The weekend didn’t go exactly as scripted for Harvey Smyl’s Chilliwack Chiefs, but the end result is what most expected.
Heading into weekend tilts in Trail (Friday) and Penticton (Saturday), BCHL observers would have pencilled in a win over the 7-11-0-1 Smoke Eaters followed by a likely loss to the 12-3-0-2 Vees.
Instead, it was Trail clipping the Chiefs 5-4 at the Cominco Arena, then it was Chilliwack rolling the Vees 4-1 at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
Expect the unexpected.
Things started off well in Trail, where the Chiefs led 3-0 at the 10:06 mark of period one on two Josh Hansen tallies and a Mitch Skapski single.
But Jake Lucchini got the Smokies on the board late in the first period and it was mostly downhill from there. Trail got two in the second (Austin Adduono and Brent Baltus) and two more in the third (Luke Sandler and Garret McMullen).
Skapski had the fourth Chief goal midway through period two, but for the final 50 minutes highlights were few and far between.
“We got up 3-0 and our mindset changed,” Smyl said. “I thought we became very selfish and did a lot of things we hadn’t been doing. We turned pucks over at a high rate, our work habits stopped and we did things not characteristic of our team.”
Josh Halpenny got the start in goal for Chilliwack, taking his first loss in his third BCHL appearance.
The Chilliwack native stopped 26 of 31 Trail shots.
Mitch Gillam was back between the pipes in Penticton.
“In order for us to be succcessful we have to have good habits,” Smyl said. “And our leadership group did a wonderful job getting us re-focused for the Vees game.”
The Chiefs had an advantage heading into this one, with Penticton missing several of their biggest stars.
Defencemen Troy Stecher and James De Haas and forwards Michael Rebry and Wade Murphy all made the Canada West roster for the upcoming World Junior A Challenge in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.
Meanwhile, the Chiefs iced a healthy roster (minus defenceman Alex Perron-Fontaine).
Still, Chilliwack had to take care of business, and they did. Austin Plevy, cut from the Canada West roster, opened the scoring just 11 seconds in. Penticton’s Jordan McCallum equalized at 5:48 of period one, but it was all Chiefs the rest of the way.
Trevor Hills and Jaret Babych had second period strikes and Hansen got his 15th of the year late in the third period as Chilliwack sent 1,556 Pentictonites home unhappy.
“I think we played a complete game,” Smyl offered. “We limited our turnovers and mistakes. We were physical and played the way we need to play to be successful.”
And now they finally come home after seven straight on the road. The Chiefs went 4-3 over that stretch, and kept themselves within one point of Prince George and the Mainland division lead. The trick now will be guarding against a letdown.
“We have talked about that already and we will address that for sure,” Smyl said. “Our next two are against division rivals (Langley on Wednesday and Coquitlam on Friday), and we’ll have to be ready because our division is so close.”
Langley visits Prospera Centre Wednesday night for a 7 p.m. start. The Rivermen are fifth in the Mainland division at 8-7-0-3. Chilliwack visits Coquitlam on Friday before welcoming the still-shorthanded Vees to town Saturday night.
l As mentioned, Plevy didn’t made the final 22 man Canada West roster for the World Junior A Challenge.
“I looked at the players and there are several, in my mind, who aren’t nearly as good as Austin,” Smyl said Monday morning. “I know in a short time span like that coaches sometimes work off their own ideas and beliefs, but I do think they made a mistake.”
Fifteen BCHLers made the roster with the remaining seven coming from the Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba leagues.
In addition to the Penticton four, the Powell River Kings supply Jonah Imoo (G), Luke Ripley (D) and Evan Richardson (F). The Coquitlam Express send forwards Alex Kerfoot, Brandon Morley and Zachary Pryzbek.
Nolan de Jong (D, Victoria), Devon Toews (D, Surrey), Seb Lloyd (F, Prince George), Aaron Hadley (F, Vernon) and Evan Tironese (F, Alberni Valley) also made grade.