Vimal Sukumaran scored twice in his BCHL debut and Aidan Pelino turned aside 39 of 42 shots Saturday night as the Chilliwack Chiefs won their home opener.
The Chiefs built up a 4-0 lead on the visiting Coquitlam Express, then held on for a 5-3 final at Prospera Centre.
Put Jeremy Germain down as the first Chiefs goal scorer of 2015-16.
The Connecticut kid cruised through the slot at 7:57 of period two and got his stick on a Bennett Morrison shot, fooling Coquitlam keeper Braden Krogfoss with the re-direct to break a scoreless tie.
The Chiefs doubled their lead at 15:27 on a breakaway snipe by Sukumaran. Credit defenceman Austin Adam with a stellar stretch pass to spring Sukumaran on a breakaway. No. 11 went with the forehand-backhand move, roofing the puck over the right shoulder of Krogfoss.
Chilliwack got one more in the middle frame.
With just 35 ticks on the clock it was Germain flying down the right wing and cutting hard to the net. Jake Smith arrived in the blue paint at the same moment and stuffed the puck past Krogfoss to give his crew a three-goal cushion.
A defensive blunder by the Express led to the fourth Chilliwack goal, scored at 6:34 of period three.
Forward Jonathan Irving had his pocket picked by Jordan Kawaguchi in the neutral zone. After side-stepping a wild check by Colton Kerfoot, Chilliwack’s captain was off on a breakaway. Gooch was thwarted, but Sukumaran pounced on the rebound, popping it past Krogfoss for his second of the game.
Those two Express players atoned for their errors by scoring the next two goals.
Irving at 7:42 and Kerfoot at 9:54 got the visitors within a pair and set up a nervous finish.
Chilliwack’s penalty kill had to come up large in the late going when the team ran into serious penalty problems. With Morrison already in the box, Sukumaran was given a rare five-minutes-for-slashing major.
Led by Pelino, the Chiefs weathered that storm, but watched the Express get within one 89 seconds to go on a four-on-four goal by Owen Stout. Krogfoss came to the bench with 73 seconds remaining and the 2,782 in attendance held their collective breath until Jesse Lansdell finally put the game to rest with an empty net tally.
The Three Stars were Germain (first), Pelino (second) and Jackson Cressey (Coquitlam, third).
The Fortis BC Energy Player of the Game was Kale Kane.
Announced attendance was 2,782.
– Defenceman Mark Esposito had the hit of the game early in the third period. The second-year blueliner wrecked Coquitlam’s Michael Merulla with a thunderous hit at blueline. It looked clean on the Jumbotron, but Espo drew two and 10 for a blow to the head