For the fourth straight weekend to start the 2021-22 BCHL season, the Chilliwack Chiefs (4-4-0-0) came away with a split.
The junior A club faced a pair of Coastal Conference rivals.
Friday night they were in Langley, taking on the Rivermen (5-1-1-1) at the George Preston Arena. It was the third meeting of the season already between the two foes, and the result was the same. After beating Chilliwack 7-5 and 6-3 in previous matches, Langley won this one 5-2.
If you’re looking for an optimistic take, the shot clock saw the Chiefs out-shooting the Rivermen 42-30. Owning the shot clock in a hostile venue is a good sign that you’re doing good things, and the third period in particular saw Chilliwack out-shoot their hosts 17-3.
The teams were tied through 20 minutes, with Dawson Good scoring for the Chiefs and Andrej Kovacevic countering for Langley.
Chilliwack took the lead 1:55 into period two on a power goal by Ethan Bowen, then watched as the Rivermen scored four straight. Kovacevic tied the game 26 seconds after Bowen’s strike and Max Bulawka scored shorthanded at 2:55. Keeton Oakley’s power play goal made it 4-2 at 7:42 and Tyler Schleppe made it 5-2 at 9:57.
Chilliwack was short-handed six times in the middle frame, including 80 seconds of five on three. Langley had 10 power plays in the entire game while the Chiefs had four.
“We got into penalty trouble in the second period, and overall,” Maloney said. “We’ve got to stay out the box because it sucks the momentum out of you. But when you can play a period shorthanded and you’re still able to put up 40 shots, you’re controlling a lot of the play.”
Despite their third period dominance, the Chiefs couldn’t put any more pucks behind Langley goalie Ajeet Gundarah.
“We do have to find a way to beat Langley because we’ve struggled in their arena,” said Maloney, who isn’t shocked to see his young squad having early-season struggles against the older Rivermen. “It can test your patience as a coach when you’re constantly putting together a younger team, as we do in Chilliwack, but I feel our ceiling is high.
“It takes time and patience, but we’re seeing signs of growth.”
Chilliwack bounced back Saturday night with a 5-3 win over Surrey (3-5-0-0) at the Chilliwack Coliseum.
Five different players scored goals. Brett Rylance collected his first of the season with Bowen, AJ Lacroix, Abram Wiebe and Cameron Johnson also lighting the lamp. Frankie Carogioiello added three assists.
After a tough night in Langley, goalie Grant Riley rebounded with a better start, stopping 22 of 25 shots.
“I thought it was a good game for us where we had more jump,” Maloney said. “We won more races to pucks, played a lot harder and really put our foot on the gas pedal.”
Chilliwack has a mid-week rematch with Surrey coming up Wednesday night (Nov. 3, 7 p.m.) at the Coliseum.
The Chiefs are on the road this weekend for a pair of games against the Powell River Kings (3-5-1-0).
“I think we’re ready for a road trip,” Maloney said. “It’s good sometimes to get on the road. That’s where you can find ways to mend your team together and keep building, and we’ll be ready to go.”