The Jiffy Lube Bantam A Chiefs started their regular season minor hockey play this past weekend with a pair of victories in two tightly contested matches.
On Saturday, the Chiefs were in Nanaimo to play the Clippers in what turned out to be an exciting, physical contest. Both teams were strong defensively in the first period with tight checking and strong play around the net. “There wasn’t a lot of space out there, and even though I thought we controlled the play in the first, Nanaimo did a good job of keeping us to the outside,” said Chiefs' assistant coach Jordan Butcher.
The Chiefs continued to work hard along the boards and win the possession game. “We have been working hard at reducing our turnovers and the result was we were able to keep possession into the attacking zone,” added Butcher. Going into the second, the Chiefs started to open things up with some strong forechecking by the line of Zach Roach, Mick Surgenor and Ty Henderson. At the flood, though, the score remained tied at zero.
The Chiefs came out after the flood very strong, led by some tremendous shot blocking by Kolby Antonelli on the penalty kill, and Logan Cursley converted a strong rush to open the scoring late in the second. Midway through the third, James Garrett added another after some strong work in the offensive zone by linemates Caleb Doleman and Mack Christison.
Shortly after, Nanaimo narrowed the gap to one on a power-play goal. Doleman would respond to increase the lead to 3-1 after strong work by Ryan Novecovsky and Beckham Willis. Minutes later, though, the Clippers added another power-play tally to make it 3-2 late in the third.
A defensive blunder later in the third left a Clipper in on a breakaway with a chance to tie the game, but Blayre Paddock made a great pad save to preserve the win. “It was nice to get our first win, particularly on the road,” said Butcher.
On Sunday, the Chiefs were at home to take on the Juan De Fuca Grizzlies in an exciting, penalty filled affair. “One of our main keys on the day was to establish the intensity we need to make opposing teams have to work for every inch when they come to our rink,” said head coach Sean Toal. From the outset, the Chiefs battled hard for every puck. Matt Gambacorta had a strong game on defence with his partner Anton Cecic and did well to keep the Grizzlies opportunities to a minimum.
Like the day before, the game remained scoreless through the first, until midway through the second when Logan Cursley jumped in the rush to put in his second in as many games. The Grizzlies responded shortly after when a puck slipped by Paddock on a 4-on-3 man advantage for the visitors.
The Chiefs responded early in the third when the line of Ben Alexander, Andre Sutter and Keenan Toal worked the cycle to create a number of scoring chances when finally Toal put one past the Grizzlies netminder. Minutes later, Doleman added one for the Chiefs to make it 3-1, but the Grizzlies came back and got within one with under 10 minutes to play. The Chiefs weathered the storm late in the game when the Grizzlies played the final four minutes on the power play, with two of those minutes 5-on-3.
“I thought our players really showed some heart late in the game killing those penalties to preserve the win. It speaks to the tremendous character we have on our team,” added Toal. Unfortunately, the game ended in an ugly incident when a Grizzly player speared one of the Chiefs at the end of the game. In the ensuing melee, a number of punches were thrown and some suspensions will be forthcoming. “It was a really unfortunate way to end a great hockey game.” said Butcher.
As a result, the Chiefs will need to battle some adversity with a shortened lineup as they travel to Oceanside this Saturday to take on the Generals. “It will be a good test for us to go there shorthanded – some of our players will need to step up and take on the challenge to replace the suspended players,” added Toal.
– Jiffy Lube Bantam A Chiefs