The Chilliwack Chiefs are on to round two of the Shaw BCHL Playoffs after kicking off their Easter weekend with a massive 6-5 win in overtime against the Express in Coquitlam to clinch the series on Friday. The Chiefs won the series four games to one against a team they struggled with during the regular season.
“We are proud of how our players trusted our coaching staff. As a staff, we came up with a game plan on how to beat Coquitlam after going through our previous games against them, having limited success. Our players trusted us; we pushed them into uncomfortable situations for them. So it was nice to see them get rewarded for it,” said Head Coach and General Manager Brian Maloney.
While it was a tight series on the scoreboard, the Chiefs best game was game four, when they beat the Express by a score of 7-2.
“Even after having one of our worst games of the season in game three, they were able to
shake it off, regroup, and come up with one of our better games of the season the following
night. That game was the deciding factor of the series, in my opinion,” said Maloney.
Next round, they’ll look for some revenge against the Nanaimo Clippers, who swept them at this
point during last year’s playoff run. The top-seeded Nanaimo Clippers finished the regular season 37-14-3 and had one of the best goal differentials in the conference with a +33 marker. However, the Clippers faced some adversity in the form of the Langley Rivermen, who pushed them to six games before Nanaimo squeaked through with a 1-0 victory in game six to move on.
The Chiefs were in for some tough battles against the Clippers this season, as they managed a 1-2-1 record in four head-to-head matchups this season. However, they were all close games, with their worst loss being a 3-1 decision in early December. They finally broke through in their final matchup in Nanaimo with a 6-5 OT victory. The other two games against Nanaimo were both just one-goal losses in matchups that could have swayed either way.
“Right now, we’re riding with a lot of confidence, and we’re excited to play the best team in our conference. They’ve had our number for the most part during the regular season, but they were all close games so we’re anticipating an excellent series. This is a great test for us developmentally, being the youngest team in the league and having a chance to knock off one of the older teams. It’s going to be a tough challenge, so we will need to be prepared as soon as that puck drops for game one,” said Maloney.
Nanaimo Clippers Interm Coach Dave Liffiton says a series with the Chiefs with be a battle.
“It’s been an exciting season series, and playoffs are always more intense. We need to focus on our details as the Chiefs will provide quite the challenge. It should be a great series and some excellent hockey,” said Liffiton.
One of the biggest stories of the season series between these two teams was the continued excellence of Clippers goaltenders stifling Chilliwack. Aidan Campbell was outstanding against the Chiefs this season, as he was in net for all four games against the Chiefs, and managed a 3-0-1 record with a whopping .925 Save percentage. The big question for the Clippers is whether they will go back to him after the first round, which saw him go 1-2. His teammate Shane Selest put up a .963 save percentage in his three games to close the series. Either way, the Chiefs will need to work to score against a stingy Nanaimo defense with solid goaltending behind them.
For the Chiefs, Austin McNicholas started all five games against the Express last series and is your probable starter for the series in game one on Friday. He got the lone win against the Clippers this year but struggled against them, posting a 1-0-1 record with a .868 save percentage through 2+ games. However, McNicholas was excellent against Coquitlam, where he went 4-1 with a .903 save percentage overall in the series. After the series’ first two games, he was named the league’s 3rd star of the week and was able to make a couple of Save of the Year candidates. McNicholas was awarded as one of the most improved players of the year for the Chiefs and has found his stride in the later half of the year. He must be on top of his game in this series against the Clippers.
Another common catch-phrase you hear during the playoffs is ‘series are won through goaltending & special teams,’ but special teams were a nonfactor in the regular season series with these two clubs. In four head-to-head matchups, both teams only scored two powerplay goals. The Chiefs had a 13% powerplay, while the Clippers hovered at just 10.5%. Both were well under their regular season totals, which saw the Clippers lead the conference at 24.4% while the Chiefs were 5th at 20.1%.
For the Clippers, the dynamic duo of Kai Daniells and Brody Waters led the way with a combined 19 points in the series against the Langley Rivermen, which is no surprise as they were some of the best Clippers players all season. For the Chiefs, there was no one better than AJ Lacroix in the series, as he put up an outstanding 11 points in just five games to lead the Chiefs to the second round. Mateo Mrsic
was also on pace for some outstanding numbers in the series, notching 4 points (2 goals, 2 assists) in just three games before an injury forced him to sit out. The Chiefs are hopeful to have him back in the lineup on Friday night.
“It’s nice to have a little bit of time off in between series to rest up our players. That being said, we’re chomping at getting back into it,” said Maloney.
The series starts this Friday, April 14th, with a pair of weekend games in Nanaimo before the teams move to the Chilliwack Coliseum for Tuesday, April 18th, and Wednesday, April 19th.
Tickets are available from chilliwackchiefs.net or from the Chiefs office located at the Chilliwack Coliseum. Season ticket members have been emailed links to purchase their seats or can phone (604-392-4433) or come into the Chiefs office to buy.