The Chilliwack Chiefs took care of business in ugly fashion Tuesday night, blowing a three goal lead to the visiting Salmon Arm Silverbacks before taking a 4-3 overtime decision at Prospera Centre.
Ugly as it was, the win earned Chilliwack a valuable two points in their quest for an Interior conference playoff spot.
The fourth place Chiefs moved five points ahead of the fifth place Vernon Vipers, and closed to within four points of the third place Prince George Spruce Kings. They still have one game in hand on both teams.
“It’s kind of hard to not look at the standings, and you want to see how the other teams are doing,” Malcolm Gould admitted after the game. “But you can’t think too much about it. We know we can do it (make the playoffs), and if we don’t it will be our fault and no one elses.”
Chilliwack got on the board first at the 11:17 mark on a shortanded goal by Gould. With Kit Sitterley serving a double minor for high sticking, Gould intercepted a pass at the Chilliwack blueline and took off.
“When they go D to D, we want to apply pressure so they don’t have time to think about it,” Gould explained. “I saw them trying to make that pass, so I jumped it and got a step on them.”
Speeding in on the Salmon Arm net, Gould went from backhand to forehand, sliding the puck past the outstretched skate of Salmon Arm keeper Kurt Williams.
The North Vancouver native scored the first shorthanded goal for the Chiefs since Oct. 22. Gould had that one too in a 7-5 loss to Victoria.
His 26th of the year sent Chilliwack to the break up 1-0.
The Silverbacks had a couple chances to knot it up early in the second period, but Chiefs keeper Mitch Gillam kept them off the board.
The Ontario native made a couple bang-bang saves off James Friedel and Garrett Hendrickson in tight. Later, he stretched post to post, getting his glove out to thwart Morgan Zulinick on a Salmon Arm power play.
The Chiefs added to their lead at 12:35 of period two on another Gould goal.
David Bondra set him up, cutting right to left across the goal mouth. The Maryland native slid a pass left to right across the blue paint to Gould, who had a tap-in for his 27th.
“That was all on my linemates (Derek Huisman and Bondra), who made a couple nice passes,” Gould said. “I just stood at the side of the net and tapped it in. Pretty easy on my part.”
Shots on goal through 40 minutes favoured Chilliwack 23-22.
The Chiefs put the hammer down in the opening minute of the final frame, pushing their lead to 3-0 on a goal by Sitterley.
Trevor Hills earned the assist with a hot shot from the slot. Sitterley cut across the goal-mouth and roofed the rebound for his 12th of the year.
But the Silverbacks got that one back on a power play goal by Myles McCauley. Alex Perron-Fontaine was in the penalty box as the 20-year-old wired a short-side shot past Gillam at 11:07 for his 11th of the year.
Salmon Arm got even closer with 4:15 left on a controversial goal by Travis Stephens.
Stephens and ex-Chief Mike Berry both barreled into the Chilliwack goal crease, taking Gillam and the puck into the net.
After a brief staff meeting with linesmen Glen Bulger and Nick Bilko, referee Jason Cramer called it a good goal and pointed to center ice.
“It’s hard to tell when a play like that happens,” Gould said. “You always hope it’s not going to count, but the goal judge and linesmen thought the puck went in before the net was knocked off. We didn’t catch a break on that one.”
Williams came to the bench with 1:08 remaining and tied the game with 19.8 seconds left on a goal by Muller.
“We started off the game really well, doing all the little things. Then in the last 10 minutes or so we kind of laid back a little bit,” Gould said. “We took our foot off the gas pedal and got away from our game plan a little bit.”
Forced to four-on-four overtime, the Chiefs finally put the Silverbacks away.
Perron-Fontaine got the assist on Derek Huisman’s game winner as the Smithers native lazered a shot past Williams at 4:04.
The three stars were Gould (first), Gillam (second) and Sitterley (third).
The Chiefs are on the road this weekend with games in Westside on Friday and Penticton on Saturday. They’re home Tuesday versus Vernon.