Two tired teams clashed Sunday night at Prospera Centre, with the Chilliwack Chiefs taking a 3-2 decision over the visiting Salmon Arm Silverbacks.
With both teams playing their third game in three days, the game wasn’t a technical masterpiece. But the home team did just enough, improving to 10-1-0-0 at home and 15-7-0-1 overall. Chilliwack reclaimed first place in the Mainland division standings, leap-frogging the idle Prince George Spruce Kings.
The Chiefs struggled through a sluggish and sloppy start, looking out of sync in everything they did.
Bouncing pucks. Spotty coverage. But mostly it was the passing, with too many pucks behind the target or into skates.
Chilliwack did manage the best scoring chance of the period. Jake Larson waded into a crowd of four Silverbacks stumbling around the neutral zone, nabbed the puck and took off on a breakaway. If Larson could only convert all the chances his speed creates, he’d be a 92 goal man. This time he feinted to the forehand and tried to slip a backhand shot through the wickets of Salmon Arm goalie Angus Redmond. The stopper stopped him, keeping zeroes on the scoreboard.
Shots on goal through 20 minutes favoured Chilliwack 9-7.
The Chiefs opened the scoring just 1:56 into period two. Jordan Kawaguchi flipped a backhand pass to defenceman Evan McEachern, who wired a shot over Redmond’s glove from the high slot. But Salmon Arm answered back just 49 seconds later, with Taro Hirose burying a feed from Carson Bolduc at 2:45.
The Chiefs appeared to regain the lead a few shifts later. From the left-wing wall, Brandon Potomak threw a centering pass on net. Mason Boh crashed the crease and was sent bowling into Redmond by a Silverback defender.
Jake Hand swooped in to poke the puck across the line, but referee Ryan O’Keeffe stepped in with arms waving wildly.
The goal was disallowed due to incidental contact.
Salmon Arm surged into the lead at 10:25 on a goal that could have haunted Aidan Pelino’s dreams. Steven Jandric picked the pocket of Chilliwack’s Kurt Black just inside the Chiefs blueline and wound up a slapper from the high slot. The puck squeezed under Pelino’s right arm, dropping into the blue paint and dribbling across the goal-line. Thomas Plese quickly collected the puck for Jandric, giving the rookie a souvenir of his first BCHL goal.
Pelino redeemed himself moments later, stopping Logan Mick on a breakaway, and he was saved by his right goal-post on another Mick shot.
The Chiefs escaped to the third period facing a one-goal deficit.
Shots on goal through 40 minutes favoured Chilliwack 20-15.
Tipper Higgins got the home team square 1:05 into the final frame. The 19-year-old bumped Salmon Arm’s Jack Berezan off the puck in the left corner, circled into the left faceoff circle and from the dot lazered a shot past Redmond for his fifth of the year.
The Chiefs took the lead at 2:49 on a goal by Kawaguchi, who crashed the crease after Larson put the puck on net. The Abbotsford native saw the puck hit his skate and slip past Redmond, with a referees O’Keeffe and Jordy Davis huddling for a conference and deciding he didn’t intentionally kicked the puck in.
Despite playing Friday night in Powell River and Saturday in Duncan (Cowichan Valley Capitals), the road weary Silverbacks stayed feisty. But for all their buzzing, they only sent eight pucks at Pelino in the third, and Chilliwack held on for the win.
The three stars were Higgins (first), Hirose (second) and McColgan (third).
The Fortis BC Energy Player of the Game was Larson.
Announced attendance was 2,466.
Chilliwack’s next home game is Saturday at 7 p.m. versus the Surrey Eagles.