It’s only fitting the Richmond Jets’ inaugural flight to BC Hockey’s provincial championships is being piloted by a lifelong Lulu Island resident who spent many years coaching with both previous associations.
Derek Chichak’s latest conquest is guiding the A1 Jets to the Midget Tier One Championships which get underway on Sunday in Kelowna. Richmond opens play against Pacific Coast Amateur rival Burnaby Minor at 8 a.m. and will play six games over four days.
The gruelling schedule will conclude with the top two teams meeting for the gold medal next Thursday.
The Jets’ road to the Okanagan city proved to be a roller coaster ride.
They headed into the post-season at less than full strength when leading scorer Brice Kemp suffered a broken collarbone. Richmond still managed to get past Chilliwack in three games to clinch a spot in the PCAHA Final Four playdowns.
The momentum continued with a 4-1 opening win over North Vancouver. The team’s destiny then seemed to take a cruel twist in a heartbreaking 4-3 loss to Semiahmoo. Richmond had rallied back from an early 3-0 deficit, only to surrender the game winner in the final minute.
That set the stage for last Tuesday’s final game against host Burnaby Minor who took a perfect 2-0 record into the tilt and had not lost in three meetings with the Jets this season. Adding to the adversity was Richmond playing without its second leading scorer who was suspended following the Sunday loss.
Semiahmoo played to a 1-1 draw against North Vancouver on Monday, paving the way for Richmond to potentially leapfrog past two teams.
The boys dug deep and rode the standout goaltending of Tanner Roberts to a 5-2 win — clinching a provincial berth and the playoff banner.
“After that Semiahmoo game I honestly thought it just wasn’t in the cards for us,” reflected Chichak. “But sometimes you just never know what can happen in that kind of format and as it turned out the win got us into provincials and the banner to boot.”
The Jets will not be at full strength at provincials and have called up three affiliated players from the Richmond A2 team.
It will be Chichak’s first time at provincials since coaching a Seafair Juvenile team three years ago. His last time at the Midget provincials was when his son Sam was playing at that age level. He now works beside his dad as an assistant coach.
A few days later, the Jets A1 team locked up a berth in the Juvenile Provincials by going 3-0 to win the PCAHA Gold Group Final Four playdowns. That tournament gets underway March 21 in Chilliwack.