After months of COVID-caused delays, it’s time to talk hockey. The Chilliwack Chiefs are set to hit the ice for a shortened BCHL season that starts in early April. Today we start diving into the Chilliwack roster, starting with the men between the pipes. Check back Monday for a look at the D and Tuesday for a rundown on the forwards.
Back in August, Chiefs hockey boss Brian Maloney was feeling great about his goalies. Veteran Mathieu Caron was back for one more season, joined by young gun Ethan Pearson.
Fast forward seven months and only Caron remains.
“Ethan (Pearson) decided to go home,” Maloney said. “Even after we got approved to play, he still decided to leave because the year took such a toll on him. He’s from New Brunswick. He was a long way from home and he was just beat up mentally.
“We had to scramble at the last minute to pull in a goalie.”
Caron is back in a familiar role as the clear No. 1, backed up by newcomer Jakub Gullmes.
The 18-year-old was with Langley, but when the Rivermen opted out of the 2020-21 season he was loaned to Chilliwack. He’s a Maple Ridge kid who spent the previous two years with the junior B 100 Mile House Wranglers.
What stands out most about Gullmes is his height. He stands six-foot-six and tips the scales over 200 pounds.
“I’ve seen goalies of that stature, but not in this league,” Maloney said. “We feel like Jakub can come in and eat up some minutes when we have a lot of games in a week. With the right coaching and patience, he can turn into a pretty good goalie and we think he’ll be fun to work with.”
Caron has looked good in practices and hopes to bounce back from what was, by his standards, a bit of a down year in 2019-20.
“He’s had that bounce back mindset,” Maloney said. “He came in last year and probably tried to force it too much, being a good teammate to all the new guys we had. He took all that on a little too much and it affected his on-ice performance. This year, he’s still doing that, but he’s letting his natural leadership ability take over rather than forcing it. He’s still the hardest working kid on the roster, but he’s having a lot of fun and you can see he’s really enjoying the game.”
The BCHL has yet to release a schedule, but the Chiefs are expecting to play 20 games over five weeks. In a short sprint like that, it may be possible for Maloney to give Caron more work than he otherwise would.
“Moreso this year, we probably will, but we’ll be playing four games a week and I don’t expect him to play all of those,” Maloney noted. “We don’t want to burn Matty out, and we’ve got to be careful too because we only have two goalies on the roster, so if one of them gets injured we’d have to use the emergency third goalie that all of the BCHL teams are sharing.
“We’d be okay, but that guy wouldn’t be able to share the dressing room with us and he’d be segregated from the team.”