In the tightly-packed Coastal conference, a couple of late-season wins can make a big difference. The Chilliwack Chiefs have that opportunity this weekend as they take on two teams they are chasing for playoff positioning.
Friday they’re home versus Victoria, with a 7 p.m. start at the Chilliwack Coliseum. The Grizzlies (25-16-5-3) are fourth in the conference, but they’re only two points up on the Chiefs (26-19-1-3). On Saturday the locals host Alberni Valley at the Coliseum with a 6 p.m. start. The Bulldogs (28-19-3-1) are third in the conference but they’re only four points up and they’ve played two more games.
Chilliwack has an opportunity to take care of business and put themselves in position to snag home ice advantage for the BCHL playoffs.
“I think anytime you can solidify home ice, that’s most definitely an advantage,” said Chiefs hockey boss Brian Maloney. “That being said, it’s more important how you play down the stretch and right now we’re gaining more confidence weekly.”
Maloney’s crew had been stuck in a win-one-lose-one pattern over the last few weeks, but they came through with back-to-back road wins over Cowichan and Nanaimo last weekend. Chilliwack took out the woeful Capitals 3-0 Saturday night (March 11), with goalie Lucas Szyszka earning a 25-save shutout. AJ Lacroix had the overtime winner the next day as the Chiefs took down the Coastal conference leading Clippers.
That was an impressive win. On the road. Afternoon matinee. Really tough opponent. Not only did they beat Nanaimo, they owned the shot clock 44-33.
“Yeah, I expected it absolutely,” Maloney said. “We are now a team that can compete with anyone in our league. We’ve come a long way from the start of the season. No matter who we play, the expectation every night (or in this case, afternoon) is to win.”
Chilliwack is 3-1 in four road games this month. Including this weekend’s games they have five left on the regular season schedule.
After facing Victoria and Alberni Valley, they’ll finish with games at Langley March 24 (13-31-2-3), home vs Cowichan March 25 and home versus Langley March 26.
– Goal scorers in the Cowichan win were Dylan Kinch (12), Lucas Sorace (2) and Lacroix (17). Goal scorers against Nanaimo were Lacroix (18) along with Brady Milburn (15, 16), Mateo Mrsic (11, 12) and Michael La Starza (5).
– A former Chilliwack Chiefs has been named an Atlantic Hockey Conference first team all-star. Carter Wilkie has produced 14 goals and 40 points in 39 games for the NCAA Div 1 Rochester Institute of Technology Tigers. The 22-year-old winger is in his second season with RIT. Wilkie, who played for Chilliwack (2018-20) and West Kelowna (2020-21) in the BCHL, collected 13 goals and 30 points in 38 games as a rookie last season.
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