Prince George 2
A successful debut for the Chilliwack Chiefs' newest player this weekend was overshadowed by an ugly semi-brawl at the end of Saturday's game against the Victoria Grizzlies.
Playing three games in as many days, the Chiefs won twice. And Philip Zielonka, whom the team acquired from the Coquitlam Express Thursday just before the trade deadline, scored key power-play goals in both victories.
Chilliwack downed the Prince George Spruce Kings 3-2 at Pros-pera Centre before heading to Vancouver Island, where they lost 2-1 to the Grizzlies Saturday and beat the Cowichan Capitals 2-1 Sunday.
But while Chiefs head coach Harvey Smyl says he's moved on from a large scrum at the end of Saturday's game, the British Columbia Hockey League continues to review video of the incident.
With the final horn having blown on a combative game that had already seen two fights and Grizzlies coach Bill Bestwick ejected, Chiefs forward Trevor Hills clashed with a pair of Grizzlies near centre ice.
With both teams filing onto the ice at the conclusion of the game, the incident escalated and resulted in several skirmishes as punches were thrown and one incident led to another.
Meanwhile, the Chiefs' coaching staff exchanged words-and at one point a stick-with members of the Grizzlies crew.
Asked Monday about the conversation between the benches, Smyl simply described it as "a great debate" to the Times. And he said that "for me it's over."
The league is reviewing the video tape of the end-of-game shenanigans, but media services director Brent Mutis says that, because of board meetings this week, decisions on discipline may not be handed down until Thursday.
Smyl said that would be problematic, as his team is scheduled to head to Prince George on Thursday and would need time to find affiliate player replacements for any suspended skaters.
"If we don't know by then, that's troubling," he said.
As for the actual games, Smyl felt his team, while making some progress, still has a ways to go to reclaim the form shown in November.
The Chiefs were fortunate to escape Friday's game with two points. Spencer Graboski opened the scoring on the power play. But the Spruce Kings tied the game in the second, then took the lead in the third on a shorthanded Coltyn Hansen goal.
But with Chiefs goaltender Mitch Gillam on the bench and a Spruce King in the penalty box, Graboski tied the game with just 52 seconds left to send it to overtime.
There, Zielonka made his presence felt, scoring on another power play to claim the win for his new team.
The Chiefs continue to struggle creating offence five-on-five, and those troubles caught up with them in Victoria.
It took 57 minutes for Austin Plevy to score the Chiefs' only goal. By then it was too late, with the Grizzlies having already beaten Gillam twice.
On Sunday against the Cowichan Capitals, Zielonka opened the scoring-on the power play-in the second period. Jaret Babych added to the Chiefs' lead in the third. Josh Halpenny, in a rare start in place of Gillam, was solid in net. Although his shutout was broken with 10 minutes to go, Halpenny's 35 saves were enough to allow the Chiefs to skate away with a 2-1 win.
Smyl, though, is concerned with the lack of offence when his team is playing at even strength.
"Five-on-five, we're not getting the execution that we did at one point," Smyl said. "I don't think we're creating the chances that we were having."
Zielonka a scoring machine
Last week's trade for Zielonka signaled the club's intention to take a serious run at the Royal Bank Cup this year.
The Chiefs sent young forward Garrett Forster, defenceman Ben Israel and future considerations to the Express in exchange for Zielon-ka, who has been one of the BCHL's most prolific scorers this season.
Zielonka, 19, had scored 20 goals in just 24 games for the Express prior to the trade.
Zielonka won't be in Chilliwack long-the five-foot-11 sniper has already committed to play university hockey for Harvard next year (as has new teammate Luke Esposito on the Crimson). But head coach Harvey Smyl hopes he will add more scoring punch to a deep forward corps.
"Philip is a real competitive and intelligent player who has very good hands," Smyl said in a news release. "He is a real offensive threat every time he is on the ice."
He showed his talent immediately. While Smyl said Zielonka looked nervous at times in his first two games, he said he may have been the best player in the Chiefs' Sunday win over the Capitals.
Zielonka wasn't the only new face in the lineup when the Chiefs took on the Prince George Spruce Kings Friday night. Smyl also added power forward Tanner Burns to the Chiefs roster last week. Burns is six-foot-three and has been playing-and scoring frequently-for the North Okanagan Kings of the Junior B Kootenay International Junior Hockey League.
Burns had 23 goals, 16 assists and 39 points in 34 games for the Kings.
Josh Hansen also returned to the lineup Sunday after missing more than a month with a knee injury.