Sports

Babych nets winner as Chiefs survive Centennial scare

Trevor Hills (#23) of the Chilliwack Chiefs shoots the puck away from the net during Saturday night
Trevor Hills (#23) of the Chilliwack Chiefs shoots the puck away from the net during Saturday night's game against the Merritt Centennials at Prospera Centre.
— image credit: JENNA HAUCK/ PROGRESS

On a night when they weren't at their best, the Chilliwack Chiefs came away with two points.

Facing a quality Merritt Centennials squad in the back half of a home-and-home, the Chiefs had to work for everything they got. Jaret Babych had the winner in the 3-2 final, helping his exact revenge for a 5-3 loss in Merritt Friday night.

The first period of this one took forever to play, with the referees taking aim at the all-time calls-in-a-game record. Arms in the air constantly, they called 12 minors, two majors, a 10 minute misconduct and a game misconduct.

The big fracas came four minutes in, with an ex-Chief in the middle of the action.

Derek Huisman and Tanner Cochrane triggered the mayhem with holdin' and huggin' in the right corner. Cochrane lowered his head, and got shoved noggin-first into the boards by Merritt's John Saunders.

Noted pugilist Spencer Graboski rushed to his teammates aid, challenging Saunders to a scrap.

Graboski, who rarely fights, did all right until the end, when Saunders tagged him with a knee buckler. In the meantime, Centennials goalie Tyler Steel was getting involved, leaving his crease to deliver a below-the-belt spear to Cochrane.

Cochrane was given the gate later in the first period, delivering a check from behind that earned him a game misconduct.

Despite all the power play time, no one was able to put a puck in the net through 20 minutes.

Shots on goal favoured Merritt 16-7.

A game in need of goals got some in the second period.

Chilliwack opened the scoring 5:15 into period two on a power play goal by Luke Esposito. Austin Plevy earned the assist, picking the puck out of a goal-mouth scramble and darting behind the Merritt net. Steel followed him, anticipating the wraparound. Instead, Plevy passed behind his back to Esposito, who had an empty net to shoot at for his ninth of the year.

The Centennials briefly drew even at 9:57 when Sebastien Pare pounced on a turnover in front of the Chilliwack net and beat Chiefs goalie Mitch Gillam on the backhand.

But Chilliwack regained the lead 38 seconds later on a power play goal by Plevy. Defenceman Ben Isreal rattled a point shot off the end boards and right onto Plevy's stick. The 18-year-old popped it in for his 12th of the year and Chilliwack carried a 2-1 lead into the third period.

Another eight minor penalties were handed out in the middle frame, and shots on goal through 40 minutes favoured Merritt 28-20.

The Centennials drew even early in the third period, finally breaking through with a power play goal.  A near carbon-copy Plevy's second period strike, Huisman had a Dylan Chanter point shot bounce off the end boards onto his stick.

The ex-Chief's 10th of the year knotted the game 2-2.

The Centennials would have surged ahead on the very next shift, if not for a game-saving stop by Gillam, who stretched post to post to take a sure goal away from Payton Schaefer. Chilliwack spent most of the third period hanging on as the Centennials came in waves.

But with 4:15 to go in regulation time, the Chiefs got the winner against the run of the play.

Babych got his seventh of the year, slipping a five-hole shot through the legs of Steel to help Chilliwack escape with two points on a night when they might not have deserved any.

The three stars were David Thompson (Chilliwack, first), Plevy (second) and Pare (third).

The Fortis BC Energy Player of the Game was Plevy.

Announced attendance, inflated by the Cash Mob effort, was 2,779.

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