2009-10 Total regular season fights: 479 (0.94) per game
Team Fights (regular season only)
Alberni Valley – 41
Nanaimo – 39
Westside – 39
Salmon Arm – 36
Trail – 33
Vernon – 32
Prince George – 31
Cowichan Valley – 31
Merritt – 30
Victoria – 29
Chilliwack – 27
Surrey – 27
Powell River – 27
Langley – 26
Penticton – 25
Coquitlam – 18
Most Fights (including playoffs)
Turner Popoff – 9
Turner Lawson – 7
Kyle Kramer – 7
Trent Dorais – 7
Marlon Sabo – 6
Kevin Woodyatt – 6
Geoff Crisfield – 6
Jeff Kennedy – 6
Sean Landrey – 6
Brendan Kennedy – 6
Matt Cronin – 6
Tanner Cochrane – 5
Kyler Bruce – 5
Shay Laurent – 5
Ben Woodley – 5
Trevor Fitzgerald – 5
Linden Saip – 5
Brendon MacDonald – 5
Sean Maktaak – 5
Ben Matthews – 5
Eagles to face Cowichan in BCHL’s Coastal Conference semifinals
By Nick Greenizan – Peace Arch News
The Surrey Eagles’ first-round playoff opponent is one they’ve become very familiar with lately.
When the BC Hockey League post-season begins Friday, the Birds will square off with the Cowichan Valley Capitals, who finished just one point back of the Eagles for second place in the Coastal Conference.
The conference-champion Powell River Kings will play the fourth-place Coquitlam Express in the Coastal’s other best-of-seven series.
The Eagles and Capitals are no strangers to each other, having played three times in the last month, and five times since Christmas.
And though the Eagles have sat in first place – and second in the entire BCHL – for much of the last two months of the season, the two clubs are extremely close in talent.
Both teams finished with 36 wins on the season, but Surrey managed one more tie than their Vancouver Island rivals, thus securing home-ice advantage for the round.
And once you break the matchup down even further, the gap between the two teams tightens even further. In the offensive department, the Caps scored just five goals more than the Eagles over the 60-game regular season, and defensively, Surrey allowed one goal fewer.
Both teams had outstanding seasons on home ice – the Eagles lost just five of 30 games in regulation time, while Cowichan lost just seven – which may play into the hands of the Peninsula squad considering they have home-ice advantage.
The Eagles are coming off a loss in their final regular-season contest, a 4-2 defeat to the visiting Westside Warriors Friday, but have the entire week to prepare for the Caps.
Against Westside on Friday, Surrey defenceman Steve Koshey opened the scoring 16:46 into the first period, but the Warriors scored three – from David Pope, Marcus Basra and Max French – in the second frame to take the lead. Alex Hagen replied for Surrey near the end of the period to bring the home team to within one, but it was as close as they’d get. French added an empty-net goal with 1:03 to seal the win for the Warriors, who finished out of the playoffs in the Interior Conference with just 53 points.
Andrew Hunt took the loss for Surrey, stopping 21 of 24 shots.
Hunt has a chance to be a difference-maker for the Eagles in the playoffs, after a regular season that saw him play in 52 of 60 games, and finish among the league-leaders in most goaltending statistical categories.
Cowichan, meanwhile, had more of an even split between its goaltenders, as 18-year-old Derek Dunn saw action in 37 games, and Brady Rouleau played 22.
The best-of-seven first-round series begins Friday, 7 p.m. at South Surrey Arena, with Game 2 slated for Saturday night in South Surrey. The series shifts to Cowichan for Games 3 and 4, on Monday and Tuesday night, respectively. If a fifth game is necessary, it will be played Thursday in South Surrey; Game 6 will be back on Vancouver Island Friday, and if the series goes the distance, Game 7 goes March 24.
Capitals’ cup pursuit begins this weekend
Kevin Rothbauer, Citizen
Published: Friday, March 16, 2012
Laden with veteran forwards, this year’s edition of the Cowichan Valley Capitals was built to contend for the British Columbia Hockey League’s Fred Page Cup.
The quest for the cup begins this weekend as the Caps begin their first-round series with the Surrey Eagles.
Games one and two will be played at the South Surrey Arena on Friday and Saturday, and the series will hit the Island Savings Centre on Monday and Tuesday, with the puck dropping at 7 p.m. both nights.
The Caps and Eagles were separated by a single point in the regular-season standings, Surrey grabbing the second seed with 82 points to Cowichan’s 81. In seven meetings during the campaign, Cowichan earned four wins, including two in overtime. The Caps won three of four games in Duncan and one of two in Surrey.
Ingram and fellow associate coach Dale Purinton turned the Caps around from an eighth-place finish in the 2010/11 season to a third-place ranking this year. The Caps went 8-1-0-1 in their last 10 games, while the Eagles closed out with a 5-5-0-0 record.
“I like the way we’re playing right now,” said associate coach Jim Ingram. “Staying at an even keel is important.”
In the playoffs, it’s key to move quickly from one game to the next without getting wrapped up in one result, said Ingram.
“These series happen very, very fast,” he said. “You have to be able to put games behind you or look forward to them, depending on how it’s going for you.”
© Cowichan Valley Citizen 2012
Surrey, Caps sure to produce a speedy series
By Don Bodger – Cowichan News Leader Pictorial
Published: March 13, 2012 7:00 PM
Cowichan Valley Capitals can thank Langley goalie James Barr for having to start their B.C. Hockey League Coastal Conference semifinal playoff series against the Surrey Eagles on the road.
The Caps only needed a win in regulation time or overtime Saturday at Cowichan Arena to claim second place in the Coastal Conference and home-ice advantage for the first round of the playoffs, but Barr had other ideas. He literally Barr-ed the door with 61 saves and the Langley Rivermen escaped with a 2-1 overtime win to bump the Caps down to third place.
The Rivermen received a break in overtime and generated some offense on a power play that produced the winning goal from Mario Puskarich.
The Caps had no trouble scoring the night before in Port Alberni, as they blitzed the Bulldogs 9-4.
But it just wouldn’t go in the net for the Caps against Barr, with the coveted higher placing at stake.
“We kept it real positive in the room and on the bench,’’ said Caps’ associate coach Jim Ingram. “The guys wanted to win so bad, they could taste it.
“It would have been nice to start at home, there’s no doubt about it. At the same time, I can’t really explain what happened. It just happened.’’
The Caps are moving right into their Coastal semifinal playoff at Surrey Friday. Both sides are expecting a collision of high-powered attacks.
“I think it’ll be a fun series for the fans to watch,’’ said Ingram. “There’s two pretty explosive teams playing against each other. They’ve got speed, we’ve got speed.’’
“I think it’s going to be a really exciting fast-paced series,’’ agreed Surrey coach Matt Erhart.
“I think our games in Duncan have been pretty high-paced games, both teams taking turns carrying stretches of play.’’
Opening the series on the larger Surrey rink means more space, but shooters sometimes wind up setting up farther away from the scoring areas, according to Erhart.
The Caps have been strong on the road and aren’t worried about opening in Surrey.
“We’ve played pretty well over in their building,’’ said Ingram. “We can skate as well as they can. It looks good for our cycle game down low.’’
Both teams boast plenty of playoff experience. Surrey has nine players back from the team that ventured deep into the playoffs last season.
“Experience helps and you expect your leadership guys to lead the way,’’ said Erhart.
Surrey also has some great young players. “Three of our top six forwards are 17 and 18,’’ pointed out Erhart.
The Caps have two of the top four playoff scorers from last season in Brett Knowles and Richard Vanderhoek. They also have captain Devin Gannon who made a great run with Knowles in Salmon Arm last season and Darrin Robak, who was on a national championship team in Vernon.
“We’ve got a lot of experience in our older guys,’’ said Gannon.
“I don’t think home ice is going to determine the winner of this series.
“Every playoff game is going to be a defensive battle. You want to keep goals out of our net. I think our power guys have defensive smarts, too.’’
Strategies will be set this week after practice and video reviews, but not necessarily followed once trends start to occur in games.
“We can match lines all we want,’’ said Gannon. “I’m not worried about putting anyone out against anyone else.’’
“By Friday, the first TV timeout, it’ll all be out the window,’’ said Erhart of the game plan.
Kings finish first–again
by Glen Gibbs | Peak Sports
It’s something that Powell River Kings’ fans and players will never get used to and that’s a first-place finish in the Coastal Conference.
This year was a little tougher than the others, what with the welcome distraction of World Junior A Championships, but the Kings came through with a brilliant late season performance.
They began the weekend with three games on the road and three points behind Surrey Eagles for the top spot.
Kings beat Nanaimo Clippers 3-1 on Friday while Surrey lost to Kelowna’s Westside Warriors 4-2. This meant Powell River only needed to win one out of their two remaining games.
The mission was accomplished quickly when they rolled over the hapless Grizzlies in Victoria 7-0 and then put an exclamation point on the season with a 5-0 shutout of the Clippers in Nanaimo Sunday afternoon.
Kings got off to a great start on Friday when Jordan Benton and Daniel Schuler scored to give them a 2-0 lead in the third period.
Nanaimo got one back on a five-on-three powerplay but Kings’ Sean Maguire held them off the rest of the way until Cohen Adair scored into an empty net at 19:54.
With the win, and the news that Surrey had lost, Kings took the ice in Victoria on Saturday determined to seal the deal for first place.
They did that with three goals in the first four minutes and four in the period with Teal Burns and Adair each getting a pair.
JP Villeneuve scored the only goal of the second period and Teagan Waugh and Jon Jutzi got singles in the third to round out the scoring while Jonah Imoo recorded the shutout.
Kings went into Nanaimo for the 60th game of the year with nothing to prove and received two goals from affiliate call-up Jackson Garrett and singles from Jutzi, Evan Richardson and Matt Scarth to skate to their 39th win of the year.
With his back-to-back goose eggs, Imoo’s consecutive three shutouts, combined with Maguire’s three and Jamie Phillip’s five, gives the Kings 11 during the season.
Kings are top among goaltending duos category for the second year in a row. They also allowed the fewest goals in the league with 127, six less than Penticton Vees’ 133.
Of their weekend success and first-place finish head coach and general manager Kent Lewis said, “We had probably the biggest turnover in the division for players outside of Nanaimo. We had a lot to learn through the year and we were quite a ways away from first place at one point but just stuck, really, with our game plan.”
Lewis remarked that since Christmas player attendance has been more consistent, which has helped. “Your goal every year,” he said, “is to be good and be consistent and I think we’ve shown that in finishing first. Now the focus is not patting ourselves on the back too much, but we worked hard to get home ice and that’s what it is all about.”
Of their first-round opponent Lewis said Coquitlam Express has been a tough competitor during regular season. “With our division being as tight as it was,” he said, “it’s great with all four teams having great years and the playoffs are going to be very difficult.”
The first best-of-seven series against Coquitlam starts at 7:30 pm on Friday, March 16 and Saturday, March 17 at Hap Parker Arena.
Games three and four continue in Coquitlam on March 19 and 20.
Coquitlam Express begin playoff march Friday
By John Kurucz, Coquitlam NOW March 15, 2012
COQUITLAM — Buoyed by a 6-1-1 record in regular season play, the Coquitlam Express will look to continue their dominance over the Powell River Kings Friday as the two teams square off in B.C. Hockey League playoff action.
The Kings finished atop the Coastal Conference this season with 84 points, while Coquitlam finished fourth with 77 points.
Both teams are riding relative hot streaks headed into Friday’s contest, as Powell River posted an 8-2 record over their last 10 regular season games, while Coquitlam went 7-2-1.
Known for a stringent attention to detail on the backend, the Kings allowed a league-low 127 goals against this season compared to the 204 conceded by Coquitlam. The Express, however, held a slight advantage in goals for — 245 versus the 233 recorded by Powell River.
“They’re not the team that’s going to score six, seven, eight goals a game,” said Express captain and Coastal Conference MVP Alex Petan. “They’ve got really big players on the defensive end and they try to keep their goals against down, so we know the games aren’t going to be high scoring.”
Games 1 and 2 go Friday and Saturday in Powell River, while Games 3 and 4 take place Monday and Tuesday at the Poirier Sports Centre.
If needed, Game 5 goes Thursday in Powell River and Game 6 is scheduled for Friday, March 23 in Coquitlam. A Game 7 showdown would be played March 24 in Powell River.
More to come.
© Copyright (c) Coquitlam Now
Express begin playoff grind tonight
By John Kurucz, Coquitlam Now March 16, 2012
The commanding season series advantage now means next to nothing, while the gaudy power play numbers are yesterday’s news. That 7-2-1 run headed into the playoffs? Fuggedaboutit.
And that’s just the way Jon Calvano is approaching things these days, as his club prepares to begin its best-of-seven series with the Powell River Kings tonight (Friday).
“Whatever happened in the first 60 games of the year means nothing,” the Express head coach said in an interview. “They are the three-time Coastal Conference champions, with a good, strong defence corps that allowed the lowest goals against in our conference.”
The Express enter tonight’s contest having enjoyed a 6-1-1 regular season record against Powell River, a club that finished seven points ahead of Coquitlam in the regular season.
“We know what they’re like, they know what we’re like,” said Express captain Alex Petan, who was named Coastal Conference MVP earlier this week. “We kind of had their number this year and we played really well against them, so we’re pretty excited to go in to their barn and work really hard.”
Coquitlam’s lone blemish against the Kings came by way of a 1-0 loss in Powell River, a game in which netminder Cole Huggins got the start.
“They’re a really defensive-minded team,” he said. “They want to produce on the chances they get, even though they don’t get a lot. They like the back door plays and they like to cycle down low, so we just need to make sure that we’ve got the high guy covered to make sure they don’t have an open shot.”
The Kings’ bread and butter is an adherence to total team defence, as evidenced by their leaguelow 127 goals against. In comparison, Coquitlam conceded 204 goals. The Express, however, held a slight advantage in goals for – 245 versus the 233 recorded by Powell River.
The Express also finished with the second best power play percentage in the league behind Penticton – one that clicked at 27 per cent – compared to Powell River’s 19 per cent efficiency rating.
As far as penalty kill ratings go, the two teams are neck and neck: Powell River sat in third with an 82 per cent penalty kill ratio, while Coquitlam sat in fourth with 81 per cent.
“They’re not the team that’s going to score six, seven, eight goals a game,” Petan said. “They’ve got really big players on the defensive end and they try to keep their goals against down, so we know the games aren’t going to be high scoring. They’re going to be 2-1, 3-1, 3-2 games and we’ve got to plan our game towards that.”
In looking to prep for Friday, Calvano played coy about his team, downplaying any injuries or potential disruptions around his club. When asked which goalie would start Game 1, the Coquitlam coach countered with, “We’re going to flip a coin.”
According to Huggins, who sported a 21-6-2 record this season, knowing who gets the start well in advance is a moot point.
“It’s nice to know before, but I’m ready no matter what even if I know I’m not starting. I’m going to be focusing all day long no matter what. The postseason is pretty much a new season for me. It’s exciting.”
In what looks an offence-versus-defence type of series, rookie sensation Alexander Kerfoot could be the X Factor, as the 17-year-old is a proven scorer with experience playing in pressure-packed situations thanks to his trip to last year’s Telus Cup.
“We haven’t had much trouble scoring this year,” he said. “I think we’ll still be able to score some goals, but they’re able to score quite a few goals too. Defensively we haven’t been great at times this year, so everyone is going to have to buy in.”
Games 1 and 2 go Friday and Saturday in Powell River, while Games 3 and 4 take place Monday and Tuesday in Coquitlam. If needed, Game 5 goes Thursday in Powell River and Game 6 is scheduled for Friday, March 23 in Coquitlam. A Game 7 showdown would be played March 24 in Powell River.
© Copyright (c) Coquitlam Now
***Note: I couldn’t find any “preview” type of coverage of the Cents-Spruce Kings series online from either of the major PG newspapers.***
Cents prepare for high-flying Spruce Kings
March 15, 2012
The playoffs have finally arrived for the Merritt Centennials, who have put together a memorable season with some highly emotional battles and breaking a record.
By the time the buzzer went in the third period last Saturday night, the Merritt Centennials not only beat the Trail Smoke Eaters 5-2, clinching second place in the interior conference and home ice advantage for the post-season, they also beat their past record of lowest goals against.
The Cents set a new franchise mark this season with only allowing 171 goals, beating their 176 mark set in the 1978-79 season.
“To set an all-time record for goals against was never one of our goals at the beginning of our season, and to be honest, we never even realized we were within reach of the record until our final weekend,” admits Cents head coach and GM Luke Pierce. “It says a lot about the commitment to team defence that this group has made, and these players should be extremely proud of the accomplishment.”
The Cents also racked up their most wins since the 1988-89 season with 34 wins. They were 34-18 with 76 points, their highest point total since the ’78-79 season.
The season’s end also brought about the BCHL awards and all-star team naming.
Cents’ leading scorer Regan Soquila picked up the Bob Fenton Trophy for Most Sportsmanlike Player in the interior conference. NHL prospect Reece Willcox was named to the BCHL Second All-Star Team for the interior conference.
The Cents fought hard to recover from a slump earlier this year and regained their dominant play through scoring and hitting.
“I thought we had a really good final 10 games, which is important,” says Pierce.
The Cents recovery helped them retain second place for most of the latter half of the season before finally securing it in an interesting interior conference race.
In the end, the Cents ended up with home ice advantage against the Prince George Spruce Kings, who have really played well as of late, even ending the Penticton Vees’ record-breaking winning streak in their last game of the regular season.
The BCHL playoff format will be the best of seven games in three rounds. The BCHL champion will then go on to the Doyle Cup to play the best team from the Alberta Junior Hockey League.
Pierce says Cents won’t change much against Prince George
Coach Pierce says the Cents won’t change much heading into their first round playoff series against the Spruce Kings.
The strategy going into Friday night’s opening game of the series will be the same thing that got the Cents to their second place finish but with slightly more focus on defense going against snipers like Paul De Jersey, Michael Colantone, Jujhar Khaira, and the Fitzgerald triplets, according to Pierce.
“We don’t want to change much; we have to be aware when they (De Jersey, Colantone, etc.) are on the ice.
De Jersey picked up two BCHL awards: the Brett Hull Trophy for top scorer and the most valuable player for the interior conference.
“The goaltenders on both sides match up well, and I think it’s going to be a very good series. They’ve got a really big defensive core…I think they are a little more run and gun than we are.”
The Cents have spent the week focusing on details in practice and watching video of past games with the Spruce Kings, whom they haven’t played since early December, a 4-3 win. The Cents were 5-2 against the Kings this season, but most of those games were decided by only one goal.
“They are obviously a pretty big, pretty talented hockey team, so I think if we play our game, work hard, and use our speed, we’ll have a good chance against them,” says Cents captain Evan Stack.
“I think if we take the body on them and take away their time and space, then they start to get frustrated,” he says of containing the Spruce Kings’ offense.
Goaltenders Lino Chimienti and Tyler Steel worked well together all season splitting games. But a decision on who would play for the playoffs had not been announced by Wednesday.
It’s Cents vs Spruce Kings!
By Ian Webster – Merritt Herald
It’s being called the “one to watch”, “the best match-up in the first round of this year’s BCHL playoffs” and “a potential war”.
All the hype is about the best-of-seven series set to get underway this Friday between the Merritt Centennials and the Prince George Spruce Kings.
Both teams enter the highly-anticipated showdown following terrific regular seasons, and massive improvements over their results from one year ago.
Merritt finished second in the Interior Conference this season with a 34-18-2-6 record, good for 76 points. That represents a 25 point increase from last year’s sixth-place finish, and is the best points total for the club since 1978-79.
Prince George’s ascendancy has been even more remarkable. Dead last in 2010-11, the Spruce Kings rose to third in the Interior this year, just four points behind the Centennials. Their 33-21-2-4 record resulted in a 39-point leap in the standings from last season.
Adding to the sense of anticipation is the fact that the Cents and Spruce Kings have not played each other since December 9 – over three months ago.
“It’ll make for an interesting start to the series,” states Cents’ head coach and GM Luke Pierce. “There’ll be a bit of a feeling out process at the beginning I’m sure.”
While Merritt held the edge (5-1-0-1) in the seven early-season games played between the two teams, five of the contests were one-goal games, and two went to overtime.
“It was a really intense series with them,” says Pierce, “so I don’t think it will take long before we rekindle some animosity.”
Prince George head coach Dave Dupas is of a similar opinion.
“They were real good games with Merritt,” he said. “It’s going to be a huge battle.”
Dupas went on to add, “They [The Cents] work hard, they’re well coached, and they do all the little things right.”
Pierce knows that his players have their work cut out for them, too.
“Their top line is going to be a handful. They’ve got the best player in the division and top scorer in the league (Paul De Jersey), and two excellent linemates (Jujhar Khaira and Michael Colantone) with him.”
Pierce went on to say that the focus in practice this week has been on reviewing what the team needs to do to remain successful.
“At this point, we are not going to change who we are and how we play the game. Our focus will continue to be on strong team defense, on a solid work ethic, and on playing physical.”
Chilliwack Chiefs a massive underdog versus Penticton Vees
By Eric Welsh – Chilliwack Progress
There is no team in the BCHL going into the playoffs as a bigger underdog than the Chilliwack Chiefs.
Harvey Smyl’s crew has the unenviable task of taking on a junior A juggernaut that has lost just one game since early November.
The Penticton Vees finished the regular season with just six losses overall, dominating just about everyone they faced.
They scored 334 goals, tops in the league by 89 over the next best team (Coquitlam Express at 245).
The Vees allowed 133 goals, making them the league’s second stingiest team (Powell River gave up 127).
Penticton landed nine players on the BCHL’s all-star teams (see right) and Vees players won four awards.
If Penticton doesn’t beat Chilliwack, it will go down as perhaps the biggest upset in BCHL playoff history. If Penticton doesn’t beat Chilliwack quickly and decisively, eyebrows will be raised.
Among Chilliwack’s many problems will be finding a way to put pucks behind Vees netminder Michael Garteig. The Prince George native won the BCHL’s goaltending award, given to the netminder who posts the lowest goals-against average (1.93) with a minimum of 1,000 minutes played.
“He’s well positioned, very experienced, handles the puck well and he’s very composed,” Smyl said. “He’s like any other goalie in that you try to get traffic and get those second and third opportunities.”
Garteig is protected by a star-laden defence anchored by Columbus Blue Jackets draft pick Mike Reilly (fourth round, 2011).
Reilly’s offensive numbers this season were off the chart for a D-man as he posted 24 goals and 83 points in 51 games.
Reilly is aided by fellow all-star blueliner Troy Stecher, who had five goals and 42 points in 53 games.
“Reilly is fast and skilled and a very important piece to their puzzle back there, as is Stecher,” Smyl said. “We’ve got to create some pressure, create some turnovers and then hopefully score when we get our opportunities.”
Up front, the Vees ice seven 30 goal scorers. It would be eight, but Connor Reilly has been sidelined indefinitely by injury.
“We certainly don’t want to take any bad penalties, I’ll tell you that,” Smyl said. “We have to play banging, grinding hockey and not give them odd-man rushes. We have to make them earn their chances.”
Games one and two are Friday and Saturday in Penticton. Games three and four are Monday and Tuesday in Chilliwack.
History says Chilliwack Chiefs have a chance
Each week during the BCHL season, local hockey guru Jacob Bestebroer writes a Chilliwack Progress column talking about the local team and goings on around the junior A circuit.
The Chilliwack Chiefs have now qualified for the playoffs in 16 of their 17 seasons, and are 21 of 22 when you include their five seasons in Langley.
Over that time, we’ve learned that not everything goes as expected.
In 1995-96 the Chiefs won 44 games and were picked by everyone to win the league title. Everything was going according to plan until top scorer Shawn Horcoff went down with a leg injury early in the second round versus the Langley Thunder.
The Thunder won that series in seven games.
The Chiefs were dominant in 2001-02, setting a team record that still stands with 46 wins and cruising through the first three rounds (winning 11 of 13 games). After surprisingly losing the first two games in the finals versus Vernon, Chilliwack won four straight to win the league title.
They took the Doyle Cup in six games over Drayton Valley, advancing to the national championships in Halifax.
In Halifax, the Chiefs were the best team but were upset in the one game semi-final by Manitoba’s OCN Blizzard. Had those teams played 20 times the Chiefs would have won 19 of them.
Of course it hasn’t always gone against the Chiefs.
In the second half of the 1994-95 season the Chiefs showed signs that they would be a tough team to beat in the playoffs, but their incredible run to this city’s first junior hockey championship was Cinderella like. Their epic second round victory versus the heavily favored Kelowna Spartans was as incredible as incredible gets.
Down three games to two, the Chiefs won game six at home in triple overtime on a goal by Shawn York.
Earlier in the game Mike Minard, the Chiefs number one goalie, was knocked out of the game with an injury. Backup Corey Deutsch came in and was great. He was equally as good when the Chiefs went into Kelowna and won game seven.
The Chiefs went on to win the league title in five games over the Power River Paper Kings, who themselves had pulled off a huge upset in the semi-finals, beating the favoured Penticton Panthers.
In 1999 the Chiefs were given little chance in the semi-finals versus the Surrey Eagles, who were in their third year of an incredible run.
Two years earlier they dominated like few teams in this league ever have, only to be upset in the national final by Summerside. They made amends the next year by winning the national championship in Nanaimo.
Their 1999 team was not quite as good but the Chiefs were given less than no chance of winning that series.
Trailing three games to one the Chiefs won three straight elimination games to win the series, including game seven in Surrey on an overtime goal by Jeff Yopyk.
This year, the Chiefs face the Penticton Vees in round one.
The Vees rewrote the BCHL record book this season with 54 wins and are obvious favorites in this series.
But as we’ve seen before, things don’t always go as they are expected to.
Tall order for Chiefs
First of all, let’s get the doom and gloom out of the way.
The Chilliwack Chiefs are facing the Penticton Vees in the first round of the British Columbia Hockey League playoffs. Yes, the same Vees squad that lost six times in 60 games. A Vees team that won 42 straight games. The club that boasts seven of the BCHL’s nine top scorers, along with the top goalie. The team with the best power play and best penalty kill in the league. A franchise that set a new league record for wins in a season. The undisputed No. 1 Junior A team in the country.
And the Chilliwack Chiefs must beat this team four times in the next two weeks.
Doom and gloom wise, that’s about it.
On the bright side-yes, there is a bright side-the Chiefs can think back to the hurting they laid on Penticton to open the season. Chilliwack beat the Vees 7-1 that glorious night five and a half months ago.
If they can do it once, they can do it again, right?
And if they can do it twice, they can do it three times, right?
OK. It’s a stretch. But that’s how Harvey Smyl’s squad will have to approach the series as they prepare to attack the Mordor-like fortress of the South Okanagan Events Centre. (Bonus piece of gloom: the Vees lost only once at home in 30 regular season games.)
Smyl says his team will approach the series period by period. In three of the Chiefs last four games against the Vees, Chilliwack scored first and trailed by a single goal going into the third period. If the Chiefs can put themselves in a similar position in Penticton, and maybe even enter the third tied, the game will be in reach.
“The plan will be as simple as possible,” Smyl told the Times. “We’re going to try and get off to a good first period and take it period by period from there.”
Despite the formidable opponent, Smyl said his players are just happy to be playing in the post-season after battling for months to get to the playoffs.
“They’re exciting about playing,” said Smyl. “They worked their tails off to get here and are certainly deserving of the opportunity.”
After dealing with injuries for much of the second half of the season, Smyl will have his full roster to draw on, with captain Tyler Miller back manning the blue line and Kody Dhaliwal returning to the lineup after coming down with the flu last weekend.
Their veteran leadership will be crucial if Chilliwack has a chance of winning this weekend.
While physical play inevitably picks up come playoff time, Smyl said the Chiefs will have to pick their sports and remember their defensive responsibilities.
“You do have to play them physically but you have to be smart about that because they’re so skilled and if one [player] takes himself out of the play to make a hit, that opens up all kinds of lanes and opportunities,” Smyl noted. Add in the Penticton power play and restraint may be the order of the day when it comes to containing the Vees.
And therein is the conundrum.
For the Chiefs the series will be akin to having to fight a bear for the last piece of meat on Earth.
“When you play the game, you always think you stand a chance,” Smyl tells the Times, two days before a rendezvous with that bear.
The first two games of the series take place Friday and Saturday in Penticton. Games three and four are scheduled for Monday and Tuesday, respectively, in Chilliwack.
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Playoffs arrive, Vees excited
By Emanuel Sequeira – Penticton Western News
Kyle Beaulieu said it’s a clean slate on any trash talk with the Chilliwack Chiefs from their regular season series.
“We will still have the grudge match,” said Beaulieu, the Penticton Vees defenceman. “That will carry over a little bit.”
The Chiefs and Vees will clash at the South Okanagan Events Centre for Games 1 and 2 Friday and Saturday to open the BCHL’s playoffs.
Beaulieu, who is making his second playoff appearance with the Vees, is excited for what it is t come. The White Rock native said teams shut down defensively, plays happen quicker and hitting is harder. He is eager to help the Vees advance further in the playoffs.
“We certainly have the group to go far,” he said, as the Vees are the No. 1-ranked team in the Canadian Junior Hockey League.
Vees captain Logan Johnston shares Beaulieu’s feelings in wanting to see the team go further and believes they will.
“I think everybody is pretty excited,” said Johnston. “We didn’t necessarily have a whole lot on the line at the end of the year except for the streak. Now it’s kind of like everything is resetting.”
Johnston, who is known to step up his game in the playoffs, expects to continue that trend.
“I just think the game suits me better, the playoff style,” he said after being one of last guys off the ice on Tuesday.
He feels the key to success against the Chiefs will be a strong start and matching their intensity.
“That’s going to be their main thing. If we’re as intense as they are and sharp, then I think we’re sitting pretty good,” said Johnston, who has 12 goals and 17 points in 35 playoff games.
He added that the Chiefs have strong goaltending and defence. What works in the Chiefs favour in Johnston’s opinion is their work ethic. They also have experience.
“A lot of those guys played for Quesnel before and they had a couple of successful playoff goes there in Vernon,” he said.
Vees coach-GM Fred Harbinson said the Chiefs get to pucks quickly and their forwards pressure hard. He acknowledged while both their goalies are good, they have had success against them. He talked about getting pucks on net and staying disciplined.
“We have to play physical, play between whistles and don’t be selfish,” said Harbinson.
“We certainly don’t want to take any bad penalties, I’ll tell you that,” said Chiefs coach Harvey Smyl. “We have to play banging, grinding hockey and not give them odd-man rushes. We have to make them earn their chances.”
The Chiefs, meanwhile, will be striving to make life difficult for Vees goalie Michael Garteig, who was named the BCHL’s Goalie of the Year for the second year in a row.