Chilliwack Chiefs beat Prince George in battle of BCHL’s best

The top two teams in the junior A league faced off Friday night at Prospera Centre.

The Chilliwack Chiefs rallied from two goals down for a huge BCHL win Friday night at Prospera Centre.

In a battle of the top two teams in the league standings, the Chiefs prevailed in a shootout, taking a 3-2 decision on Brett Willits’ winner.

The Chiefs improved to 21-8-0-0, moving three points ahead of the Sprucies, who fell to 18-7-1-2.

PG’s Dustin Manz scored the only goal in a shaky opening frame for the home team, with Prince George out-shooting the Chiefs 12-5.

Things got worse for the Chiefs early in period two as they lost starting goaltender Mathieu Caron to an apparent knee injury.

The Abbotsford native was taken out by friendly fire, absorbing contact from one of his teammates and clutching his knee area as he went down.

Caron eventually stood up and tried flexing it out, and for a moment it looked like he might be able to stay in the game.

He ended up skating off the ice on his own, but was supported by two people as he made his way to the dressing room.

Nolan Hildebrand took over in goal.

The Spruce Kings doubled the lead 11:24 into period two on a goal by Nicholas Poisson.

Jason Chu started the play at the left point, lobbing a shot toward the net. Poisson appeared to bat the puck out of the air and when it dropped in the blue paint he popped it past Hildebrand for his eighth of the year.

The Chiefs got within one early in period three on a power play goal by Harrison Blaisdell.

Kevin Wall fed a cross ice pass to Matt Holmes, who put the puck into the goalmouth for Blaisdell to direct past PG keeper Logan Neaton.

Chilliwack thought they had another one moments later when Skyler Brind’Amour got loose in the slot and rifled a wrister past the goalie. But Neaton had kicked the right post off its moorings before the puck crossed the line and the goal was waived off.

Neaton was, however, flagged for delay of game, putting the Chiefs back on the power play where Wall notched the equalizer.

A Marcus Tesink pass from the left wing boards was touched by Blaisdell on its way through to Wall, who sniped his league-leading 22nd of the season at 3:35.

That goal sent the game to overtime where Hildebrand was outstanding.

First a save on Ben Poisson flying down the left wing on a partial breakaway. Then a stop on Ben Brar from the right hash-marks and then robbery on a Patrick Cozzi chance in the goal-mouth.

Off to the shootout where Cole Donhauser had the first try for Chilliwack and scored on a fun turn-his-back-to-the-goalie move finished with a backhand shot.

Hildebrand stopped Brar, Neaton stopped Wall and Hildebrand stopped PG’s Layton Ahac.

That set the table for Brett Willits, who skated in slowly with a chance to be the hero. The Ontario native patiently waited for Neaton to show some space between his legs, and snapped a five-hole shot through the goalie for the win.

The three stars were Hildebrand (first), Blaisdell (second) and Manz (third).

The Fortis BC Energy Player of the Game was Brett Rylance.

These teams play again tomorrow (Saturday) night at Prospera Centre with a 7 p.m. start.

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