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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.

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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
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