You could say it wasn’t a bad week for the Chilliwack Chiefs. Four games and four convincing wins has vaulted the two-time division champs back into first place in the Mainland, thanks in part to recent struggles by the Wenatchee Wild.
The Chiefs had a quiet schedule in the first half of the month and the rest sure seems to have benefited. The Wenatchee Wild paid a mid-week visit to Prospera Centre on Wednesday only to allow seven goals against in a 7-3 Chiefs win. Chilliwack followed that up with a 4-1 win over the visiting Cowichan Valley Capitals Friday night. The Chiefs then handed the Express their second embarrassing loss to Chilliwack in a week as Brendan Barry stopped 17 shots in a 4-0 shutout win. The Chiefs then licked the visiting Nanaimo Clippers 4-1 Sunday afternoon.
The Chiefs have yet to lose in the month of November riding an eight game win streak and have points in ten straight. Now at 18-5-3 Chilliwack has a two-point lead over the Wild although Wenatchee does hold a pair of games in hand.
— Barry Douglas (@BarryDouglas1) November 20, 2016
With a six-point weekend, Chiefs captain Jordan Kawaguchi moved into third place in BCHL scoring but of even greater note is his accomplishment of becoming the new franchise leader in goals now with 103 over the past four seasons.
While the Chiefs have sure been heating up of late their schedule becomes much more challenging to close out November with a road trip this week starting in Wenatchee Wednesday before hitting up Trail Friday night and Penticton Saturday.
The Wenatchee Wild continue to be a bit of an enigma. They began the year in a most dominant fashion and didn’t lose in regulation until October 20th in Surrey where they suffered that notable loss in spectacular fashion, 6-1 to the Eagles. The Wild then followed that up with a 5-4 loss to the lowly Express the following night. Mind you the Wild’s starting goaltender, Garrett Nieto, was out at the time due to injury but that didn’t stop Anthony Yamnitsky from backstopping the Wild to a dominant 4-1 win over the Penticton Vees one week later. After that Mainland road trip stumble the Wild rattled off seven straight wins (including that victory over Penticton). But once again that streak came to a screeching halt this past weekend and the Wild didn’t have goaltending injuries to blame this time. After that 7-3 loss in Chilliwack on Wednesday, the Wild fell 4-1 in Merritt Friday night and 4-2 in West Kelowna on Saturday, a pair of Interior division teams that had been struggling to say the least. The Wild did manage to eke out a 5-4 double overtime win in Salmon Arm Sunday before heading home.
The Prince George Spruce Kings had their best home weekend in recent memory putting up 12 goals in just two games. The Spruce Kings made very easy work of the Clippers with a 6-1 win Friday night and then handled the Surrey Eagles 6-3 on Saturday. After stumbling out of the gate, Prince George had proven to be a formidable opponent with a 4-2-1 record in November. The team’s offence has really come alive scoring six goals four times in their last five games. Now at 12-10-1-2 the Spruce Kings have a five point lead over fourth place Surrey and right now are the best of the rest in the division after the Chiefs and Wild who are far and away the cream of the crop in the Mainland.
What’s wrong with the Nanaimo Clippers? The two-time reigning Island division champs had a horrendous weekend picking up just a single point in their three-game Mainland road trip, that being a 3-3 tie in Langley Saturday night. The Clippers have just one win in November. The only thing that looks reminiscent of their recent dominance is their place atop the PIM list. The Clippers have now amassed 421 penalty minutes, by far and away the most in the entire league. And again, it’s not just racking up minor penalties that is concerning about the Clippers but rather their penchant for dangerous, dirty plays. Take a look at that game in Langley on Saturday. The third period alone saw Nanaimo take a fighting major, a goaltender interference major, and a blow to the head major penalty. Not only do such tactics continue to hurt the Clippers’ ability to win games but it demonstrates continuation of a dangerous trend that puts player safety at risk.
While the Clippers had their troubles over the weekend the Capitals didn’t fare much better. A three-game road trip saw Cowichan Valley drop a 4-1 decision in Chilliwack Friday night before picking up their lone win of the weekend in Salmon Arm the following evening, a 5-2 victory over the Silverbacks. The Capitals closed out their trip with a 2-1 loss in Vernon Sunday afternoon in a tightly fought defensive battle with all three goals scored in the first period. The Capitals are 2-4 in their last six and if not for the Clippers continuing to slide would be in jeopardy of losing their current third place status.
It was a mixed bag for the co-leaders atop the Island division as the Grizzlies and Kings each went 2-1 over the weekend. Powell River held on for a 2-1 win over Trail at home Friday night but then suffered a 4-1 loss in Victoria Saturday before picking up a 5-4 win in double overtime in Port Alberni on Sunday. The Grizzlies beat Alberni 4-1 at home Friday night before Saturday’s win over Powell River. But it was the Trail Smoke Eaters who salvaged 2 points from an otherwise disappointing weekend with a 2-1 win in Victoria Sunday afternoon. The Kings and Grizzlies are tied atop the division with 37 points apiece while the Grizzlies do hold a pair of games in hand.
That win in Victoria Sunday snapped a three-game skid for Trail who was certainly up against a tough schedule on a grueling Island division road trip. The Smokies open up a four-game home stand Friday night hosting the Chilliwack Chiefs with Merritt in town the following night. The Smokies and Vipers are currently tied for second in the Interior. While Trail’s offence had a quiet weekend, that certainly wasn’t the case for Luke Santerno who after scoring his 20th of the season in the first period Sunday now rides a six-game scoring streak with 10 goals in that span.
It was another ho-hum two-win weekend for the league leading Penticton Vees who squashed the Express 7-2 in Coquitlam Friday night but needed overtime for a 3-2 win over visiting Merritt Saturday. At 21-4 the Vees are three points ahead of Chilliwack in the overall league standings. Most importantly, the Vees are now a whole 15 points up on Trail and Vernon for tops in the Interior.
The Vipers are 3-1-1 since going 0-3 to start November and earned three out of a possible four points over the weekend. Vernon staked themselves out to a 2-0 first period lead in West Kelowna Friday night but the Warriors battled back to force overtime with Connor Sodergren ending the game just 29 seconds into 4-on-4. The Vipers rebounded with a 2-1 win at home Saturday over the visiting Capitals as Ty Taylor made 23 saves for the win.
The Centennials finally broke out of their nine-game losing skid Friday night with that 4-1 win over the visiting Wild, a game that was sure to up the Cents’ collective confidence level a few notches not only because of the two points but because of how they did it and who they beat. The Centennials proceeded to pick up a single point in Penticton the following evening and then convincingly beat the visiting Surrey Eagles 6-3 Sunday afternoon for a pretty successful weekend. Merritt was able to pull three points clear of the fifth place Warriors but the Interior remains as tight as ever with only six points separating second from sixth.