Chiefs double up Eagles in Mainland division clash
Good teams never want to back into the playoffs.
Chilliwack looks less like the team that bumbled through the last three weeks, and more like a team that might do some damage in the postseason.
“We lost a lot over the last couple weeks, and do be in the dressing room tonight with the guys dancing and having fun, it’s good to have a weekend like this,” said Austin Plevy, who had two goals in the win over Surrey.
The Eagles opened the scoring in Saturday’s clash of Mainland division titans, with White Rock’s Joel Audet deflecting a shot past Chiefs netminder Mitch Gillam at 7:06.
But Chilliwack equalized seven seconds later on a goal by Trevor Hills.
The New York was left uncovered in front of the Surrey net, collecting a pass from Luke Esposito and popping the puck past Surrey’s Michael Santaguida for his 11th of the year.
The Eagles regained the lead at 13:07 on a goal by Trevor Cameron.
Gillam came out to play the puck in the left corner, aiming to get it up the boards. But Cameron cut off the clear and, with Gillam doing a desperation lunge across the crease, tucked it in on the wraparound to give Surrey the 2-1 advantage.
Shots on goal through 20 minutes favoured Surrey 11-7.
Chilliwack played one of their best periods in weeks, dominating the middle frame.
Aside from a couple dump penalties, the Chiefs kept things tidy, and scored the only goal.
Plevy got his 28th of the season at 7:09, scoring on a Chilliwack power play.
With Jordan Klimek in the box for delay of game, Plevy put a shot/centering pass on net from the right corner. The puck hit Surrey D-man Dan O’Keefe in the crease, careening past Santaguida to knot the score at 2-2.
Shots on goal in the second period reflected Chilliwack’s dominance, with the Chiefs holding a 16-7 edge.
The Chiefs took the lead 6:30 into period three on a snipe by Philip Zielonka.
With Surrey’s Adam Tambellini banished to the box for interference, and Chilliwack’s Josh Hansen creating all sorts of havoc around the Eagle net, Zielonka pounced on a loose puck and beat Santaguida blocker-side for his 32nd of the year.
Gillam made a couple eye-popping saves in the final frame, his best coming just 15 seconds in. Tambellini picked off a Luke Esposito pass at the Chilliwack blueline and had a clear path to the net. Gillam challenged, and made a tough glove stop look routine.
The Chiefs faced some potentially big trouble late in period three when back to back minors put them two men down for 34 seconds.
But Chilliwack’s league-leading penalty killers snuffed out the Surrey power play.
They had to kill another one with 3:12 remaining when Jaret Babych was flagged for hooking, but the PK didn’t even allow a shot on that one.
Santaguida came out for the extra attacker with 48 seconds left, but Surrey couldn’t even get across the Chiefs blueline.
“Because of the amount of penalties we take, our penalty kill has to be good,” Plevy said. “Guys were working hard tonight, blocking shots and chipping pucks out and doing everything that makes a PK successful.”
Plevy scored into the empty net with 4.5 seconds left to wrap up the scoring.
“We did a lot of talking over the last week and identified a few things that were costing us,” Plevy said. “We got them figured out this weekend and did all the little things right. Discipline and back checking and all those tiny little things that make a team win.”
Discipline, or a lack of, was something Chiefs coach Harvey Smyl alluded to after a loss to Coquitlam last weekend.
Chilliwack gave Westside just four power play opportunities Friday. But they backslid against Surrey, particularly in the third period.
“We took a lot of stupid penalties lately, and it crept back in against Surrey, and I’m sure Harvey will skate us a bit for those,” Plevy said.
Another nice thing coming out of the weekend was seeing the Chiefs skating with a nearly-healthy lineup. defenceman Alexander Perron-Fontaine was the only player missing in action due to injury.
“I think tonight was the first time we’ve played with 12 forwards in a month or two,” Plevy said. “We get four lines rolling and keeps guys fresh for the third period. If one line can’t score, we’ve got two other lines that can do it. It’s huge.”
The Chiefs have two games this weekend, starting on the road Friday night in Langley. Chilliwack takes on Prince George Saturday at Prospera Centre with a 7 p.m. start.