Breaking down the race in the Interior conference

The Chilliwack Chiefs are battling Merritt, Prince George and Vernon for playoff positioning in the BCHL's Interior conference.

Each week during the BCHL season, local hockey guru Jacob Bestebroer pens a column for the Chilliwack Progress discussing the Chilliwack Chiefs and goings on around the league.

 

With just one quarter of the BCHL season remaining the Chiefs remain in a good position to qualify for one of the four available playoff spots in the Interior Conference.

The Penticton Vees, winners of 28 straight games, will finish first which leaves four teams (Merritt, Chilliwack, Prince George and Vernon) to jockey for positions two through five.

Let’s take a look at what lies ahead for each of these four teams down the stretch.

For reference, GR refers to games remaining, H refers to home games, A to away games and ASO to average strength of opponent.

ASO is an admittedly rudimentary calculation based on percentage of points earned by each remaining opponent).

 

Merritt Centennials

Second place: 59 pts GR: 13  H:A:ASO: 49.5

It seems unlikely that the Centennials will lose their grip on second place.

On paper they have the second easiest remaining schedule that includes four games against the cellar dwelling Trail Smoke Eaters.

Scheduling quirk: No games left versus Prince George.

Key Game: The worst case scenario for the Cents is that Chilliwack wins the three games in hand they have on Merritt, which would bring them to within two points of the Cents. If that happens, their one remaining game against Chilliwack on Feb. 18 would be huge.

 

Chilliwack Chiefs

Third place: 51 points GR: 16  H:A:ASO: 53.7

Looking at the standings it looks good for the Chiefs, who hold a one point lead on the fourth place Spruce Kings with a game in hand.

That doesn’t look quite as good when you look at their remaining schedule, which is the second toughest among the four teams.

Chilliwack faces Penticton three more times, including two games in Penticton.

Scheduling quirk: Four games remaining versus Westside, a team that has given the Chiefs some trouble lately.

Key Games: The Chiefs play three games in three nights in Prince George, Merritt and Westside beginning Feb 17.

 

Prince George

Fourth place: 50 pts  GR: 15  H:A: ASO: 49.55

Only six of the remaining 15 games left for the Spruce Kings are home games, but their remaining schedule ranks as the easiest. They’ll face both Trail and Salmon Arm, the bottom two teams in the league, four times.

That’s tempered somewhat by three games left versus the Vees.

Scheduling quirk: No games left versus Merritt or Vernon, and just one left versus the Chiefs.

Key Game: Feb. 17 at home versus Chilliwack. A win here in regulation would go a long way towards finishing in third place.

 

Vernon Vipers

Fifth place: 45 pts GR: 16  H: A:ASO: 54.31

Vernon has not missed the playoffs since the 2000-01 season.

They may miss this season as they have what looks to be the most difficult schedule remaining, and they need to make up five points.

Scheduling quirk: They play 11 different teams in their remaining 16 games.

Key Games: Despite having three games left versus Merritt, it’s unlikely that the Cents will be dropping out of a playoff spot, making the Vipers two remaining games versus Chilliwack and the one game left against Prince George must wins.

 

Feedback can be sent to jb@chilliwackchiefs.net.

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