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Chilliwack Chiefs make statement with Wenatchee win

The Chiefs established themselves as a BCHL powerhouse with a 7-3 win over the Wild Wednesday night at Prospera Centre.
Kale Kane didn't get a point in Wednesday's win over Wenatchee

The coach may have been right.

Jason Tatarnic has been insisting for months that his Chilliwack Chiefs don’t need superstars to hang with the BCHL’s best, that they can succeed by having scoring depth throughout the lineup.

The counter argument, put forward by your friendly neighborhood sports writer, is that it’s nice to have blue chippers to rely on against the league’s best defence and goalies.

But recent numbers suggest Tatarnic may be... ahem... less wrong than I thought he was.

His team has won five straight games, scoring 32 goals.

Eight Chiefs lit the lamp in Saturday’s 9-1 demolition of the Coquitlam Express.

Five hit the scoresheet in Wednesday’s 7-3 home-ice whomping of Wenatchee.

Nine Chilliwack skaters have five or more goals so far this season, led by Jordan Kawaguchi’s 17.

Olivier Arseneau and Nolan Zweep are the only regulars on the entire roster who’ve yet to score.

“It’s great to know we’re deep and we can rely on each other,” said forward Kale Kane, who’s seventh in Chiefs scoring with 14 points (five goals) in 15 games. It doesn’t matter what line is going out there. We’re confident in all four.

“Everybody can bury the puck and it just depends what night it is for what line.”

Wednesday’s win over the Wild was a statement game for Kane’s Chiefs, who proved they belong in the conversation about the BCHL’s best.

Chilliwack exploited the one glaring weakness Wenatchee has (goaltending), making life miserable for two netminders.

Anthony Yamnitsky got the start and Tommy Lee greeted him with a goal just 31 seconds in.

The Calgarian took a pass from Kawaguchi, pulled the puck to his backhand and slid the puck past Yamnitsky for his 10th of the year.

The goalie’s biggest blunder came 3:04 into period two.

Chiefs forward Josh Borynec sent a long wrister on net that Yamnitsky easily handled.

The goalie dropped down to cover the puck in the blue paint, only he didn’t.

He put his glove down, but not on the puck, which was left sitting in the crease for Derek Osik to nudge across the line.

Backup Garrett Nieto relieved Yamnitsky, but he wasn’t much better.

On the seventh Chilliwack goal, Borynec saw Nieto cheating off his left goal-post and flipped a sharp-angled backhand shot past the stunned keeper for a goal that would be considered soft at the peewee level.

Jake Smith had two on the night, including a third period beauty where he took a cross-ice pass from Cole Poliziani and roofed a shot over Nieto’s blocker.

The New York kid was all smiles in the locker room afterward.

“I’m feeling good, I think everyone’s feeling good after a win like that,” he said with a grin. “We kept things pretty loose the last couple days, didn’t worry about the opponent and just treated it as another game.

“We focused on us, not them.”

Smith is up to 10 goals on the season and his 16 points (in 23 games) is good for fifth in team scoring.

He’s enjoying his team’s offensive explosion and sees no reason why it can’t continue.

“I think it’s awesome and it’s a winning mentality when you have four lines who bring their lunch pails and hard-hats and produce,” Smith said.

Smith’s Chiefs were sporting new jerseys, black ones with red and gold trim (see above).

Kane like them, saying they ‘looked mean.’

Smith agreed.

“I like when we switch things up and I like how we’re keeping it moving with the jerseys this year,” he said. “I like the camos we wore the last couple home games, and we got a big win in these black ones, so maybe we have to keep rolling with them.

“I don’t like to call myself superstitious, but I’d like to keep the blacks going.”

The Chiefs improved to 15-5-3-0, good for 33 points and second place in the Mainland division.

They’re two baThe Chiefck of the Wild, though Wenatchee holds two games in hand.

There is already very clear separation between the Wild and Chiefs and the rest of the division.

The third place Prince George Spruce Kings are 10 points back with Surrey, Langley and Coquitlam even farther behind.

League wide, the Chiefs are even in points with the Victoria Grizzlies (14-4-2-3) and Powell River Kings (16-8-1-0) and five back of Penticton’s Vees (19-4-0-0).

“I personally don’t look at the standings much,” Smith said. “We’re just excited to get going again this weekend.”

Chilliwack hosts Cowichan Valley (12-9-2-1) Friday, visits Coquitlam (6-16-0-2) Saturday and hosts Nanaimo (11-10-3-0) Sunday.

It’s parents weekend for the Chiefs, who have their moms and dads driving and flying into watch them play and provide extra motivation.


Eric Welsh

About the Author: Eric Welsh

I joined the Chilliwack Progress in 2007, originally hired as a sports reporter.
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