Chiefs close in on division title with Surrey sweep

Weekend wins over the Eagles have the Chilliwack Chiefs with a magic number of two points to clinch first in the Mainland division.

Tipper Higgins (left) and Vincent Desharnais of the Chilliwack Chiefs celebrate Higgins' goal during the first period of Saturday night's game against the Surrey Eagles at Prospera Centre.

Tipper Higgins (left) and Vincent Desharnais of the Chilliwack Chiefs celebrate Higgins' goal during the first period of Saturday night's game against the Surrey Eagles at Prospera Centre.

The Chilliwack Chiefs completed a weekend sweep of the Surrey Eagles Saturday night, moving within one win of locking down first place in the Mainland division standings.

The Chiefs beat the Eagles 8-1 in Surrey Friday. The rematch at Prospera Centre was much tighter, but a Craig Puffer snipe late in the third period held up as the winner. His Chiefs improved to 32-16-1-3.

Their result, combined with a Langley loss in Coquitlam leaves the second place Rivermen with no margin for error. To catch Chilliwack, they must win their next five games while the Chiefs lose their next seven.

Surrey was feisty in this one and  opened the scoring on a first period power play.

Big blueliner Latrell Charleson stepped into  a feed from Joseph Drapluk above the left faceoff dot, rocketing the puck past Chiefs stopper Aidan Pelino for his 11th.

But Chilliwack stormed back when the Eagles ran into penalty trouble. With Surrey already shorthanded due to a too-many-men minor, Owen Johnson was flagged for interference.

The Chiefs had just 15 seconds of five on three time, but it was enough for Jordan Kawaguchi to thread a pass across the goal-mouth to Tipper Higgins. The Vermont native snapped the puck past Surrey netminder Christian Short for his 14th. Just 47 seconds later, with his team still on a power play, Jake Hand boomed a one-time pass from Kawaguchi through a crowd and in for his 19th.

But the Eagles answered back with a late goal that chased Pelino from the game.

Ben Vikich put a puck on net from the right wing, with Chilliwack’s goalie dropping the rebound into the blue paint. Cole Plotnikoff crashed the crease, fought off a Kawaguchi check and poked the puck past Pelino for his 11th.

Chiefs bench boss Jason Tatarnic quickly pulled the stopper, who surrendered two goals on just eight shots, replacing him with David Jacobson.

Shots on goal through 20 minutes favoured Chilliwack 19-10.

Mark Esposito provided the only highlight in a lackluster middle frame, putting a pummelling on Surrey’s Jordan Funk. The players dropped their mitts at the Surrey blueline, with Esposito raining rights on his 17 year old opponent. Each player got an automatic game misconduct, making an early escape to the dressing room.

Shots on goal through 40 minutes favoured Chilliwack 30-16.

The Chiefs spent the third period pressing for the go-ahead goal, and finally got it with 6:46 to play.

Puffer netted the winner with a top shelf shot from the left faceoff circle, set up by Bennett Morrison and Kawaguchi. Puffer’s team-leading 27th of the year sent the crowd home happy, with Jacobson making a handful of late saves to preserve the win.

The three stars were Surrey goalie Christian Short (45 saves, first), Puffer (second) and Hand (third).

The Fortis BC Energy Player of the Game was Chilliwack’s Ryan Bowen.

Announced attendance was 2,092.

Playing his fourth career BCHL game, Chilliwack’s aptly named Ryan Roseboom leveled Surrey’s Owen Johnson with a thunderous check in the first period. Roseboom and Andrew Strelezki both played in the absence of Brandon Potomak and Luke McColgan.