The Chilliwack Chiefs beat Alberni Valley for the second time in eight days, downing the Island division Bulldogs 3-2 Sunday night at Prospera Centre.
Matteo Esposito came within 5:13 of his second straight shutout, stopping 21 of 23 shots in the Chilliwack net.
Three different Chiefs scored as the team improved to 9-5-1-2 in early season action.
The Chiefs got the only goal in period one off the stick of Linden Hora.
Connor McCarthy pinched down the right wing wall, putting the puck behind the Alberni Valley net for Kohen Olischefski. The rookie put a centering pass into the goal-mouth where Hora fought off a stick check to pop the puck over Bulldog keeper Brody Claeys.
Claeys, making his first BCHL start after being acquired from the Manitoba Junior Hockey League’s OCN Blizzard, was solid and at times spectacular. The 19 year old faced 30 shots through 40 minutes.
He kept his crew within a goal until the final minute of the middle frame.
With Chilliwack on the power play and Vimal Sukumaran providing a screen, Olivier Arseneau’s wrist shot from the point caught the top right corner over Claedys’ glove, giving the blueliner his second of the season.
Matteo Esposito wasn’t nearly as busy at the other end of the ice as he gunned for his second straight shutout.
But he did make one sparkling stop. When Chilliwack D-Man Zach Giuttari had his pocket picked in the high slot, Bulldog forward Cayden Kraus had a clear path to the net. The rookie made the save, carrying the goose-egg to the third.
Esposito made another eye-popping save in the opening minute of the final frame when Alberni Valley’s Nathan Dingmann and Josh Adkins flew in on a two-on one. Dingmann threw the puck across the slot to Adkins, who looked to have an empty net to shoot at. But Espo flung himself across the cage, thwarting Adkins with his left leg pad.
Chilliwack’s power play provided more breathing room 4:31 into period three.
Sukumaran collected his team and league leading 14th of the year, one-timing a Jordan Kawaguchi feed past Claedys from a sharp-angle.
Fists flew a few minutes later when Chilliwack’s Hora and Alberni Valley’s Logan Savard dropped their mitts in the neutral zone. Hora earned a decisive win with a knee-buckling right that sent the Bulldog tumbling to the ice.
Esposito’s shutout bid came to an end with 5:13, with Chris Schutz beating him on an Alberni Valley power play. Schutz did just about the exact same thing on another power play with 2:25 to go, making it a one-goal game.
Claedys came to the bench for the extra attacker with 74 seconds remaining, but the Chiefs escaped to the final whistle with the win.
The three stars were Arseneau (first), Schutz (second) and Kawaguchi (third).
The Fortis BC Energy Player of the Game was Hora.
The announced attendance was 2,062.
The Chiefs have a light weekend coming up and an excellent chance to stretch their win streak to four as they host the Surrey Eagles Friday night.
Puck drop is 7 p.m.