The Chilliwack Chiefs need to overcome a sizable experience gap in round two of the BCHL playoffs as they take on the battle-hardened Prince George Spruce Kings.
The 20 players who dressed for PG’s series clinching win over Coquitlam last weekend have a combined 382 games of playoff experience, much of it coming in last season’s run to the BCHL final.
Nolan Welsh alone has 45 games under his belt and Ben Brar has 41.
Only six PG skaters are new to junior A playoffs this year.
The Chiefs are postseason toddlers by comparison. The cumulative experience of the 20 skaters who dressed for last Sunday’s game seven win over Langley is 188 games, with 11 Chilliwack players experiencing junior A playoffs for the first time in the first round.
Eighteen year old defenceman Nathan Kelly is the grizzled veteran with 23 games.
Chiefs head coach Brian Maloney can only hope that his boys are quick learners.
“They (PG) got a lot of experience last year and that’s why they’re a good team this year,” he said. “Experience is valuable for sure, but this is junior A hockey. Are these kids professionals where they can keep even keel at all times? No they’re not and we feel if we put pressure on any team we face, players at this age and level will find it tough to manage.”
Tough as it may have been in the moment, Maloney also feels round one versus Langley provided a double dose of experience.
Falling behind 0-3 and rallying to win against a determined foe was, in Maloney’s words, a perfect scenario.
“You can gain experience pretty quickly and I think we gained a lot of it in the last round,” he said. “If we beat Langley in four or five games by three or four goals per game, maybe we would have had a bunch of confidence offensively, but I don’t know that we’d be learning much.”
PG is a better version of Langley with more skill and an even more suffocating defensive scheme.
But the Rivermen were excellent prep for what the Spruce Kings do.
“Everyone forgets that Langley was one of the best defensive teams all year and we had to battle through that,” Maloney said. “We feel PG has a little more high end skill, but those two teams are very similar.
“We’ve got to find a way to get traffic in front of (goalie) Logan (Neaton) and look for those second and third rebounds.
“If he sees the puck he’s probably stopping the first and second ones.”
Games one and two of this series are Friday and Saturday night at Prospera Centre (7 p.m. starts for both).
Games three and four are in PG Monday and Tuesday.
Game five, if needed, is in Chilliwack next Thursday and if the series goes the distance, game seven would be hosted by the Chiefs March 25.