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First Of Four: Chiefs Battle Rivermen

ChfVSLangley

Chilliwack Chiefs (30-18-1-1 – 62 points, 2nd in Mainland)

VS Langley Rivermen (20-23-1-5 – 46 points, 4th in Mainland)

(Langley Events Centre  –  6:45 pregame/7:15 pm faceoff on 89.5 The Hawk)

Between now and the end of the regular season in the second weekend of March, these two division opponents will meet four times. It’s going to feel like a playoff series when it’s all said and done. Chilliwack is starting to turn the corner at the right time, winning three of their last four, while Langley is still trying to fend off Coquitlam for the final playoff spot in the division.

1. Last time the Chiefs laced ’em up in this building, they beat Langley 6-3 in the last game before the Christmas break.

Since that game, they’ve won eight of nineteen. I have no idea what this means.

They have, however, won at the LEC before, and with four games left against the Rivermen from now ’till the end of the year, including three in that building, I’d say that’s kind of important.

2. Tonight’s game will feature the top three scorers in the BCHL entering Friday’s play. Langley’s Mario Puskarich is out in front with 37 goals and 75 points. He, along with Evan Campbell and James Robinson represent a dangerous trio which the Chiefs will have to attend to. Chilliwack’s done a solid job the last couple games keeping some talented players in West Kelowna and Surrey to the outside, limiting the number of scoring chances on Mitch Gillam in tight. Same mindset applies here with those three, and players like Derek Sutliffe, Austin Azurdia, and Mitch McLain are no slouches either.

On the Chilliwack side, Luke Esposito and Austin Plevy are 2-3 in the league, respectively. Plevy needs one goal to hit the 30 plateau for the year, joining Puskarich and his teammate Phil Zielonka. Luke Esposito meanwhile, leads the league in assists by a mile. (53) We could see some goals this evening. Gillam and (probable) Langley starter James Barr will have their work cut out.

3. Trevor Hills played with Esposito and Plevy the last time Chilliwack was in Langley, and promptly finished with four points that night. Those three were together last Saturday night against Surrey, and it only took Hills seven minutes to score in the first period on a setup by the other two. I think we may see some more of that on Friday.

4. It’s been a little while since Langley had to deal with a healthy Ryan Donohoe. Donohoe was one of the momentum changers in that memorable comeback in October, and his continued steady play down the middle should make a difference playing with Josh Hansen and Phil Zielonka. In two games against Langley this season, Donohoe has three goals and four points.

Langley can score a ton, so it’s important for the Chiefs to play a solid ‘road’ type game tonight – limiting chances, playing physical down low, along the boards, etc. I’m not sure it’s in Chilliwack’s best interest to try and get into some kind of wild west shootout against this team – The Chiefs have had games in the last 10 where they look great offensively, and others where the quality scoring chances, for whatever reason, dry up.

I think this is a good litmus test for the club, not just tonight but for the weekend as well with the Prince George game looming (Two winnable games according to me, who doesn’t wear a uniform, kill a penalty, take a hit to make a play, or get into the lane to block a shot, mind you.) – Have the Chiefs really turned the corner?

Or is it another on again/off again stretch before the postseason? Don’t forget, in this occasionally frustrating 8-11 stretch since Christmas, they’ve seen a four game winning streak, and two seperate losing streaks of four, and five games.

Full stride? Or another stop on the roller coaster?

Guess we’ll find out.

Categories: Chiefs Hockey
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