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Cramped: Chiefs In Merritt Friday

My charming view at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena

Chilliwack Chiefs (16-5-1-1 – 34 points, 1st in Mainland)

VS Coquitlam Express (12-8-1-1 – 26 points, 2nd in Interior)

(Nicola Valley Memorial Arena – 7pm pregame/7:30 faceoff on 89.5 The Hawk)

One look at the above photo will tell you that the confines at the NVMA are….uh… less than comfortable.

The Merritt Centennials don’t seem to mind that. They use it to their advantage.

The Chilliwack Chiefs? They went 0-4 in this building last year. Less than comfortable.

Things have changed a little from last year, though. Chilliwack comes in Friday having won six straight games, ranked ninth in Canada, and the top record in the BCHL. There’s also a bus load of fans making their way up from Chilliwack for the night.

Merritt sits second in their conference, but has lost three straight games.

THINGS I’LL BE KEEPING IN MIND:

– Special Teams may decide this thing. It’s a matchup of the BCHL’s best power play (Merritt) against the BCHL’s best penalty kill. (Chilliwack) The Chiefs have successfully killed off 14 of their last 15 penalties, and continue to lead the league in shorthanded goals with six.

Familiar Face:  The Cents’ power play is clicking at an impressive 28%. Former Chief Derek Huisman has scored five of his seven goals with the extra man this year.

Regan Soquila is back for the Cents this year, and to the surprise of nobody, is their top point-getter with 23 on the season.

– The Chiefs have shown they can win by simply outscoring the opposition (The 5-4 win over Penticton November 10th comes to mind.) and by grinding it out on the road where style points get thrown out the window. Last Friday’s 2-1 triumph in Surrey was a prime example of that. They might have to win ugly to keep this streak alive. Given their record in Merritt last season, you can bet the players wouldn’t mind.

– Chilliwack has handled their division rivals this season to a tune of 9-1-1 against Mainland teams. Against the Interior? 2-4.

– It’s freezing in there. This has nothing to do with the actual game. It’s…. just freezing in there.

– Because the dimensions are smaller, it’s key for the Chiefs to create havoc on the forecheck. More than one Chiefs defenseman has said in the past that Merritt’s forwards are on you almost immediately when the puck gets dumped in. Makes sense for the Chiefs to try to beat Merritt at their own game in that regard.

– In keeping with the ‘Win Ugly’ narrative – Shoot from anywhere.  A hard shot from centre ice in that building is like a point shot in other places.

– “Opportunistic” will be one of the terms used throughout this weekend home and home. The Centennials have allowed just 60 goals this season, third best in the BCHL.

The best in that category? Chilliwack. The boys have allowed 57.

No room to move. Tight checking. Low scoring. That’s what’s happening.

But what do I know?

Special Teams:

Chilliwack – Powerplay – 20.54 %/Penalty Kill – 87.60%

Merritt – Powerplay – 28.09%/ Penalty Kill – 82.19%

Categories: Chiefs Hockey
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