The Chilliwack Chiefs have accomplished their first goal at the 2018 RBC Cup.
A 2-0 shutout win over the Wellington Dukes Tuesday night at Prospera Centre sewed up a semi-final spot for the host team. The Chiefs are guaranteed to play Saturday against a team to be determined.
Through Tuesday, the Chiefs have fashioned a record of 2-1, with wins over Wellington and the Ottawa Junior Senators (4-3 in OT) and a loss to the Wenatchee Wild (2-1 in OT).
Only Steinbach remains on the preliminary round schedule, a Thursday-nighter.
“I think they’re all even and they’re all fantastic teams, and I’m not shocked because they are the best teams from across the country,” said Chilliwack coach Brian Maloney. “I always felt that we deserved to be here even though our season was up and down and we lost out in our playoffs.
“We always had the personnel to be a good team and it was just a matter of teaching and motivating these kids and getting them to believe in themselves again.”
The Chiefs have demonstrated clearly now that they are worthy of being on this stage. After what happened in the regular season and BCHL playoffs, Chilliwack fans justifiably feared having their team’s doors blown off at the RBC Cup by vastly superior foes.
Instead, the Chiefs have dialed up the work ethic and found a formula that works for them.
Skating hard on the forecheck and backcheck, locking it down on D and looking for timely goals. They produced their best game in months versus Wellington, dominating zone time and outshooting the Dukes, 42-26.
“Anytime you go up and down all year and get ousted in the playoffs, you kind of lose that confidence, so we (the coaching staff) have been trying to stay positive and make sure they believe in ourselves,” Maloney said. “Having a couple wins helps and we played pretty well in our loss, and it feels like this tournament is still up for grabs.
“It’s a lot of fun.”
Wenatchee still feels like the team to beat at the RBC Cup, sporting a perfect record (3-0) through Wednesday. But if you’re looking for another reason why the Chiefs might be able to pull this off, look no further than their net.
Through Tuesday, the goalie with the best save percentage in the tournament is Chilliwack’s Daniel Chenard, posting a .942 mark through three games and 185 minutes. His goals-against average is 1.62, helped by that shutout win over Wellington.
“He was fantastic for us in the playoffs (vs Prince George) even though it didn’t work out for us in those seven games,” Maloney said. “I think there were a lot of people questioning our goaltending throughout the year, suggesting we should pick up an older guy, but Daniel is a heckuva goalie and we feel we have two very good young goalies with Mathieu (Caron) as well.
“It doesn’t matter that Daniel is 17 years old because he plays like he’s 20.”
Saturday’s semi-finals will be at 2 and 7 p.m. at Prospera Centre.
The round-robin winner, Wenatchee, will choose what time slot they want.