The Chilliwack Chiefs will face an angry opponent Saturday night as the Westside Warriors skate into Prospera Centre.
A preseason pick to hang out with Penticton and Vernon atop the Interior conference standings, the Warriors have instead scuffled their way to a 7-9-0-3 record.
A pair of losses last weekend left Westside to deal with a losing streak that has stretched to seven games.
The Warriors are having trouble putting the puck into the net. Only the Langley Rivermen (39 goals) Trail Smoke Eaters (48) and Powell River Kings (58) have scored less than Westside (61).
The Warriors have had issues keeping pucks out of their own net, with only Trail (105), Victoria (97), Salmon Arm (78), Prince George (75) and Langley (70) coughing up more goals against.
Against Penticton last Saturday, the Warriors had no answer for Vees sniper Connor Reilly, who scored five of Penticton’s seven goals in a 7-4 win.
Westside coach Rylan Ferster said the team is continuing to play hard for the most part, but just isn’t getting the hockey bounces.
“It just starts with one win,” he told the Kelowna Capital News. “Again, we get a pretty good performance tonight (against the Vees), we get four goals and we aren’t in the game from the first shot. It’s difficult.”
The Chiefs and Warriors have met once previously this season. Chilliwack skated into Westside Oct. 8 and emerged with a 4-3 win. Derek Huisman had two goals, including the third period game winner.
Trevor Hills and Spencer Graboski also scored for Chilliwack, while goaltender Bryton Udy stopped 41 of 44 shots.
Of course, before the Chiefs get to Westside, they must face the Vernon Vipers tonight at Prospera Centre.
The Vipers are likely to be ill-tempered, having dropped two straight to the Chiefs.
Vernon also gets some reinforcements for this one, with forward Aaron Hadley and defenceman Luke Juha and Brett Corkey returning to the lineup.
All three suited up for Canada West in the just-completed World Junior A Challenge, helping their team to a gold medal.
After going 0-4, including a pair of exhibition losses, Canada West rattled off three straight wins to record its first World Junior A Hockey Challenge title in four years.
The Westerners doubled Canada East 4-2 in Sunday’s nationally televised gold-medal game at the Langley Events Centre.
“We knew we had to be sharper going into the playoffs. We felt like we were letting people down with the way we were playing,” said Corkey. “As we got on the ice more and more we kind of gelled. We were running different systems than what we were used to.”
Corkey, who wore an ‘A’ with Canada West, joked he was going to hang his gold medal above Viper teammate Darren Nowick’s bed after the American-born sniper gleefully chirped the Viper trio after Canada West’s 6-1 loss to the U.S. in preliminary play last week.
“To get the win while representing your country is an awesome feeling,” said Hadley, a Castlegar native who endured 16 straight days of hockey, including two-a-day practices under head coach Kent Lewis, before Sunday’s big win.
“In the end it was worth it when you’ve got a gold medal around your neck.”
The Vipers, second in the Interior Conference at 13-5, are coming off a lacklustre 2-1 overtime win against the host Trail Smoke Eaters Saturday night at Cominco Arena.
Nowick, who co-leads the Vipers with 13 goals, collected the winner just 15 seconds into the second OT period. Mike Zalewski, Vernon’s other 13-goal man, set him up with a nice drop pass.
“Wasn’t a great effort, but a win is a win,” said head coach Jason Williamson. “It was sloppy and not a lot of heart, but we found a way.”
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