Cole Savage is back in the Chilliwack Chiefs net, this time as a starter after backing up Grant Riley last season. (Darren Francis photo)

Chilliwack Chiefs shake things up with goalie swap

Lucas Szyszka is in and Cole Savage out as the struggling BCHL club tries to right the ship

Prior to the start of the BCHL season, Brian Maloney suggested he would be patient with his goaltending duo of Cole Savage and Austin McNicholas.

But with his team getting off to a slow start, the Chilliwack Chiefs hockey boss made a move in net.

The junior A club picked up 2004-born goalie Lucas Szyszka from the USHL’s Des Moines Buccaneers, and traded Savage to the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s Drayton Valley Thunder.

Both trades were for future considerations, which almost always means cash.

“When you’re struggling in a bunch of areas, you’ve got to do something,” Maloney said.

The Chiefs lost four straight prior to the Savage swap, although the Abbotsford product’s numbers weren’t bad. The 2003-born stopper had posted one win with a 2.36 goals-against average and 89.7 save percentage in three outings.

Savage was the backup to Grant Riley last season, posting a 2.91 GAA and 88.6 save percentage in 20 outings.

“I think we gave up a lot (of goals) that weren’t necessarily his fault, and maybe it’s an unfair shake for him a little bit, but I didn’t know if the consistency was going to be there or not,” said Maloney. “The reality is we needed to do something. Being 1-4 or whatever it was isn’t good enough.”

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In Szyszka, Chilliwack gets a younger goalie who comes to town with a commitment to the University of Maine already in his back pocket. Hailing from Illinois, the 18-year-old had unimpressive numbers with Des Moines last season (4.27 GAA, 85.6 save percentage and five wins in 27 appearances), but Maloney said context is important.

Des Moines was 18-39-3-2 last year, posting the worst record in the 16-team USHL.

“Sometimes the numbers can be misleading,” Maloney said. “He was on a team that really struggled last year, but he’s coming from a good league and a good organization. We needed to upgrade in a few different areas and this is one we wanted to jump on right away.”

Szyszka’s resume includes playing two games for Team USA at the 2021 Hlinka Gretzky Cup, a showcase tournament for U18 players. At that tourney the six-foot-two stopper played alongside new Chiefs teammates McNicholas and Casy Laylin.

Szyszka is with the Chiefs now and likely to make his debut at the BCHL Showcase.

Maloney thought he had a young goalie tandem coming into the season with Savage, 19, and McNicholas, 18. Now he’s got two 18-year-olds, but he believes they’ll push each other.

“I think experience is more valuable than age, and Szyszka has experience in a pretty good league,” Maloney said. “He’ll push McNicholas a little bit, and both of them know that either of them can start on any given night.”

McNicholas got the start in Chilliwack’s most recent game, a 7-3 home ice loss to the Coquitlam Express Oct. 14 in which he yielded six goals on 30 shots.


@ProgressSports
eric.welsh@theprogress.com

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