Despite travelling for 20-plus hours and coming home winless, there were some positives to be taken out of the Vancouver Northeast Chiefs' recent jaunt to B.C.'s heartland.
Yes, the Chiefs were shut out in Game 1 by a 4-0 count, and yes, they gave up the winning goal with less than a minute to play in a 5-4 loss one day later against the undefeated Cariboo Cougars.
But head coach Doneau Menard is glad that his relatively young major midget hockey team got a taste of playing against what is the best club thus far in the 11-team loop so early on in the season.
"I do think that having that happen in Week 3, instead of when we typically play them later in the season, was good for our defencemen because they're always a litmus test for us. And I think playing them, whether it's in our rink or up there, just shows these guys the level of play that they need to get to."
That being said, special teams were a sore spot in both games, as the Chiefs gave up two power play goals and a shortie in Saturday's 4-0 loss. On Sunday, they conceded three power play goals, while also conceding a shorthanded marker.
"Our special teams, and our powerplay specifically, were really struggling. It's a bit of a work in progress still," Menard said.
Making matters worse is the fact that top scorer Mathew Barzal left Saturday's game in the second period after being checked head-first into a goal post. Menard, however, insists his club's most valuable asset did not suffer a concussion and sat out Sunday's game as a precautionary measure.
"I think it was in everybody's best interests to be safe there and make sure that he's ready to go. The diagnosis isn't a concussion at this time, but we weren't taking any chances."
The Chiefs got a pair of markers from PoCo native Colton Kehler on Sunday, while fellow PoCo native Tim Chow also found the back of the net, as did Maple Ridge product Kurt Sonne. Now in sixth place with a 2-3-1 record, the Chiefs will take part in this weekend's league showcase event in Langley, where they'll play a doubleheader with the 0-4 Kootenay Ice.