A red-hot Chilliwack Chiefs squad extended their winning streak to six games with weekend wins over the Trail Smoke Eaters and Salmon Arm Silverbacks.
The teams traded goals through 40 minutes, with Chilliwack native Josh Hansen scoring for the Chiefs and Tanner Clarkson replying for the Smokies.
Hansen scored his eighth of the year when Trail netminder James D’Andrea failed to locate a loose puck in a goal-mouth scramble. Hansen found it first, punching it past the fallen keeper at 8:43.
Clarkson’s goal came on a Trail power play, with Chilliwack’s Trevor Hills watching from the penalty box (hooking). Clarkson fired a point shot through a screen, and Chilliwack netminder Bryton Udy didn’t see it until it was in the net.
“I thought for the most part, the first five or six minutes of the first period we played well,” said Chiefs bench boss Harvey Smyl. “But for the rest of that period we didn’t have a lot of energy. The bangers weren’t banging, we were too fancy with the puck and we were extremely poor in our own zone.”
Chilliwack out-shot the Smoke Eaters 18-1 in period two, but didn’t get another puck behind D’Andea until the first minute of period three. Just 28 seconds into the final frame, David Bondra wheeled at the top of the right faceoff circle and threaded a shot through a maze of legs and skates.
D’Andrea was helpless to stop Bondra’s 13th, giving Chilliwack a 2-1 lead.
The dagger came at 9:06 on another shot through traffic. David Thompson’s shot evaded D’Andrea and sent the goalie’s water bottle flying.
“Springer (Michael Spring) and (Jaret) Babych started making hits and finishing contact, and that got us going,” Smyl observed. “And our first line did what they’ve been doing a lot lately. They’re all very skilled (Bondra, Malcolm Gould and Derek Huisman) and smart players and they have good chemistry. together.”
A rare BCHL fight late in the game pitted Chilliwack’s Ty Miller against Trail’s Clayton McEwan in a battle of the No. 3’s. Miller earned a clear decision, ripping McEwan’s helmet off and pummeling him with jabs until the linesman stepped in.
Gould added the exclamation point on the victory, scoring his 12th of the year on a pretty top-shelf backhand with 3:14 remaining.
The three stars were Bondra (first), D’Andrea (second) and Shay Laurent (Chilliwack, third).
Announced attendance was 1,800.
Saturday night in Trail was the Derek Huisman show, as the talented center scored twice in a 4-1 win over the Silverbacks.
Huisman opened the scoring on a Chiefs power play early in period two and added his second late in the middle frame.
Mathieu Tibbett and Kit Sitterley (into an empty net) scored in the third period as Chilliwack beat Salmon Arm for the fourth time in four meetings this season.
Huisman assisted on Sitterley’s tally, giving him a three-point night. Mitch Gillam got the win in net, stopping 26 of 27 shots.
“That game there, defensive play was an area we focused on and I thought we were very sound defensively,” Smyl said. “Our power play was very good, creating a lot of chances, and our penalty kill was good as well (blanking Salmon Arm on four PPs).”
With three games to go before a nine-day Christmas break, the Chiefs have a record of 18-9-0-1.
That’s good for third in the Interior conference standings, and Chilliwack holds three games in hand on the second place Merritt Centennials (17-8-2-4).
The Chiefs host Prince George Friday before travelling back to Salmon Arm on Saturday and Vernon on Sunday.
“There’s been some growing to this team, some learning of roles, learning the coaching staff and all those types of things,” Smyl said. “We’ve been growing, but there’s still things we need to improve. The power play and penalty killing need to be better. Our goals against has improved drastically, but we need more consistency. We’re making progress, but we’re not where we need to be yet.”