The Chilliwack Chiefs play their first game Friday (Oct. 2), hitting the ice for a road game in Surrey.
It’s meaningless where standings are concerned, with real games not starting until December, but Brian Maloney hopes it’s the first small step on a path that will lead to a BCHL championship next spring.
Chilliwack’s hockey boss is bullish on the squad he’s assembled, suggesting they may be good enough to win it all.
“First and foremost, we’ve got a good group of returning kids back,” Maloney said. “And not just because of their hockey ability. I’m sure all coaches say this, but honestly they’re really good kids, and it’s showing with the way they’ve treated our new guys. The returning guys have accepted the new guys, made them feel at home and part of the family.”
One of the returnees, 20-year-old Mathieu Caron, anchors what might be the best goaltending tandem in the league if 18-year-old rookie Ethan Pearson is what Maloney hopes he can be.
“They both look good so far, and they’ll have to bring it in games, but I’m comfortable that they can battle it out (for playing time),” Maloney said. “Last year I don’t know if Kolby (backup goalie Thornton) was ready to be thrust into that role when Matty was battling inconsistency, and we weren’t sure what we were going to get.
“Here, I think both are going to give us a chance to win.”
Maloney returns four defencemen from 2019-20 — Xavier Henry, Hudson Thornton, Brody Gagno and Garrett Valk — and he added a player with a full season of NCAA experience in Luke Krys.
“And most of them are still young,” he enthused.
Up front, Maloney likes his depth and experience in the middle with returnees Tommy Lyons, Arlo Merritt, Brett Rylance and Connor Milburn along with just-acquired 20 year old Wyatt Schlaht.
On the wings, Ethan Bowen should be drafted by a National Hockey League team in October and appears set for a breakout season.
“He’s had a big summer, looks really good and we’re expecting big things out of him,” Maloney noted. “We’ve got a good mix of speed, skill and strength. (Ayrton) Martino looks really good, Frankie (Carogioiello) is buzzing around and Fust and Draper are big power forwards.
“We’ve got good hard-working character kids by Connor (Milburn) and (Nick) Cherkowski, and we just have to put it all together now.”
Extended training camp has provided the opportunity for a ton of teaching, and Maloney has a long runway to get his crew up to speed before December.
“Having all the returning guys back is beneficial, and they’re picking up what we’re teaching really quick,” Maloney said. “The team is definitely shaping up and we’re excited about what they might do.”
Chilliwack’s first ‘home game’ without fans is Oct. 4 (Sunday) at 5 p.m. at the Coliseum.
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