The Chilliwack Chiefs returned to the BCHL with a win Saturday night, downing a talented Penticton Vees squad 7-1 at Prospera Centre.
On a night that featured a parade of Chiefs alumni and the reappearance of Chief Wannawin, the home team made sure the night ended as well as it began.
Derek Huisman won the opening faceoff at 7:26 p.m, and the Chiefs had their first goal one minute and 19 seconds later.
Undoubtedly still considering the flawless delivery of the Canadian national anthem by Chilliwack mayor Sharon Gaetz, Penticton goalie Michael Garteig whiffed badly on a shot by Spencer Graboski. The 18-year-old forward beat the reigning BCHL goalie of the year with a top shelf wrister, fired from the left wing boards about 15 feet inside the blueline.
Chilliwack doubled the lead midway through period one on a goal by hometown kid Josh Hansen. Graboski started the play, forcing a turnover behind the Penticton net. The 19-year-old punched Graboski’s centering feed past Garteig, bringing out cheers and colorful Hansen-themed signage in section H.
Hansen was part of a scary situation a couple shifts later. While killing a penalty, he took a Mike Berry clearing attempt square off the lid. Hansen missed the rest of the first period, but was back on the ice to start the second.
Shots on goal in the opening frame were dead even at 9-9.
Six minutes and 37 seconds in, Hansen hit the scoresheet again on another goal that Garteig would want back. The ex-Powell River King was beaten by a sharp-angle wrister from below the right faceoff dot.
With three goals surrendered on 13 shots, the 20-year-old was promptly lifted by Vees coach Fred Harbinson and replaced by backup Chad Katunar.
The Chiefs didn’t take long to welcome the newbie to the net, taking a 4-0 lead at 9:58. Ex-Quesnel Millionaire Malcolm Gould pulled the trigger, beating the 18-year-old Victoria native with an upstairs wrister from the very high slot.
Chilliwack kept the vaunted Vees offence quiet until late in the second frame, when a power play goal got Penticton on the board. With 7:21 on the clock and the Vees working on their fifth man advantage of the night, New York Rangers draft pick Steve Fogarty picked up the puck behind the Chiefs net, swooped in front and beat Chilliwack goalie Mitch Gillam with a quasi-wraparound.
Penticton poured it on in the waning minutes of period two, coming within three inches of another goal when Joey Benik missed a wide open net.
The Vees out-shot the Chiefs 17-6 in the middle frame, but Chilliwack carried a 4-1 lead to the third.
Gillam turned in a huge save in the opening minute of period three, stretching post to post to take a sure goal away from snake-bitten Benik.
At 3:11, Jeremy Gossard dashed any Penticton comeback hopes with his first of the season. Sixteen-year-old Garrett Forster started the play with a cheeky behind-the-back pass in the neutral zone. Jaret Babych took the feed in full flight, crossed the Vees blueline and fed Gossard, who beat Katunar with a low shot that squeaked inside the right post.
Berry scored with 8:21 remaining, blowing a power play slap shot past Katunar. Trevor Hills added the exclamation point with just over two minutes remaining, scoring on another man advantage.
The three stars were Penticton’s Troy Stecher (third), Gillam (second) and Hansen (first).
The Chiefs are back on home ice next Saturday, hosting the Salmon Arm Silverbacks in a 7 p.m. start.