The Chilliwack Chiefs finished the season in the best possible way Saturday night, with an injury-free home ice win.
The Chiefs bombed the Langley Rivermen 5-1 at Prospera Centre to end the 56 game regular season slate at 33-21-1-1. Their second win over Langley in three days gives the Chiefs happiness and momentum heading into the postseason, which starts Friday night, at home versus the Prince George Spruce Kings.
Eric Roberts waited 57 regular season games to get his first BCHL goal, finally getting it at 2:56 of an entertaining opening period.
The Abbotsford native took a pass from Philip Zielonka and fired a put-it-on-net wrister from the point. The puck snuck through a crowd in front, evading Langley keeper Darren Hogg to give Chilliwack the 1-0 lead.
The Chiefs went up 2-0 at 14:24 on a power play goal by another blueliner. With Turner Popoff in the sin bin for boarding, Alex Perron-Fontaine darted down from the left point and beat Hogg with a sharp-angle shot for his third of the year.
Roberts was part of a scary moment late in the opening frame.
Fetching the puck behind the Chilliwack end-line, Roberts was driven face first into the glass by Langley’s Nathan Craft, whose hit from behind earned him two minutes and a game misconduct. Chilliwack failed to cash in on the power play, but shots on goal in the first period favoured the home team 11-8.
Tanner Cochrane exacted revenge for the Craft hit in the first minute of period two.
Eight seconds in, the Dawson Creek native took Austin Azurdia into the boards from behind, drawing the same punishment as Kraft.
Cochrane’s crew killed off the penalty and went up three donut at 2:52 on a goal by Mathieu Tibbett. Brodyn Nielsen got the primary assist, fighting off a Langley defender to make a backhand feed across the goal mouth.
Tibbett steered it home for his fifth of the year.
Penalty killing aces Ryan Donohoe and Josh Hansen teamed up to give Chilliwack a 4-0 lead at 7:37. Donohoe, who had two shorthanded goals in a 5-2 in Langley Thursday, was the playmaker on a two-on-one rush, saucering a backhand pass to Hansen who directed the puck past Hogg for his 22nd of the year.
The next two goals came lighting quick.
Riverman D-man Turner Popoff scored at 8:44, picking the top corner on a slap-shot from the far right wing boards.
Just nine seconds later, Chilliwack’s Nielsen snuck behind the Langley defence, collected a pass from Spencer Graboski and beat Hogg blocker side for his second of the season.
Chiefs goalie Mitch Gillam was at his best in the second period, making three eye-popping stops.
The first was on Langley D-man Mark Whitley who came right down the pipe on a Riverman power play. Whitley took a pass from James Robinson and had tons of time to pick his spot. But Gillam flashed the leather with a glovely save.
Later in the period, Trevor Cope thought he had a goal, hacking away at the puck in a goal-mouth scramble. Gillam left room between himself and the post, but reached back to pull the puck off the goal-line.
The Ontario native looked Grant Fuhrish on his third save.
Viktor Dombrowsky wired a shot from the left faceoff circle, but Gillam snagged the puck and made a routine save entertaining with a full around-the-world windmill.
Chilliwack led 5-1 through 40 minutes, out-shooting Langley 28-19.
With the game all but done, Gillam came out of the net at 9:50 of period three, replaced by backup Josh Halpenny.
He had little to do as the Chiefs nursed the four goal lead to the final whistle.
The team did their post-win salute to the fans, circling a couple times at center ice before heading to the locker room.
Playoffs up next, and a date with Prince George.
The Fortis BC Energy Player of the Game was Chilliwack’s David Thompson.
The three stars were Nielsen (first) Roberts (second) and Donohoe (third).
Announced attendance was 2,951.