Kings-Chiefs looks pretty simple
The Prince George Spruce Kings are underdogs, a role they prefer.
In other words, let the Chilliwack Chiefs deal with the pressure. Normally, when a second-place team plays a third-place team, the series is a toss-up but clearly this Mainland Division best of five semi-final heavily favors the Chiefs. The following are 10 reasons to substantiate this position:
The Chiefs had two players named to each of the BCHL Coastal Conference first and second all-star teams: forward Luke Esposito and goalie Mitch Gillam on the first team, and forwards Austin Plevy and Phil Zielonka on the second team. In addition, both Esposito and Zielonka were named to the all-rookie team. The Spruce Kings did not have one of their players voted to the all-star or rookie teams. Furthermore, Gillam was named the Coastal Conference MVP and Esposito the Rookie of the Year.
Chilliwack had three players in the top 12 of BCHL scoring: Plevy second with 73 points, Esposito fourth with 71 and Zielonka 12th with 62. The Spruce Kings did not have a player in the top 20. Coltyn Hansen led P.G. with 50 points in 55 games, 24th in the league.
Chilliwack owned the third best power-play in the league (22.61 per cent). P.G. was just 14th out of 16 (17.02 per cent).
Chilliwack boasts the best penalty kill in the league (86.08 per cent). P.G. was seventh (81.09).
Chilliwack finished with nine more points and eight more wins than P.G. (Chiefs 33-21-1-1. Spruce Kings 25-22-1-8).
The Chiefs posted a goal differential of plus 29 and the Spruce Kings were a minus 15. Chilliwack scored 182 and gave up 153 while P.G. tallied 170 and gave up 185.
Chilliwack won six of the eight regular season meetings, including all four in P.G. The Chiefs outscored the Spruce Kings 29-16 in those meetings.
Chilliwack has home ice advantage. (By the way, Chilliwack led the league in attendance averaging 2,194 fans per game. The Spruce Kings were 1,020 behind with an average of 1,174 which placed them sixth in the league.)
Chilliwack enters the playoffs on a three-game win streak while P.G. lost its last two.
The Spruce Kings have not won a playoff game since 2009. The Chiefs won two playoff games last year which was their first season since moving from Quesnel.
The aforementioned facts could suggest a sweep but this is playoffs and there are intangibles including:
Spruce Kings Goalie Kirk Thompson has the ability to win a short series almost by himself. While his GAA (2.87) and save percentage (.914) numbers are not as impressive as his Chilliwack counterpart (Gillam), Thompson has been a star in the majority of his team’s victories, and usually the first star. He is also highly motivated in his last year of junior. He was overlooked by his own team last season, given just one of four starts in the playoffs.
Chilliwack is a physical team that was shorthanded more than any other club. That lack of discipline can be costly if carried over into the playoffs.
The Spruce Kings may have lost the season series to the Chiefs, but they won the last two, both in Chilliwack, so they should not be intimidated playing on the road.
The Spruce Kings haven’t really had a meaningful “must” win game all season. They have been locked in third place since Christmas. How they respond with something on the line is certainly not known.
Just three Chiefs players – forward Spencer Graboski and defenceman Kiefer McNaughton and David Thompson – were part of the Quesnel Millionaires team from two seasons ago that moved to Chilliwack.
Both teams have a defenceman on the NHL Central Scouting radar: Cooper Rush for Chilliwack and Kevin Guiltinan for P.G.
This is a ridiculous schedule: tonight (Friday) and Saturday in Chilliwack, Monday in P.G., Tuesday, if needed in P.G. and Wednesday, if necessary, in Chilliwack. That means if it goes five games they would be played over just six nights. It’s hard to gauge who has the advantage with so many games in such a small time frame. The league should give more consideration to the players when coming up with a playoff schedule. Neither team should have approved a Game 4 in PG one night and a possible fifth and deciding game 652 kilometres (391 miles) away in Chilliwack the next.
Hartley Miller is the sports director for radio stations 94X and the Wolf@97fm. He also writes for
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