Ethan Bowen of the Chilliwack Chiefs battles a Vernon Vipers player for the puck during Wednesday night’s game at the Chilliwack Coliseum. (Jenna Hauck/ The Progress)

Chilliwack Chiefs grind out win over Vernon Vipers

The junior A club tightened up defensively and helped goalie Mathieu Caron net a 22 save shutout.

Chilliwack Chiefs head coach Brian Maloney wasn’t happy with his team after last weekend’s games against Surrey and Langley.

The puck management and attention to defensive detail wasn’t where he wanted it to be even though they collected three of a possible four points.

Looks like his crew got the message, at least for one night.

Wednesday night’s 2-0 win over the visiting Vernon Vipers wasn’t an artistic masterpiece. There were few offensive fireworks in a sedate mid-week matchup.

What there was a strong defensive effort leading to the team’s first shutout of the 2019-20 BCHL season.

Goalie Mathieu Caron was the beneficiary of the D first approach.

The veteran only faced 22 total shots from the Vipers, and while a handful were dangerous, it was one of the easier clean sheets the Abbotsford product has earned.

The Chiefs opened the scoring 13:27 into the first period on a goal by Nikita Nesterenko.

Joey Larson got the primary assist, catching up to a dump in behind the Vernon net and delivering a backhand centering pass into the goal mouth for Nesterenko. The New York product snapped the puck past Viper goalie Max Palaga for his second of the season.

Shots and scoring opportunities were at a premium through 20 minutes, with Chilliwack leading 7-5 on the shot clock.

Things were even tighter in the second period.

Kyle Penney doubled the Chiefs lead at 11:31 while the Snakes led 9-6 in shots.

The third period was disrupted, briefly, when a pane of glass to the left of the Vernon net popped out of its bracket. For the 13 minutes that remained after that, Chilliwack was ruthlessly efficient shutting down the Viper attack.

Vernon had just six shots by the time Palaga was pulled for an extra attacker with 1:35 remaining.

The Chiefs killed off the remaining 95 seconds to improve to 8-4-0-1, leap-frogging the idle Coquitlam Express and taking sole possession of first place in the Mainland division.

The three stars were Caron (first), Peter Reynolds (second) and Penney (third).

The Fortis BC Energy Player of the Game was Brody Gagno.

The Chiefs are on the road this weekend with games in Salmon Arm Friday and Vernon Saturday.

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Chilliwack Chiefs goaltender Mathieu Caron stops a shot on goal by Connor Marritt of the Vernon Vipers during Wednesday night’s game at the Chilliwack Coliseum. (Jenna Hauck/ The Progress)

Carter Wilkie of the Chilliwack Chiefs battles Christian Felton of the Vernon Vipers for the puck during Wednesday night’s game at the Chilliwack Coliseum. (Jenna Hauck/ The Progress)

Brett Willits of the Chilliwack Chiefs tries to get the puck past Max Palaga of the Vernon Vipers during Wednesday night’s game at the Chilliwack Coliseum. (Jenna Hauck/ The Progress)

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