over while skating out for the post goal hug, tipping McNaughton over in the process. (This was incredibly funny.)

– The laughter subsided quickly when Coquitlam’s Phil Zielonka got behind the Chilliwack defense, and roofed a backhand deke on Mitch Gillam to break the shutout bid. The Express woke up after that, peppering Gillam with 19 shots in the period.

Their puck pressure was impressive, and the Chiefs found themselves having to calm down a little. John Siemer, Alex Kerfoot, and Mitch Nardi did their absolute best to bring the Express back, but Gillam was at the top of his game on this night. He made a few very nice saves, tracking pucks through crowds on point shots, and staying calm on a pair of net-mouth scrambles.

So with that, the Chiefs now find themselves with ten victories, sitting atop the Mainland Division, and second overall in the BCHL behind (Guess who?) Penticton. The road trip continues Saturday against a struggling, agitated Vipers team in Vernon. The Vipers lost at home Friday night to the rival Silverbacks in overtime. You can bet that’s not sitting well there, so the Chiefs will have to be ready if they want to push the win total to eleven.

Categories: Chiefs Hockey

Game Preview: Express On Tap In Coquitlam

October 26, 2012 Leave a comment

Friday night’s stage in Coquitlam

Chilliwack Chiefs (9-3-1-1) Vs. Coquitlam Express (8-4-1-0)

(Poirier Sports & Leisure Complex – 6:30 pre game show/7pm faceoff on 89.5 The Hawk)

It’s the third match up of the year between the Chilliwack Chiefs, and the Coquitlam Express.

The two teams are neck and neck in the mainland division standings, with Coquitlam sitting three points back of the Chiefs going into this one. That cushion for Chilliwack is in part thanks to a 6-3 win over the Express on October 5th, and a 4-4 tie between the two clubs on October 6th at Prospera Centre.

THINGS I’LL BE KEEPING IN MIND:

– Chilliwack’s Josh Hansen enters Friday’s game in a three-way tie for the BCHL goal scoring lead (11). The local boy found the net four times on last week’s island trip alone, and scored twice the last time he laced them up in Coquitlam. Hansen is one goal shy of his total from last season.

– The Express will look a little different from the last time they clashed with the Chiefs. Express Head Coach and GM Jon Calvano sent prolific scorer Brady Shaw to the Surrey Eagles for Brandon Morely on October 18th. Morely gives the Express more of what they had already: smaller forwards that are tough to contain.

– Mitch Gillam may have been tagged with the loss on Sunday in Powell River, but he looked as sharp to me as he’s been all year. We’ll hold that thought as…..

– ….we wonder which version of Express ‘tender Cole Huggins (should he start, of course) will show up. Huggins looked very ordinary on October 5th, allowing three goals in the first nine minutes before being pulled. He was tremendous the following night, stopping all 13 overtime shots the Chiefs put at him in that tie, including a Luke Esposito penalty shot.  If not for Cole Huggins, the Chiefs would have had an eight game winning streak snapped this past weekend. I’m banking on the ‘tie’ version of Huggins showing up for this one.

– (You know…providing he starts. And with seven wins this season, I expect him to.)

For those wondering, Austin Plevy will play both games this weekend in Coquitlam and Vernon before heading off to Calgary for the World Junior A Team Canada West selection camp. Plevy had a six game point streak come to an end in Powell River Sunday.

Special Teams:

Chilliwack – Powerplay – 20.00 %/Penalty Kill – 85.83%

Coquitlam – Powerplay – 20.63% / Penalty Kill – 93.10%

Categories: Chiefs Hockey

Monday Conversation: Ben Masella

October 25, 2012 Leave a comment

Earlier this week, Chiefs rookie blueliner Ben Masella joined me on ‘Sports Talk Live’ on 89.5 The Hawk.

Ben scored his first BCHL goal against the Nanaimo Clippers on October 19th with his father in attendance from Montreal. That’s where we kicked things off:

Categories: Chiefs Hockey

No Island Sweep – Kings Take Down Chiefs

October 22, 2012 Leave a comment

Unbeaten streaks are fun. Having them end aren’t as much fun.

The Chiefs dealt with the quick turnaround after an overtime victory against Alberni Valley with an afternoon tilt against the Kings in Powell River. It was the Kings who made the big plays at the right times in a 4-1 victory, snapping Chilliwack’s eight game unbeaten run.

On a personal note, Sunday marked the first game I’ve ever done at Hap Parker Arena – and I dug it. It was cool to be three rows up from the ice. I saw things I don’t normally see from my usual perches high above.

Among them:

–  Some chippy play between these two clubs, including two fights. Tanner Cochrane, in his return to Powell River, squared off against Brad Parker, while Jaret Babych threw down (Literally. Turned into a wrestling match at the end.) with Luke Nogard.

–  Josh Hansen scored the only goal of the game for Chilliwack, converting on a rebound during a first period powerplay. Hansen scored in each game this weekend, including Saturday’s OT winner against the Bulldogs. He’s now at eleven goals this season, just one back of his total from all last year.

– One aspect of three games in three days is the inevitable physical toll. The Chiefs were a little shorthanded and banged up on this afternoon. Cooper Rush was playing through injury. Alexandre Perron-Fontaine and Ryan Donohoe both sat with shoulder ailments. Mitch Skapski played Sunday while under the weather.

– The difference maker for the Kings Sunday was Evan Richardson. Richardson sat out the last time these two teams got together – a game where the Kings were shut out at Prospera Centre. Enter Richardson, who finished with two goals and an assist. His first goal opened the scoring on the powerplay, his assist came off a great rush down the left wing, setting up Jarryd Leung in the slot for a wristshot that beat Gillam to the top corner to give the Kings a 3-1 lead, and his second goal was an empty netter. That’s a difference maker right there.

– The early start may have led to the sloppy play from both teams at times. Credit the Kings for making the plays they needed to make. Kings goaltender Jonah Imoo made 28 saves, as the Chiefs were outshot 36-29.

– Mitch Gillam played pretty well. The rebound control was there. His glove was sharp. Two goals were of the re-direction/tap-in variety, and the other was that laser from Leung that nobody would have stopped.

– Chilliwack got some shots through in the third period, but you could see the team was a tired group by the end. They’ll get back to practice this week in preparation for another pair of road games in Coquitlam and Vernon on October 26th/27th.

Categories: Chiefs Hockey

Hansen Strikes In O.T. – Chiefs Unbeaten In Eight

October 21, 2012 Leave a comment

I’ll keep this short and sweet.

Mojo.

Overtime mojo on this night, though.

Josh Hansen bagged the winner at 3:24 of the extra period, and the Chiefs are now unbeaten in eight games, including four wins in a row. Hansen and Plevy extended their point streaks to six games. Plevy scored the second goal of the game, his 8th of the year.

Here’s what I saw on a night where the Chiefs found a way again.

– They gave up the first goal again. Early. 1:56 in. Plenty of time to come back.

– Only took 26 seconds to do so. Garrett Forster scored his first goal of the season. Alberni Valley defenseman Chase Van Allen turned the puck over to Forster right in front of the net, who made no mistake, beating Jay Deo fivehole.

– Josh Halpenny has won both of his starts this season. He locked in after allowing a goal on the first shot.

– Trevor Hills nearly ended the game in overtime on a breakaway, as Deo made a nice save on a backhand deke.

– Hills took it into his own hands seconds later though, forcing a turnover at the side of the net, and while getting hauled down, made the play to Hansen for the goal. It was a terrific way to finish the night.

– Long day of travel tomorrow, including an early start against Powell River. 1:30 Sunday at Hap Parker Arena.

Categories: Chiefs Hockey

The Island – Day Two – Alberni Valley Bulldogs

October 20, 2012 Leave a comment

Hey…We’re in Port Alberni

Chilliwack Chiefs (8-2-1-1) Vs. Alberni Valley Bulldogs (7-6-0-2)

(Weyerhaeuser Arena – 6:30 pre game show/7pm faceoff on 89.5 The Hawk)

It’s the first matchup of the season between the Chilliwack Chiefs and the Alberni Valley Bulldogs, as the Island trip continues for a club that’s gone unbeaten in their last seven games.

Chilliwack is coming off a 5-4 victory over the Nanaimo Clippers on Friday, where they rode a solid third period to a victory.

Alberni Valley has undergone an up and down start to the year, at just a game over .500, but they have won seven games.

The Dogs boast some talented scorers up front, led by Evan Tironese, the 2nd leading scorer in the BCHL at 20 points coming into this game. The Bulldogs also did not play on Friday night, so they’ll be rested and ready to go. The Chiefs will have to do the same to make sure they get off to a good start.

THINGS I’M KEEPING IN MIND:

– Grit on the part of the Chiefs will be important, with a number of talented forwards for the Bulldogs. Hockey teams generally don’t like when someone comes into their rink and sets a physical tone. Chilliwack has lost once on the road this season, and that was in double overtime.

– With that said, Alberni will have to match up with Chilliwack as well. The success of the Hansen line has been well documented in this space, but players like Trevor Hills, Spencer Graboski, Ryan Donohoe, and Jaret Babych have it going right now. Garrett Forster played one of his best games last night in Naniamo, and Mitch Skapski continues to bring his speed and grit to the party. Mathieu Tibbet scored his second goal of the season Friday.

– Third period mojo. We saw it in Nanaimo when Josh Hansen went off, and Trevor Hills was flying around. Will we see it again? Will the Chiefs get off to a stronger start, and eliminate the need to go into Third Period Beast Mode? We’ll see.

– Who’s powerplay will be better? Check out the numbers. Both are impressive.

Special Teams:

Chilliwack – Powerplay – 20.00 %/Penalty Kill – 87.50%

Alberni Valley – Powerplay – 23.46% / Penalty Kill – 77.01%

Categories: Chiefs Hockey

Mojo: Chiefs Get It Done Again. Unbeaten In Seven

October 20, 2012 Leave a comment

Josh Hansen scored twice in the third period

This team has something right now.

Mojo.

Third period mojo.

Here’s how it went down:

– Chilliwack gave up the first goal of this game just over a minute in. While this was kind of a letdown, they still had 59 minutes to recover. Silver lining.

– Jaret Babych scored his second of the season on a laser shot from the right circle after affording himself some space. If Jaret Babych has space to let his shot go, it’s trouble for the opposition. The marker was Babych’s second in as many games. This was after Mathieu Tibbet tied the game in the first with his second goal of the season. Tanner Cochrane did a good job to find him in front of the net with a nifty backhanded pass.

– The mojo didn’t take hold in the first period though, as Nanaimo would score twice to retake the lead before the end of the opening frame. Kyle Kramer was buzzing for the Clippers on this night, and was their most dangerous player. He finished with a couple goals.

– A congratulations to Ben Masella for his first BCHL goal. The defenseman from Montreal let go a wrist shot from inside the left point to beat Nanaimo’s Jayson Argue. Masella could have had a couple more in this game as well, something his teammates good naturedly chided him for.

– The game was tied at 3 heading to the third. Mojo kicked in.

– After struggling in the first two periods, the Hansen, Esposito, Plevy line got it going. Hansen would bag two goals in the period to provide the Chiefs a two goal cushion. All three players extended their point streaks on this night. Esposito’s is at 11 games, while Plevy and Hansen extended their strings to five respectively.

– Trevor Hills was buzzing in the third with a handful of chances. His goal was waived off after Ryan Donohoe interfered with the goaltender. Hills outwaited everybody in the slot before sliding the puck in. It was gorgeous, despite the fact that it didn’t count.

– Garrett Forster picked up an assist in this game, and got better as the night went on, making a few good reads offensively. The assist for Forster marked his first dent on the scoresheet this season. This team will need him going forward, and Friday was a good start.

Categories: Chiefs Hockey

The Island – Day One – Nanaimo Clippers

October 19, 2012 Leave a comment

Chilliwack Chiefs (7-2-1-1) Vs. Nanaimo Clippers (6-4-0-1)

(Frank Crane Arena – 6:30 pre game show/7pm faceoff on 89.5 The Hawk)

Chilliwack took advantage of home cooking throughout the first eleven games of the BCHL season, coming away with seven wins and a tie in the first eleven contests, eight of which were at Prospera Centre with the benefit of the BCHL Showcase.

Now it’s to the road for a team that’s just a single point back of top spot in the Mainland Division, as the Chiefs will hit the island, starting Friday in Nanaimo against the Clippers.

These two teams met on the second night of the BCHL showcase, with the Chiefs winning the game 2-1. The team has improved a ton since then, highlighted by the production offensively. Powerplay goals by two defencemen, Alex Perron-Fontaine, and Cooper Rush carried the night back on September 8th. Now the Clippers will have to contend with the line of Esposito, Plevy, and Hansen, one of the best trios in the BCHL, combining for 17 goals and 43 points since teaming up in Surrey on September 14th.

Luke Esposito has a ten game point streak intact, while Plevy and Hansen both have four game point streaks of their own.

The Clippers are starting to put things together after and up and down start with two victories over Alberni Valley, and most recently, Penticton at the Frank Crane Arena. Chilliwack should expect to see Clips’ goaltender Jayson Argue in between the pipes, who has played well, and did so the last time these two teams met.

Nanaimo doesn’t exactly have forwards who’s numbers jump out at you on the scoresheet, but the likes of Reid Sturos (4 goals, nine points) and Trevor Fitzgerald (4 goals, eight points) will have to create for the Clips against probable Chiefs starter Mitch Gillam.

THINGS I’LL BE KEEPING IN MIND:

– Friday marks the first real day of travel for the Chiefs this season. We’ll see if ‘ferry legs’ are a factor. I don’t expect it to be, but you never know with these things. Nanaimo will be playing with the confidence of a team that took care of a talented Penticton group, and knowing they played the Chiefs well at the showcase. A strong start for Chilliwack will go a long way, as cliche as that is.

– In their limited road action so far, the Chiefs have scored the first goal twice in three games away from Prospera Centre, including a four spot in nine minutes against Coquitlam on October 5th.

– In fact, last week’s comeback win over Langley marked the third time this season that the Chiefs erupted for four unanswered goals. There’s no way to know when those outbursts are coming, but the Chiefs certainly know they’re capable of doing something like that.

– With three games in three nights, the team’s depth on the blueline will come into play. I also expect local boy Josh Halpenny to see his second start of the season in goal at some point on this trip.

The Clippers individual numbers offensively don’t suggest the Chiefs will be in for a high scoring game, but sometimes that makes things tougher. You never know who it could be that will beat you. Chilliwack had to go to work back on September 8th to earn their first win of the season against the Clippers, and they’ll have to do the same thing tonight to get this Island trip off on the right foot.

Special Teams:

Chilliwack – Powerplay – 20.00 %/Penalty Kill – 87.30%

Nanaimo – Powerplay – 14.04% / Penalty Kill – 78.79%

Categories: Chiefs Hockey

Full 60: Unbeaten Streak To Six

October 14, 2012 Leave a comment

Austin Plevy scored twice in a 4-1 win over Vernon Saturday

It seems like every hockey coach/player/media member talks about a fast start, and a solid 60 minute effort.

We saw both Saturday night in Chilliwack, as the Chiefs knocked off a beat up Vernon Vipers team 4-1.

As always, you can read JB’s breakdown here.

As for what I saw:

– Odd night on the blueline, as Ben Masella, Cooper Rush, and David Thompson all served misconduct penalties at different points of the game. That just gives you another idea of how deep this team is on the back end. It doesn’t matter who’s out there. All eight (eight!) defensemen with this group can play, and play well.

– Jaret Babych was named the Energy Player of the Game, and it was deserved. He was busy in one of the best performances of his season, including a goal where he displayed some good patience in the right faceoff circle before picking a spot over Austin Smith’s shoulder from a sharp angle.

– Staying with patience, I liked Josh Hansen’s drag move at the left side of the crease that bought him a little extra time before hitting Austin Plevy in the slot for the fourth goal. A good sign of a player operating with confidence.

– Three (!) fights in this one, with Kiefer McNaughton, Cooper Rush, and Ben Masella all dropping the gloves. These two teams meet again in Vernon on October 27th. There was some chippy play at times Saturday night.

– Trevor Hills got back in the lineup for the first time in a long while Saturday, had a couple chances to score, and got under the skin of the Vipers a little bit.

– Vernon looked tired. Adam Tambellini was largely on his own, and he did score the Vipers’ only goal. Vernon is now 9-26-0-2 on the road dating back to last September.

Categories: Chiefs Hockey
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