One bad weekend can kill you in the tightly packed Interior conference playoff race.
With three BCHL teams battling for two playoff spots, points are at a premium and every game matters. If the Chilliwack Chiefs end up missing the playoffs this year, they may be able to look back to Saturday night as the reason why.
The locals started the weekend with a 5-1 loss in Penticton.
That was expected against a team that has steam rolled everyone in the league this year.
Saturday though, that was supposed to be the winnable one against a Trail Smoke Eaters squad the Chiefs had already beaten six times this year.
Trail’s supposed to be as easy a two points as you’ll find in the BCHL these days.But when the dust settled, they’d vanquished the visiting Chiefs 5-3.
Worse still, they were powered by a Chilliwack kid, Connor Tiechko, who scored three times to torpedo his hometown team.
The Chiefs got off to a fine start in this one, leading 2-0 before most fans had settled into their seats.
Anderson White opened the scoring just 61 seconds in, and Josh Hansen scored his ninth of the season off a goal-mouth scramble at 3:21.
The Smoke Eaters got one back late in the first period as Tiechko jumped on a turnover at the Chilliwack blueline, skated in alone and beat Chiefs netminder Bryton Udy through the wickets for his 11th.
Back-to-back power play goals by Tiechko and Riley McDougall gave Trail the lead midway through period two, and Tiechko completed the hat-trick on a breakaway late in the third to put the Smokies up 4-2.
Derek Huisman gave the Chiefs late life, scoring with 66 seconds left. But Trail’s Brent Baltus scored 21 seconds later to put the game away.
The net result of the weekend losses is that Chilliwack is now in serious danger of slipping out of a playoff spot.
The Prince George Spruce Kings leap-frogged the locals, moving into third place in the conference with 54 points.
The Chiefs have 51 points with one game in hand on the Sprucies, but the Vernon’s Vipers are now just two points back.
Head coach Harvey Smyl has been saying all season that there’s plenty of hockey to be played. But the games are going by quickly, and Chilliwack suddenly has just 14 left.
The next one is a toughie as the Vees skate into town Tuesday night (7 p.m. start). Penticton equalled the all-time consecutive wins mark (29) when they beat Chilliwack on Friday.
Another win gives them 30, breaking the mark set by the 1989-90 New Westminster Royals. Smyl was an assistant coach for the Royals.
Chilliwack is one of three clubs to beat the Vees this season. In their home opener Sept. 24, the Chiefs trounced the Vees 7-1.
But Penticton hasn’t lost since Nov. 5, going 41-3-0-2 overall.
The Vees have nine of the league’s top 11 scorers. They lead the league in goals scored (256) by 66 over the next closest team (the Coquitlam Express have 190). They have also allowed the fewest goals with 101.