Chilliwack’s Ethan Bowen (left) carries the puck away from a Vernon Viper defender during a Sunday afternoon BCHL battle at Prospera Centre. Bowen’s crew prevailed 3-2 on a last-minute goal by Matt Holmes. ERIC J. WELSH/ THE PROGRESS

Chilliwack Chiefs sit atop BCHL standings

No one expected the young Chiefs to be this good this fast, but can it last?

Are the Chilliwack Chiefs the surprise team of the BCHL so far this season?

You’d get a legit argument from fans of the Merritt Centennials, who lead the Interior division standings with a 9-6 record and are averaging a league best 4.3 goals per game.

But then you’ve got the Chiefs who, after Sunday’s 3-2 home ice win over Vernon, boast a BCHL-best 11-4 record and .733 win percentage.

It’s not that the team wasn’t supposed to be any good.

But head coach Brian Maloney spent the offseason talking about how young they were going to be, how much learning they had to do and how many mistakes were going to be made along the way.

So to see them now, sitting at the top of the heap seems surprising right?

“I don’t like being called a surprising team because that means people expected us to be bad,” said Chilliwack forward Matt Holmes, who score two goals including the game winner against Vernon. “But I guess it’s good that we’re doing well and it’s nice that people are recognizing that we are a strong team.”

What’s interesting is how the Chiefs are doing it.

Some nights they get out-played but goalie Mathieu Caron saves the day. On the rare off-night for the netminder, the offence is there to pick up the slack.

Against the Vipers, it took 40 saves from Caron, a third period rally and a last minute goal from Holmes to get it done.

They are finding a way.

“A lot of our games are close games where we’re just grinding it out and getting it done,” Holmes said after the Vernon victory. “Caron is standing on his head every game. He can’t do any more for us and once we start finding our scoring touch a little more we’ll start putting teams away.

“When we’re down a goal, we’re just staying positive and grinding it out because that’s all you can do until you get your chance and bury it.”

Holmes scored the game winner against the Vipers with just 20.5 ticks on the clock, knocking in a centering feed from linemate Kevin Wall on a two-on-one rush.

He’s up to eight goals and 12 points in 13 games as a Chief.

“Kevin made a great pass and I just had to tap it in,” Holmes said. “I’m feeling really confident and I feel I’ve stepped in here quite easily.

“It’s a good fit for me.”

After a Tuesday night game in West Kelowna (after Progress press deadlines), Chilliwack has a couple tough road games this weekend.

The team is in Trail Friday night as assistant coach Cam Keith faces his former team.

The Chiefs carry on to Penticton for a Saturday nighter at the South Okanagan Events Centre.

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