Keeper of Chilliwack hockey lore, Jacob Bestebroer writes a regular column in the Chilliwack Progress during the junior A season.
During their time in the BCHL, which started in 1990, the Chilliwack Chiefs have played either 58 or 60 game seasons. Four times in their history the Chiefs have won 40 or more games in a regular season. Three were not surprising, and in my opinion one was.
The first time was the 1995-96 season. They had won the league championship the previous season, winning 39 regular season games. Heading into 1995-96, big things were expected as the Chiefs had landed top recruit Shawn Horcoff and 20 year old forward Tyler Quiring.
Quiring was picked up from the Kelowna Spartans, who had folded to make way for the Western Hockey League’s Kelowna Rockets. Playing on the same line for most of the season, Horcoff and Quiring did not disappoint. Quiring scored 52 goals and 126 points, while the 17 year old year Horcoff put up a whopping 145 points including 49 goals. The Chiefs finished the regular season with 44 wins in 60 games.
While the team looked primed to win their second straight league championship, a second round knee injury to Horcoff gave the Langley Thunder the edge they needed as they knocked the Chiefs out in seven games.
Two years later they put up what still stands as their best regular season win total, when they won 46 of 60 games. The Chiefs started that season with top end returning forwards Jeff Tambellini, Gabe Gauthier and David Van Der Gulik. They played together on what was the league’s best forward line, totalling 316 points. Tambellini led the league in scoring with 117. Van Der Gulik put up an even 100 while Gauthier collected 99. The Chiefs also had players like Micah Sanford (105 points), Matt Gibbons (101 points) and Kaleb Betts (72 points).
I could go on.
They captured both the league and Doyle Cup (vs Alberta) but fell short of a national championship when they were upset by Manitoba’s OCN Blizzard in a one game semi-final.
There were high expectations for the 2016-17 Chiefs and they didn’t disappoint, putting up 41 wins and upsetting the Wenatchee Wild in round two before losing an overtime heartbreaker in game seven of the league finals against Penticton. Those Chiefs were led by forward Jordan Kawaguchi, who put up 85 points in his final season, and goaltender Mark Sinclair who set a team record with 33 regular season wins.
That leaves us with their fourth 40 win season which as I stated in the opening has surprised not only me but a lot of people around the BCHL.
That season is this one.
Prior to Wednesday’s game in Salmon Arm, the Chiefs had an even 40 wins with five games left in the schedule.
Prior to this season the Chiefs were thought of as a team that would compete hard and be in the mix for maybe second or third in the division with a point total in the 70’s.
Some player additions like Matt Holmes, and Jacques Bouquot solidified this team early.
A season-ending injury to goaltender Mathieu Caron threatened to put this team off the rails but they’ve battled through that adversity to post at worst the fourth best regular season in Chiefs history.