The Chilliwack Chiefs split a pair of weekend games against division rivals as they continue to struggle for consistency.
The Chiefs beat the Coquitlam Express 5-3 Friday night before falling 6-3 to the Langley Rivermen Saturday at Prospera Centre.
The Chiefs-who once sat atop the British Columbia Hockey League standings-are now just 3-5 in their last eight games. They also must now share top spot in the Mainland Division with the Surrey Eagles.
The Chiefs can consider themselves fortunate to have taken two points from the Express Friday after being outshot 48-37.
John Siemer opened the scoring for Coquitlam just 1: 42 into the game. Spencer Graboski replied for the Chiefs three minutes later on the power play. But the Express scored on their own man advantage shortly after to restore the lead.
Cue the puck luck. Even though he plays for the Express, Coquitlam defenceman Michael Maciag tied the game for the Chiefs late in the first when he took a cross-crease pass from Graboski and inadvertently sniped the puck past his own goalie.
Then, midway through the second period, Mathieu Tibbet's wrist-shot dump-in from centre ice bamboozled veteran Express netminder Cole Huggins. Luke Esposito extended Chilliwack's lead on a nice passing play three minutes later.
Coquitlam drew back to within one early in the third, but Chiefs goalie Mitch Gillam shut the door on the rest of the comeback. He punctuated his 45-save effort by flashing his glove to deny Express star Philip Zielonka on a breakaway.
The Chiefs' luck ran out the following evening against Langley.
Power play goals by Evan Campbell and James Robinson helped stake the Rivermen to a 3-0 lead entering the first intermission.
From there the Chiefs were left to play catch up.
Tibbet pounced on a juicy rebound early in the second to get Chilliwack on the board. And while Langley restored the three-goal lead, a pair of goals from Austin Plevy just 15 seconds apart gave 2,403 Chiefs fans hope.
But, like Coquitlam the night before, Chilliwack couldn't complete the comeback. Langley added two more goals, including a late empty-netter, to cap their win.
"We're not pleased right now with the way we're playing and the mistakes were making, the mindset. Just not pleased even with the win," Chiefs head coach Harvey Smyl told the Times. "I just don't think we're playing like we're capable and need to get it straightened out."
Smyl is looking at adding another forward before the BCHL trade deadline, and reinforcements are on their way in the form of veterans Josh Hansen and Ryan Donohoe.
Hansen, who sustained a knee injury in early December, could return this weekend in one of the Chiefs' three games.
Donohoe has been nursing a shoulder injury for much of the season. He is skating with his teammates and might be a couple weeks away from returning to action.
Both should provide needed help both offensively and defensively.
Smarter play needed
Chiefs grinder Tanner Cochrane was handed his third game misconduct of the year Friday after being penalized for a hit-from-behind.
Smyl said Cochrane needs to return to the way he was playing at the start of the year.
"He has to get himself more under control and make smarter decisions," Smyl said.
Chiefs drop in rankings
The Chiefs dropped four spots and are now ranked 17th in the Canadian Junior Hockey League weekly rankings. The Victoria Grizzlies are ranked eighth and the Penticton Vees hold the 12th spot. The Merritt Centennials also earned an honourable mention.