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That Escalated Quickly: A brawl, and a loss.

January 13, 2013 Leave a comment

Chilliwack lost the game in Victoria 2-1. The Grizzlies won more puck battles, and their defence really made Chilliwack’s forwards work for everything they got. It’s clear why the Grizzlies are one of the best teams in this league, and Chilliwack will have to bounce back quickly on Sunday afternoon against the Cowichan Capitals.

NOW….

There was a line brawl at the end of the game at centre ice. Some thoughts, and other happenings:

1. It’s not like it came out of nowhere. There were two scraps in the game long before that. Kiefer McNaughton dropped the gloves, and got the best of Keyler Bruce, coming to the aid of teammate Tanner Cochrane in the process. Cooper Rush dropped the mitts as well towards the end of the game with Grizzlies Captain Zach Urban. The decision went to Urban.

2. Chippy play all over the place. Tanner Cochrane got an elbow up on Leo Fitzgerald, went to the box, and caught an earful from a Victoria fan while sitting there. I mean…this clown was going HAM on Cochrane – while being seperated by four rows of seats and a pane of glass. Well done. Good on you, Grizzly Fan.

3. To check out the boxscore of this game, and all the penalties that were handed out after the final buzzer, please click here. Remember that the league frowns upon ‘2nd and 3rd fights’. There will be some suspensions handed down, which will hurt the Chiefs for the Cowichan game on Sunday afternoon. Names are being tossed around as to who might be suspended, but I don’t know for sure yet. However, when I know, you’ll know.

4.Perhaps bigger than that, was an incident between the benches late in the game. A couple of Grizzlies players standing in the tunnel after being given penalties late in the game, began to taunt the Chiefs bench. Words were exchanged, the Chiefs’ rack of sticks was knocked over, Harvey Smyl and Bill Bestwick were having their own Marc Crawford-Scotty Bowman moment, and let’s really hope that these two teams meet in the playoffs, because that would be crazy.

6. The Chiefs may lack consistency right now, but they certainly don’t lack any ‘Have your teammates’ backs’. While you never like to see it come to that, this is a tight group. Maybe it’s one of those moments that helps this team turn it around.

7. Lost in absolutley all of this – Josh Hansen took the warmup tonight. His first time on ice in a game uniform since the 5th of December. It was good to see.

8. Soupy was chirped by a St. John’s ambulance attendant as we were leaving. This guy must have seen the Chiefs logo on Cam’s jacket. Good on you, St. John’s ambulance Guy.

That gives you an idea of what it was like in there on Saturday. As far as the rest of the game went, it was a matchup of two pretty good teams. Victoria’s guys just made a few more plays. The Fitzgeralds were effective for most of the game, always buzzing, and the Grizzlies have a big group of defensemen that can make life tough for any group of forwards. Gaining the zone and sustaining pressure was an obstacle a little too often tonight.

Categories: Chiefs Hockey

Island Division, Day One: Victoria

January 12, 2013 Leave a comment

ChfVSVictoria

Chilliwack Chiefs (23-11-1-1 – 48 points, 2nd in Mainland)

VS Victoria Grizzlies (25-9-0-3 – 53 points, 1st in Island)

(Bear Mountain Arena  –  6:45 pregame/7:15 pm faceoff on 89.5 The Hawk)

Some thoughts on a terrific matchup between the Chiefs, and Victoria Grizzlies, currently the best team in the BCHL:

Keep an eye on the triplets. Victoria is a great team, and it’s the Fitzgerald triplets – Gerry, Leo, and Myles that are the catalysts for their success. Chilliwack’s defenders will have their hands full with those three. It’s up to Chilliwack’s top line of Plevy, Esposito, and Phil Zielonka to provide similar issues for the Grizzlies blueliners in this game. Whoever has the edge in this particular matchup may just win the game tonight.

Victoria loaded up at the deadline as well, bringing in Keyler Bruce from the Cowichan Capitals, and Pearce Eviston from the Vernon Vipers. Victoria’s coming off a 3-2 victory over Alberni Valley where they scored three times in the third period to pull it out. Sounds a little like Chilliwack…..

….who needed some late game heroics on Friday against Prince George from Spencer Graboski, and an overtime winner from the newly acquired Zielonka. The Chiefs can’t rely on late game heroics to save them tonight – Bear Mountain Arena can be a tough place to play, particularly this season.

Getting back to the defensive matchups for Chilliwack against Victoria, David Thompson was dinged with a game misconduct penalty for a hit from behind Friday night, and missed the last half of the game. He’ll be fresh and ready to go. Ben Masella had one of his better outings, and will have to bring that effort once again.

Chilliwack will have some more grit in the lineup, as Tanner Cochrane comes back tonight following a two game suspension. He’s right on the threshold for number of fights and game misconducts, though. If he goes over that line, it could mean more suspension time, or fines for the team. He’ll have to be careful, while continuing to play his style of game, getting under the skin of his opponents.

Something that won’t occur tonight, but may help the Chiefs Sunday afternoon in Cowichan – There’s a chance that Josh Hansen will suit up and play limited minutes against the Capitals. Hansen has been out since the fifth of December with a sprained knee.

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A matchup of the BCHL’s best power play agianst the league’s best penalty kill. Hey now!

Special Teams:

Chilliwack – Powerplay – 22.60 % (4th) /Penalty Kill – 85.93% – (1st)

Victoria – Powerplay – 24.71 % (1st) / Penalty Kill – 81.48% – (7th)

Categories: Chiefs Hockey

Zielonka, Graboski Provide A Lift

January 12, 2013 Leave a comment

I’ll keep this fairly brief. For a detailed blow-by-blow account of the game, check out my dude JB’s recap by clicking here.

Chilliwack probably shouldn’t have won this game….but they did. Here’s what stood out for yours truly:

1. Phil Zielonka had an eventful debut. Any time you can score an overtime winning goal in your first game with a new team, it’s pretty exciting stuff. The future Harvard teammate of Luke Esposito (and Prince George defenseman Kevin Guiltinan) had some chances throughout the game that he just couldn’t quite finish. He made no mistake on the overtime winner though. Alexandre Perron-Fontaine threaded a nice cross seam pass, and Zielonka made no mistake from the right circle. That’s why he’s here – to make a play like that with the game on the line.

2. Another reason it was nice to see Zielonka bury that at the end was because Chilliwack had trouble finishing in this game. Prince George goaltender Kirk Thompson deserves a ton of credit, for he was very good throughout, but the Chiefs will have to do a better job of capitalizing on their opportunities, particularly as the season wears on, and teams get tighter defensively.

3. Spencer Graboski’s got four goals in his last three games. He got just enough of a nine iron on the tying goal with 51 seconds left in the third period. This was after Zielonka had his stick lifted on a point blank chance in the circle. Right place. Right time. Nine Iron. Tie game. He opened the scoring on the powerplay as well.

4. Graboski also drew the penalty with less than two minutes left to give the Chiefs a powerplay down a goal, where they pulled Gillam and went six on four. The tripping call on Kevin Guiltinan was borderline at best, but I still thought there was enough of a can opener in there to warrant a call. Guiltinan was upset, and nearly broke his stick in the penalty box. I’ve also heard that the officials apologized to the Prince George staff for that one, along with something in overtime on Austin Plevy that could have given the Spruce Kings an advantage. Bummer.

5. That stuff evens out over the course of a season, though. Prince George will get three more cracks at the Chiefs this month alone. I’m sure they’ll file it away.

6. Prince George’s Coltyn Hansen. That kid can skate. He showed it on the second Spruce King goal, stealing a puck at the PG blueline, racing in shorthanded, and beating Gillam to the glove side. I thought that one would be the dagger, as the Chiefs had just gone to the powerplay after a too many men call. I was wrong.

7. Gillam scrambling back into his crease to make a diving save in overtime after getting careless with the puck behind the net. Good to be lucky, and all that stuff. His Don Cherry jacket was especially loud this evening. Made some big saves along the way, too.

8. On his first shift as a Chief, Tanner Burns took a penalty for boarding, in an attempt to annoint his arrival by going hard on the forecheck. That’s what guys do when they play their first game for new clubs. Case in point: Ben Israel picked up a charging call five minutes into his first game with the Coquitlam Express Friday. That’s the way it goes.

9. Having to play without David Thompson for the final 33 minutes after the Captain took a hit from behind penalty is never a good thing, but the Chiefs got some solid work from the five remaining blueliners. Ben Masella had a strong game, and was named third star.

10. It’s gonna be tough Saturday in Victoria. Can the Chiefs make it two in a row for the first time in a month? Stay tuned.

Categories: Chiefs Hockey

Everything Is Happening: Spruce Kings Here Tonight

January 11, 2013 Leave a comment

Before we get to the game preview, here’s the press release from earlier today in regards to the Phillip Zielonka trade.

Initial reaction:

First off, best of luck to Garrett Forster and Ben Israel. While this side of the business is always difficult, and it’s sad to see anybody go, I think those two will get more responsibilities/opportunities with Jon Calvano in Coquitlam. Forster should get some more top-six minutes there, and Israel was playing out of position at forward with the Chiefs for the last few weeks due to the injuries. He’ll get back to his regular spot.

Along with Zielonka, the Express unloaded their other two top scorers at the deadline, with John Siemer going to Penticton, and Captain Mitch Nardi heading to the West Kelowna Warriors. A ‘rebuild’ of sorts is underway there, and I see Forster and Israel playing a big part in that.

As far as Phillip Zielonka goes? The kid can play. He’s highly skilled, can make game-changing plays, and can find the net – 34 points in 24 games with the Express this year. He gives Harvey Smyl more options now, and it’s likely he’ll get time with Luke Esposito and Austin Plevy.

In turn, this allows Trevor Hills to slide back into his spot on the second line, giving the Chiefs more of a punch offensively given the injuries to Josh Hansen and Ryan Donohoe. Tanner Burns is ready to go as well. He could find the net in Junior B, with 39 points in 34 games with the North Okanagan Knights. His size and grit at 6’3 and 180 will be a welcome addition up front.

More on this on the broadcast tonight.

There’s a game tonight, too.

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ChfVSPrincegeorge

Chilliwack Chiefs (22-11-1-1 – 46 points, 2nd in Mainland)

VS Prince George Spruce Kings (18-12-1-5 – 42 points, 3rd in Mainland)

(Prospera Centre  –  6:30 pregame/7 pm faceoff on 89.5 The Hawk)

It should be very interesting to see how this will all look. Zielonka and Burns will be in the lineup tonight, and should add right away to a group that needs a bit of a boost right now. Chilliwack is just 7-6 in their last thirteen games, and sit second in the Mainland division behind the Surrey Eagles going into Friday’s play.

The opponent this evening is the Prince George Spruce Kings, a team that’s also not far behind Chilliwack, just four points off the pace. This marks the first of four meetings throughout the month of January, so you can bet that numbers will be taken down, and some bad blood will materialize between these two over the next little while.

It’s important for the Chiefs to pick up a couple points tonight. After this game, they embark on a road trip that includes games in Victoria, Cowichan, and up north in Prince George. A lack of depth at the forward spots with injuries has left the Chiefs out of sync at times. Hopefully that will change with the additions of Zielonka and Burns.

Prince George may have stood pat at the deadline, but this team is highly competitive, and has entered the most important part of their season with a host of divisional games coming up. The Spruce Kings have gotten some terrific goaltending from Kirk Thompson, and they’re deep on the back end, but scoring has been an issue for this group coming out of the Christmas break, with just  two goals in three games this month. Spruce Kings defenseman Mitch Eden, a future teammate of Trevor Hills at St. Lawrence, continues to lead the team in that category, with 28 points, 26 of those assists.

With the addition of Zielonka, it will serve the Chiefs very well to solve Thompson early and often. And for what it’s worth, Mitch Gillam hasn’t allowed a goal to the Spruce Kings in two starts this season.

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Special Teams:

Chilliwack – Powerplay – 21.89 % (4th) /Penalty Kill – 86.08% – (1st)

Prince George – Powerplay – 16.11 % (15th) / Penalty Kill – 81.46% – (6th)

Categories: Chiefs Hockey

Rivermen Hand Chiefs Home Ice Loss

January 6, 2013 Leave a comment

Boxscore

JB’s Recap

The Langley Rivermen are on the board in the season series with the Chilliwack Chiefs, jumping out to 3-0 and 4-1 leads, hanging on to win 6-3 at Prospera Centre on Saturday night. Langley’s victory was just their fourth on the road all season, but a big one, as they are now in sole possesion of the final playoff spot in the Mainland division. Chilliwack has a share of first place in the Mainland, as the Surrey Eagles picked up a single point after a double overtime loss to the Penticton Vees. The loss for Chilliwack keeps their rollercoaster run intact – The team is 7-6 in their last 13.

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– A few times this year, Chilliwack’s league-best penalty kill had games where they would go 9 for 10, or 7 for 9. It was okay to overlook the number of penalties the Chiefs were taking in games if they were consistently being killed off. Langley scored twice on their four first period powerplays. Becomes a little more noticable.

– A pair of nice plays on two Langley goals in the first period. Mario Puskarich’s 50th point came on a cross ice pass to Evan Campbell for the game’s opening goal. Trevor Cope chipped a puck past Eric Roberts and wired one past Mitch Gillam to the blocker side. The Rivermen are a much different hockey team when playing with a lead. They had all the momentum in that opening period, and it was obvious.

– Mathieu Tibbet got one back for the Chiefs early in the second when he poked a rebound past Darren Hogg for his second in as many games. He and Brodyn Nielsen provided the Chiefs with energy throughout, and were two of their better players. (According to me, anyway.)

– Hogg was solid in net for the Rivermen tonight. Chilliwack did enough to get pucks through – 19-8 in the second period and 17-8 in the third. Hogg made 43 saves overall, and provided the difference for a team just trying to climb up the standings. He deserves some credit.

– Austin Plevy gave the Chiefs a spark in the third down 4-1, scoring twice in a span of 15 seconds, once on a sharp angle shot along the redline, and a rebound on a goalmouth scramble. That invoked memories of the comeback in November…..

– There was a sequence with the game still in doubt at 4-3, still not halfway through the third period, where Langley iced the puck three different times, and Chilliwack couldn’t take advantage of a dog tired Langley forward group. Ben Butcher restored the two goal lead. The Chiefs just couldn’t quite get over the hump.

Categories: Chiefs Hockey

Gameday: Rivermen At Chiefs

January 5, 2013 Leave a comment

ChfVSLangley

Chilliwack Chiefs (22-10-1-1 – 46 points, 1st in Mainland)

VS Coquitlam Express (13-14-1-5 – 32 points, 5th in Mainland)

(Prospera Centre  –  6:30 pregame/7 pm faceoff on 89.5 The Hawk)

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Three Things:

1. Chilliwack has gone 3-0 against Langley this season. Tonight marks the third visit from Langley, who are currently in a dogfight with Coquitlam for the final playoff spot in the Mainland division. Much like last night, Chilliwack is facing a team in need of points any way they can get them. I think it’s important for the Chiefs moving forward to sew up a four point weekend on home ice.

2. Funny stat that may only interest me: Tanner Cochrane this season – Goals: 3. Game Misconducts: 3  Cochrane picked up his third of the season last night with a hit from behind on Coquitlam’s Mitchell Fyffe. The Chiefs will have some more help up front tonight, as the McHaffie twins, Scott and Spencer, will draw into the lineup. The two have appeared in three games with the Chiefs this season.

3. Chilliwack must cut down on the number of turnovers. Langley leads the BCHL in goals per game. Best not to give them the puck if it can be avoided.

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Games with Langley are always physical. The Rivermen have a big team up front, and Chilliwack will have to match that physical style without going over the edge. Langley has also shown they can be goaded into taking bad penalties from time to time as well. Same goes for Chilliwack too, actually. Who stays disciplined?

The Chiefs are 7-4-0 this season when they give up the first goal. Three of those seven wins? Over the Rivermen.

The first forty minutes could tell the story. Chilliwack improved to 18-1-0-1 overall when they lead after two periods.

The Rivermen lead the BCHL in goals per game (3.45) and are within the top eight in both special teams categories – so why are they at the bottom of the division standings? Their road record. Three wins in 17 games away from the Langley Events Centre.

You’ll also see two of the top scorers in the BCHL tonight. Luke Esposito scored twice on Friday night, giving him 47 points – two back of league leader – The Rivermen’s Mario Puskarich, with 49.

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Special Teams:

Chilliwack – Powerplay – 22.29 % (4th) /Penalty Kill – 86.70% – (1st)

Langley – Powerplay – 20.81 % (6th) / Penalty Kill – 81.71% – (5th)

Categories: Chiefs Hockey

Back To The Win Column

January 5, 2013 Leave a comment

It wasn’t exactly pretty, but it’s best to collect the two points and move along some nights. That was the case Friday in a 5-3 Chilliwack victory over the Express.

The Chiefs maintained their position atop the Mainland division, and remain one point up on the Surrey Eagles. Surrey beat Trail on Friday night to keep pace, but the Chiefs were able to take care of business against a Mainland opponent that looks to be a tough out come later in the season.

Here’s What Stood Out:

– Coquitlam taking two one goal leads in the first period, and the Chiefs showing a little resolve in wiping out those advantages. The Chiefs are a team that scores first quite often, but it was John Siemer that worked his way to the front of the goal less than two minutes in. He outwaited Gillam as well for the opener. Spencer Graboski would tie the game for Chilliwack twice in the first, once pouncing on a loose puck to the right of the crease, and…..um….sending a puck towards the crease where it was re-directed in off the stick of Coquitlam’s Mike Maciag. Nevertheless.

– Mathieu Tibbet scored for the first time in seventeen games. He’s had his chances in tight over the last few, but he finally broke through when…..his hard shoot in from behind centre bounced a couple times on the way down and beat Cole Huggins. Nevertheless. Good for Tibbs, though. Gotta get them any way you can.

– Luke Esposito beat everyone to the front of the net on the fourth Chilliwack goal, converting on a great cross ice pass from Trevor Hills. Esposito would add another into an empty net with a second to go. He and Coquitlam’s Siemer are tied for second in league scoring after Friday with 47 points.

– It was the seventh meeting of the season between the two, and perhaps the first time that Coquitlam had a full lineup. (With the exception of no Alex Kerfoot of course. And that’s a big exception, but still.) Phil Zielonka and John Siemer were the two best Express players on the ice. Mitch Nardi was busy as well. They’ll be a tough out as the season progresses. They’ll certainly threaten Prince George, and are already better than Langley, even if they’re just separated by a point in the standings right now.

– Gillam’s save on a Phil Zielonka breakaway in the third period with the Chiefs hanging on to a one goal lead. Pretty good. One of his best of the year.

– It wasn’t Chilliwack’s best game to be sure. There were some mental errors, and a few too many turnovers. Part of what made them so good in the first couple months was that mental toughness. Defensive coverage has been spotty at times as well. They’ll figure it out and get it back to that early season level, but it’s up to them as to how long that will take.

– With the victory, The Chiefs are 5-1-1 against Coquitlam this season. They’ve gone 4-0 against Langley this year, and the Rivermen are at Prospera next – later on tonight.

Categories: Chiefs Hockey

Keepin’ It Divisional: Coquitlam Makes Third Visit

January 4, 2013 Leave a comment

ChfVSCoquitlam

Chilliwack Chiefs (21-9-1-1 – 44 points, 1st in Mainland)

VS Coquitlam Express (16-18-1-0 – 33 points, 4th in Mainland)

(Prospera Centre  –  6:30 pregame/7 pm faceoff on 89.5 The Hawk)

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Three Things:

1. After getting off to that smooth start over the first couple months, the Chiefs have gone 6-5 in their last eleven games. While that’s not terrible, it’s certainly not the pace that Chilliwack initially set. Harvey Smyl said before last Saturday’s loss to Surrey that it was about getting back on track. The Chiefs still have the Mainland division lead, but only by a single point. Their next three games are all on home ice, and all against divisional opponents. Success can serve them well here by – that’s right – getting back on track.

2. Still doubt in terms of Josh Hansen’s return to the lineup. You can never rush a knee issue. Hansen’s been out since spraining his MCL back on the 5th of December against the Express at Prospera Centre. His absence has had a domino effect on the lineup. While Trevor Hills has played well for stretches with the top line and power play unit in Hansen’s spot, it also means Hills gets taken off the second powerplay group, which limits the number of options/looks the Chiefs can present to their opponents. Of course, the case of Ryan Donohoe continues to hurt as well. He remains out indefinitley, and that could mean some difficult decisions have to be made in regards to the roster come the January 10th finalization deadline.

3. Of course, you can’t really gripe about injuries with Coquitlam in town. Jon Calvano’s had bodies in and out of the lineup all season, which has in part played to their struggles. Coquitlam’s coming off a winless weekend themselves, with losses in the division to Langey and Surrey. Alex Kerfoot, arguably their best player, is gone for the season with a shoulder injury. This team still has skill up front, though. Phil Zielonka has put up some impressive numbers, with 31 points in just 22 games played. He’ll be one to watch tonight along with John Siemer. Siemer is part of a three way tie for second in the BCHL scoring race with Chilliwack’s Luke Esposito and Penticton’s Wade Murphy. All three have 45 points. Esposito leads all BCHL rookies with that number.

Luke Esposito enters this weekend tied with Coquitlam's Jon Siemer in points (45) Photo: Bob Frid

Photo: Bob Frid

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Special Teams:

Chilliwack – Powerplay – 21.60 % (4th) /Penalty Kill – 86.89% – (1st)

Coquitlam – Powerplay – 17.90 % (10th) / Penalty Kill – 80.29% – (11th)

Categories: Chiefs Hockey
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