The Chilliwack Chiefs and Prince George Cougars face off tomorrow night in a key early-season matchup that could have late season playoff implications.
After a torrid start, the Chiefs have settled into a .500ish sort of vibe that leaves them in the middle of the Interior conference pack.
With four teams allowed into the playoffs, and two spots seemingly gift-wrapped for the vaunted Vernon Vipers and Penticton Vees, the Chiefs will eventually find themselves racing against the Spruce Kings for a postseason berth.
And as the saying goes, two points in November is just as good as two in February.
The Spruce Kings limp into town missing several regulars. The long list includes 20-year-old forward Jeff Earnest, who’s still recovering from a broken jaw and has only played in two games this season. He suffered the injury in practice just over a month ago and, optimistically, will be in game shape by the end of this month.
Defenceman Jared Crossan still hasn’t started his rookie BCHL campaign, and is listed as a month away from a full recovery on his knee.
Forward Sean Landry dislocated his knee a couple of weeks ago and is at least six weeks away from a full recovery. Trying to get his shoulder back to full strength, forward Cody Bardock is still three to six weeks away from returning to game action.
Then there’s the case of 19-year-old Chilliwack product Connor Tiechko, who left the Spruce Kings for personal reasons after suiting up for six games this season.
“It’s very difficult when you’re losing that many bodies. But again, we still have to play the games,” said Spruce Kings head coach Dave Dupas. “They’re not going to cancel the games because we have a bunch of injuries and guys missing. We have to go and we have to figure out a different game plan and try to get some points here on the weekend.”
Making matters worse, in a good way, forward Jujhar Khaira made the final cut for Canada West and will skate in the World Junior A Challenge. The Surrey native had 11 goals and 27 points in 13 games before departing for the Canada West selection camp.
“We’re happy for him and we’re glad that we as a team and an organization are able to put guys into that tournament,” Dupas said. “I think down the road it helps us. Kids know that if they come here, they’re still going to get noticed.”
Forward Paul De Jersey did not make the final cut and returns to the lineup in time to face Chilliwack.
The 19-year-old West Vancouver native has 14 goals and 28 points in 13 games to lead PG and sit third in league scoring.
To fill other holes, the Spruce Kings have brought in affiliated players.
On Saturday night, the Chore twins (Patrick and Eric) came up from Kelowna for their first BCHL game.
Both forwards, the Chores skate for the North Okanagan Knights in the Kootenay International Junior B Hockey League.
“It was difficult for them to come in because they flew in on Saturday afternoon and then just jumped in the lineup, so they didn’t know our breakouts or D zone coverage,” Dupas said. “They didn’t know any of that stuff. But they played hard, they finished their checks. They were at training camp so we knew that they were hard-working guys.”
The Chiefs are coming off a successful weekend that included wins over the Trail Smoke Eaters (4-3 Friday) and Salmon Arm Silverbacks (3-1) Saturday.
They played a Wednesday night home game against the Surrey Eagles that occurred after Chilliwack Progress press deadlines. To find out how that game went, go online to www.theprogress.com.