Chilliwack’s Brady Milburn (No. 17 in white) fends off a Vernon Viper during a BCHL Showcase game at the Chilliwack Coliseum Oct. 23, 2021. (Darren Francis photo)

Chilliwack’s Brady Milburn (No. 17 in white) fends off a Vernon Viper during a BCHL Showcase game at the Chilliwack Coliseum Oct. 23, 2021. (Darren Francis photo)

Offence not a problem for Chilliwack Chiefs in early-season BCHL action

Three weeks into the junior A season, the Chiefs are having no issues putting pucks in the net

Two words describe the early-season Chilliwack Chiefs.

Roller.

Coaster.

Three weekends are in the books for the junior A club, and each has followed the same script. Two games played. One win and one loss.

Last weekend it was a 7-3 win over Merritt and a 4-1 loss to Vernon at the BCHL Showcase, held at the Chilliwack Coliseum. The previous weekends saw the Chiefs skate to splits against Coquitlam and Langley.

Chilliwack hockey boss Brian Maloney isn’t worried about the up and down start.

“You obviously want to go out there and win every game, and the emotions of it concern me a bit, whether junior hockey players can brush off losses and get ready for the next one,” he said. “But for the most part, it’s early, and I only care how we finish.

“And honestly, I don’t mind a little adversity early on and facing some older teams like Langley. It’s only going to make us better and we’re trending in the right direction.”

Through six games of the BCHL season, we’re starting to learn a bit about who these Chiefs are.

They can score goals. Chilliwack has lit the lamp 28 times, averaging 4.66 goals per game. Only the Prince George Spruce Kings stand above them (29 goals in six games) for offensive production.

Seven players on the 22-man roster (20, minus the goalies) are point-per-game or better. Fourteen skaters have at least one goal and only three players are still looking for their first goal/assist.

“We’re scoring by committee this year where in years past maybe it was a lump of guys,” Maloney said. “I like how we’re scoring goals too. We’re in the hard areas, getting pucks to the net where in years past we scored a lot off the rush, what I call one-and-done goals.”

Defensively, the Chiefs are thus-far middle of the pack, 11th in the 18-team league, averaging four goals against per game.

“When you’re giving up that amount of goals, that’s an area you want to work on,” Maloney noted. “We’re a little thin right now because of injuries, and we’ve got some kids playing more minutes than they normally would. It’s junior hockey, and when you have kids logging a lot of minutes, they start to make mental errors. We defend for the most part really well and then you see some simple breakdowns.

“Typical of Chilliwack, we’re also a younger team and it’s going to take some time. But the ceiling is higher for us.”

That they are where they are on D is actually a good sign, given neither goaltender is off to a great start. Battling through an injury, Grant Riley has posted a 3.16 goals-against average and 89.5 save percentage, and Cole Savage has posted a 4.27 GAA and 84.6 SP.

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If the goalies find their footing, the Chiefs should be in great shape.

The best omen for future success is special teams, in that realm Chilliwack is among the best.

Under the guidance of associate head coach Brad Rihela, the power play is fifth best at 26.1 per cent. Assistant coach Andrew Shaw has the penalty kill fourth best at 87 per cent. The rule of thumb is to have both special teams adding up to 100-plus, and the Chiefs are at 113.1.

Chilliwack has a pair of rivalry games on tap this weekend.

They’re in Langley for the third time in four weeks, taking on the Rivermen Friday (Oct. 29).

The Surrey Eagles are in town Saturday (Oct. 30) for a 7 p.m. start at the Chilliwack Coliseum.


@ProgressSports
eric.welsh@theprogress.com

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