If Chilliwack Chiefs general manager Harvey Smyl needed any extra motivation to be active at this week’s CJHL trade deadline, two weekend losses might have provided it.
Smyl’s Chiefs lost 6-2 to the league leading Penticton Vees Friday night and followed up with a 3-1 loss to the Coastal conference leading Cowichan Valley Capitals on Saturday night.
Two tough opponents.
Two tough losses.
Now mired in a five game losing skid (including 0-4 since Christmas), the Chiefs are losing ground in the Interior conference playoff race and following the Cowichan Valley loss, the team spent 10 minutes in a closed-door meeting.
“We need to back to doing all the little things we were doing when we were successful,” veteran forward Malcom Gould said afterwards. “Working harder. Working together as a team and trying to pull out a couple wins here. We know what we need to do and we’re going to try to get back to it next week.”
The Chiefs were quite successful through the first three months of the season playing fast, physical and determined hockey — going into the ‘tough areas’ and winning one-on-one battles all over the ice.
In the four games since Christmas, they’ve been far more passive and far more prone to mental lapses.
It would be easy enough to give Chilliwack a mulligan on the last two games, against extremely tough opponents.
Penticton, after all, has taken just three regulation time losses all year and both the Vees and Capitals have spent most of this season in the CJHL’s national rankings.
But the Chiefs aren’t looking for excuses.
“We know we’re a top team in this league and we can skate and play with these teams,” Gould said. “They are good teams, and you have to respect that. But we’re a good team too, and we feel we can beat them.”
Which brings us to this week’s trade deadline and comments by Smyl that the team is looking to improve, perhaps dipping into their surplus of 1992-born players.
That group includes Gould, Derek Huisman, David Bondra, Trevor Hills, Josh Hansen, David Thompson and Alexandre Perron-Fontaine.
While the players will, to a man, try to tell you that they aren’t focussed on Tuesday’s trade deadline, they are.
“Obviously you try not to think about it at all, and we’ve got a really great group of guys who really get along well,” Gould said. “Nobody wants to leave this team, but at the same time it’s a business and the coaches have to do what they think they have to do for us to be successful and win games.”
Though this five game slide has dropped their overall record to 19-14-02, the Chiefs are still holding a playoff spot in the Interior conference.
The locals are fourth, three points up on Vernon and within striking distance of third place Prince George and second place Merritt. Chilliwack has games in hand on everyone around them.
Recent events aside, Gould was resolute in his belief that this Chiefs roster, as currently constructed, can not only make the playoffs but make some noise once they get there.
“You never want to see anyone go anywhere, but at the same time you want to win games and the coaches know best about what we might need to add,” he said. “But I don’t doubt our roster all all. We can play with all these teams and we’re better than what we’ve shown the last few games.”
— Thanks to injuries and suspensions, three players made their BCHL debuts for the Chiefs on the weekend. Abbotsford native Mitch Skapski suited up against the Vees, wearing No. 22.
The 15-year-old was originally credited with an assist on Chilliwack’s first goal, but that was later taken away.
Skapski has spent this season with the BC Major Midget Hockey League’s Fraser Valley Bruins, scoring 18 goals and 33 points in 26 games.
On Saturday night, Ohio native Alex Feighan played his first BCHL game at forward with Port Moody’s Robert Jang suiting up on defence.
— Penticton’s win over Chilliwack Friday night was the 20th consecutive W for the Vees, who are within nine of the all-time BCHL mark.
Penticton hasn’t lost since Nov. 25 and 10 more wins will break the mark of 29 set by the 1989-90 New Westminster Royals.
— Karl Geng collected 274 loonies off the ice during the Dash for Cash promotion, held between the second and third periods Saturday night.
Six contestants collectively grabbed $839 in a contest sponsored by the Bank of Montreal.