Chilliwack Chiefs head coach Brian Maloney talked earlier this week about not looking past opponents, believing his team would be ready for a Wednesday nighter against Langley even with Penticton coming in on Saturday.
This is a rare instance where the bench boss might have read his team wrong.
Langley (24-22-1-0) took advantage of an uninspired effort by the league-leading Chiefs, and nearly pulled off an upset win at Prospera Centre.
But the better team pulled it together in the end, getting a 4-3 overtime win that improved their league-best record fall to 34-13-1-0.
This game waited a long time for its first goal.
Langley’s William Stromp got it on a breakaway, an unassisted effort that started with a defensive zone draw to the right of his own net. Pouncing on a loose puck off the faceoff, the Texas native stepped past the Chiefs D and was all alone.
Tearing in on goal, the 19 year old tried a five-hole shot on Chilliwack goalie Daniel Chenard. The first try was stopped, but Stromp tapped the rebound through the goalie at 17:30.
Up to that point, the highlight of the game was an epic scrap between Chilliwack’s Clarke Nelson and Langley’s Colton Kovich.
Kovich took exception when Nelson crunched one of his teammates at the Chilliwack blueline, and the two dropped the mitts, trading rights until they were eventually pulled apart by the linesmen and tossed from the game.
The Chiefs had just 13 shots on goal through 40 minutes but found their offence early in period three, and two goals in eight seconds seemed to turn the game around.
First, freshly-minted captain Skyler Brind’Amour collected a Kevin Wall pass, skated unchecked into the slot and put a wrister over the glove of Rivermen goalie Shayne Battler.
Then, Brett Willits forced a turnover in the neutral zone, skated down the right wing and feathered a pass across the slot to Matt Holmes, who buried the puck for his 23rd of the season.
But Langley answered back on a goal by Chase Pletzke, who scored with 7:07 remaining and Daneel Lategan scored with 4:13 remaining as he skated into the goal-mouth to jam a loose puck through Chenard.
It looked like the Chiefs were heading to a loss, but Chenard came to the bench with 2:08 remaining and the home team tied the game less than a minute later.
Harrison Blaisdell skated into the Langley crease and jammed in a loose puck off a centering pass, sending the game to overtime.
With 1:43 remaining in 3 on 3 the home team finally put the Rivermen away. Brind’Amour went straight to the net, chipping a centering feed from Wall past Battler.
Chilliwack hosts Penticton (32-13-1-2) Saturday night with a 7 p.m. start time at Prospera Centre.