Chilliwack Chiefs look forward to Wenatchee Wild showdown

BCHL columnist Jacob Bestebroer looks forward to the BCHL Mainland division leaders clashing Saturday night at Prospera Centre.

The Chilliwack Chiefs finish off their busiest nine day stretch of the season with a pair of games this weekend. Sunday afternoon’s game in Merritt will be the Chiefs sixth game in nine days. Saturday night the Wenatchee Wild visit Prospera Centre in a game that both teams have had to be looking forward to for a while. These teams have been the class of the BCHL’s Mainland division this season, with the Wild ranking first and the Chiefs second. Both teams are built the same way with an emphasis on skill and speed. Going into last night’s game in Prince George, the Chiefs had earned points in six straight games. They had their four game winning streak snapped Wednesday when they dropped a 3-2 double overtime decision in Vernon. Chiefs goaltender Mark Sinclair, arguably the team’s most valuable player so far this season, made 37 saves and was the game’s best player. He was named the game’s third star but trust me when I say nobody in this game was better than he was. For the most part his teammates have kept things reasonable easy for him this season. He’s facing an average of 27 shots per 60 minutes which has allowed him to play as much as he has, starting (and finishing) 12 of the team’s first 14 games. While the Wild’s recent schedule hasn’t been quite as crazy as the Chiefs, they will be playing their third game in three days after visits to Surrey last night (Thursday) and Coquitlam tonight. Going into Thursday’s game, the Wild had yet to lose in regulation, earning 21 of a possible 22 points through their first 11 games. They have three of the league’s top six scorers including returnee Brian Harris who had 25 points in their first 11 games. They are full value for their fourth spot in the week’s Canadian Junior Hockey League (CJHL) national rankings. Look for special teams to be a factor Saturday night. No team in the BCHL earns more power plays then the Wild. Through Wednesday they were getting an average of 6.1 power play chances per game. Coupling that with their success rate of 23.9 per cent makes that a huge part of their game. They don’t give their opposition many chances on the power play either,  ranking fourth in fewest time shorthanded per game with an average of 4.0. They also lead the league in penalty killing with a success rate of 86.3 per cent.The Chiefs do well in earning power plays, ranking fourth with an average of 4.8 per game. They are scoring on 20.9 per cent of their chances which ranks them 11th in the league. On the flip side they rank 13th in times shorthanded per game with an average of 4.6. Their penalty killing success rate ranks 10th, slightly under what most coaches view as the minimum acceptable rate of 80 per cent at 78.5 per cent.Both teams have scored four shorthanded goals which leads the league.