Chilliwack Chiefs can clinch BCHL playoff spot Tuesday

The BCHL's Chilliwack Chiefs are two points away from an Interior conference playoff spot as they host the Vernon Vipers.

Whenever the Penticton Vees set a record, it seems the Chilliwack Chiefs are in the middle of it.

Earlier this season, the Vees beat the all-time BCHL consecutive wins mark with a win over Chilliwack.

A 7-0 win on Feb. 7 moved them past the 1988-89 New Westminster Royals, and they haven’t lost since.

A 5-1 win against the Chilliwack Chiefs Saturday night helped the Penticton Vees tie the Canadian Junior Hockey League record with 40 consecutive wins.

The home-ice victory gave the Vees 40 straight, tying the Canadian junior mark held by two Ontario franchises; The 89-90 Sudbury Wolves and the now defunct 1999-00 Rayside-Balfour Sabrecats, both from the North Ontario Junior Hockey League.

Travis St. Denis and Curtis Loik had two goals apiece for the Vees, who haven’t lost since Nov. 5.

Ryan Reilly netted the other Penticton goal, scoring his 30th of the season against Chiefs netminder Bryton Udy.

Udy was a busy guy between the pipes, facing 43 shots.

His Vees counterpart, Chad Katunar, faced 23 pucks.

Malcolm Gould was the lone Chief to beat him, scoring his team-leading 29th of the year at 12:16 of the first period.

David Bondra and Shay Laurent earned the assists.

“I thought we had a really good first period against them, and we’ve actually had two good starts in that building,” said Chiefs head coach Harvey Smyl. “But they got a goal late in the first that was a missed assignment, and you can’t do that against that team.”

Smyl felt the Chiefs played an okay second period. His team was within one (2-1) heading to the third. But Penticton scored three times in the final frame to put it away.

Despite the Penticton loss, Chilliwack’s weekend was far from a lost cause thanks to a 3-1 win over the Westside Warriors on Friday night.

A hot start saw the Chiefs record 20 first period shots against Westside goaltender Dwayne Rodrigue.

Malcolm Gould scored off a Westside turnover, cashing in a quick feed from Bondra.

Spencer Graboski doubled the lead with something of a fluky effort.

His dump-in took a funny hop off the end boards, deflecting off Rodrigue and into the Westside net.

“We were prepared and energized, and for the most part I was pleased with our play in the first 30 to 35 minutes,” Smyl noted. “We were good defensively and in the neutral zone. We were strong on the forecheck and creating chances.”

Smyl was less pleased with the back half of the game.

“In the late second and third period we gave up some grade A scoring chances,” the coach said. “We gave them some momentum, although we did a good job of shutting them down in the end.”

Goalie Mitch Gillam turned in another strong effort, stopping 38 of 39 shots.

“I thought he played really well, and he has been playing really well,” Smyl said.

David Thompson scored his eighth of the year in the third period, seconds after an unsuccessful Chilliwack power play.

Chilliwack’s win, combined with a 1-1 weekend by the Vernon Vipers, leaves the Chiefs within one point of clinching a playoff spot.

They can do so Tuesday night when they host the Vipers at Prospera Centre. A win over Vernon clinches a postseason berth and leaves the Vipers on the sideline for the first time since 2000-01.

Given the history between the Chiefs and Vipers – long two of the BCHL’s top teams – one could hardly blame Smyl for being giddy at the chance to knock them out of the postseason.

But Smyl wasn’t showing it Monday morning.

“I have far too many rivalries with so many different teams,” he said with a chuckle. “And really, I don’t even want to go there. Yes, there’s  only four games left, but I’ve seen lots of teams go sideways when they thought they had it wrapped up.”

The Chiefs trail Prince George by six points for third in the Interior conference, though Chilliwack still has two games in hand.

Check Thursday’s Progress for a wrap of Tuesday’s game.