A pair of weekend wins over Mainland division rivals have given the Chilliwack Chiefs a bit of breathing room atop the BCHL’s Mainland division standings.
Chilliwack edged the Surrey Eagles 2-1 on the road Friday night and dismantled the Coquitlam Express 5-1 Saturday night at Prospera Centre.
The net result, a six point cushion over the second place Eagles, a two point lead over Penticton for first overall and a feeling that the Chiefs have cemented their status as one of Canada’s top junior A teams.
The Chiefs opened the scoring just 1:38 into Saturday night’s match on a goal by Abbotsford native Mitch Skapski.
Garrett Forster drew the only assist, shoveling a backhand shot at the Coquitlam net. Express goalie Cole Huggins left a rebound for Skapski, and the crease-crashing rookie popped it in for his third of the year.
Coquitlam tied the game at 16:58 on a power play goal by Phillip Zielonka.
With Tanner Cochrane serving two minutes for slashing, the Quebec native let loose with a wrist shot from the right faceoff circle, beating Chiefs netminder Josh Halpenny for his seventh of the season.
But Chilliwack had the last laugh in period one, regaining the lead with just one second on the clock. Trevor Hills was the playmaker. The speedster drove wide on Express D-man Cal Hofford and put a sharp-angle backhander on net.
Huggins blockered the rebound right to Donohoe, who buried the biscuit for his seventh of the year.
Shots on goal through 20 minutes favoured the Chiefs 17-6.
Chilliwack broke it open in the second period, with Hills in the middle of all the action.
The Rochester native started the middle frame with a spectacular scoring chance. On a breakaway from the Coquitlam blueline in, Hills went with the backhand-forehand deke, only to see Huggins stretch post-to-post to make the stop.
Another Hills rush led to Chilliwack’s third goal at 9:41.
The 20-year-old took a Jaret Babych pass crossing the Coquitlam blueline, darted in and put a shot on net.
The puck squirted out to the side, where Chiefs captain David Thompson lifted a sharp-angle shot through a crowded crease for his fourth of the year.
Chilliwack’s big line kept things rolling late in the period.
Austin Plevy took one for the team when he was driven into the boards from behind by Express D-man Mark Begert.
Plevy made Coquitlam pay on the power play, finding Josh Hansen with a perfect centering pass. Hansen roofed it for his team and league-leading 18th.
The shot clock wasn’t quite as one-sided in period two, but Chilliwack out-shot the Express 14-10.
The Chiefs kept coming in period three, adding to their lead at 3:34 on a goal by Donohoe. The 20-year-old chased down a puck in the Coquitlam zone, pulled the puck inside on Express blueliner Brett Seldon and squeezed a shot through the legs of Huggins for his second of the game and eighth of the year.
His strike marked the end of Huggins’ night as he gave way to backup Daniel Urbani.
The Chiefs got no more goals, but Thompson added an exclamation point with four minutes left, pummeling Coquitlam’s Brandon Morley in a one-sided scrap.
The three stars were Donohoe (first), Halpenny (second) and Skapski (third).
The Fortis BC Energy Player of the Game was Hills.
Announced attendance was 2,509.
The Chiefs have an all-Merritt weekend coming up as they visit the Centennials Friday night and host them Saturday.
Puck drop is 7 p.m.