Craig Puffer (middle) is congratulated by Chief teammates after scoring against the Surrey Eagles. Puffer had four goals

Chiefs rookie makes mark in early-season action

Craig Puffer's BCHL career is off to a stellar start, with five goals in his first four regular season games.

A pair of weekend wins over the Surrey Eagles have the Chilliwack Chiefs 4-0 to start the 2014-15 BCHL season.

And a rookie forward is showing himself to be an elite junior A player. Craig Puffer scored both goals in a 2-1 overtime win in Surrey Friday night.

He added two more in a 6-2 home-ice win Saturday.

Only Prince George sniper Justin Rai has more goals (seven) than Puffer, and he’s played one more game. The 19 year old couldn’t have asked for a better start.

Puffer is the latest Connecticut kid to make an impact for the Chiefs, a group that includes grads Ben Masella, Luke Esposito and Andrew Silard.

This year’s roster includes three of them, with Puffer joined by Mark Esposito (Luke’s little brother) and Liam Ferguson.

“I talked to Luke a lot before coming here and he had an unbelievable experience,” said Puffer, who hails from New Caanan. “All us Connecticut guys came out for spring camp and really enjoyed it. It seemed like the right place.”

Puffer had another familiar face on his journey to Chilliwack. Winger Tipper Higgins flanked him last year at Berkshire School in Sheffield, MA.

“We had two years together in our junior and senior years, and we built a lot of chemistry,” Puffer said. “We both have great vision. He knows my instincts and I know his. We hang out a lot off the ice too and we both lived in the same dorm at Berkshire.”

Through four games, Puffer has displayed the 200-foot game that coach Jason Tatarnic talked up in the offseason.

Higgins, a big-bodied forward from Vermont, hasn’t scored a goal yet, but has four assists.

“He’s a strong guy with good speed who works hard in the corners and along the boards,” Puffer said. “He knows where I am at all times and he usually finds me with the puck.”

Puffer and Higgins played with a variety of wingers through the preseason (Jake Hand, Mason Boh and Jordan Kawaguchi among them). In early regular season action, Tatarnic hasn’t always kept them together.

When they do skate on the same line, Puffer said they look for a linemate who hounds the puck and looks to be creative.

“I feel we can work with any guy on the team,” Puffer said. “A big part of us coming here was Jason’s plan to be structured in the D zone and let us be creative in the offensive zone. We’re able to do what we want offensively, which feels great. I like to be as creative as possible.”

Puffer isn’t the biggest guy in the world at five-foot-10 and 175 pounds.

He doesn’t have blinding speed, but he’s shifty and sneaky quick. He uses his wheels and vision at both ends of the ice and has shown himself to be a back-checking demon.

“D zone is huge for any team and Berkshire really taught me to be a two-way player,” he said. “I matured a lot and got better in all three zones.”

Puffer will almost certainly be a one-and-done player in Chilliwack, heading off to the NCAA ranks next year. He’s committed to the Vermont Catamounts, a team playing in the Hockey East Conference.

His individual goals this year are geared towards getting ready for the rigors of college hockey.

“Playing another year of junior will get me stronger, quicker, more mature and ready to handle that level,” he said. “Being at the gym every day will help me prepare to face older and bigger guys.”

Puffer and his Chiefs hit the road for a trip to Prince George this weekend, taking on the Spruce Kings on back-to-back nights (Friday and Saturday).

The Sprucies are 4-1 so far this year.

Prince George and the Langley Rivermen figure to be Chilliwack’s biggest rivals in the Mainland division.

As mentioned earlier, Justin Rai is on fire to start his third year of BCHL hockey. He is the cousin of former Western Hockey League standout and one-time Vancouver Canucks draft pick Prab Rai.

Get info at bchl.ca

Just Posted

Chilliwack native Maleek Irons scores first Canadian Football League touchdown

The former W.J. Mouat Hawks star recorded a major against Toronto on Saturday

Trial dates set for three men accused of 2017 killing near Hope

Lawyers for the accused appeared in Kelowna at B.C. Supreme Court on Monday

Heroism medal for Chilliwack woman who tried to save wheelchair-bound man stuck on rail tracks

Julie Callaghan awarded Carnegie Medal from U.S.-based foundation for ‘extraordinary heroism’

Rifle thefts from Lindell Beach break-and-enter leads to arrest downtown Chilliwack

Andrew Scott Charpentier charged with numerous offences after guns seized from Reece Avenue address

Extended hours of operation at city hall for Chilliwack taxpayers

The Finance Department at city hall will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday

Video shows fireworks shot at swan in Alberta

Alberta Fish and Wildlife is investigating the incident in Grande Prairie

Grey-haired bank robber hit with dye pack in Langley heist

Police are looking for an older man who may be stained with dye

‘Text neck’ causing bone spurs to grow from millennials’ skulls, researchers say

Technology use from early childhood causing abnormal bone growths in 41 per cent of young adults

B.C. teen killed by fallen tree on field trip remembered as hero

13-year-old Tai Caverhill was the first to spot the tree falling and warned his friends

Surrey RCMP raises Pride flag amid din of protesters

There were about 30 protesters on either side, and 20 Mounties doing crowd control

Should B.C. get rid of Daylight Saving Time?

The province wants to know, as state governments down south make the move

Air Canada reviewing how crew left sleeping passenger on parked plane

In a Facebook post, the woman said she woke up ‘all alone’ on a ‘cold dark’ aircraft

Canadians crash out of Women’s World Cup in 0-1 loss to Sweden

Canada missed a chance to tie the game on a penalty shot

New Lower Mainland bistro caters to board game fans and families

Local food and games at every table is the formula for the new business

Most Read