After back to back upset losses to the lowly Surrey Eagles last weekend, the Chilliwack Chiefs tackled a BCHL heavyweight Friday night.
The Island division leading Nanaimo Clippers (24-11-0-1) and Mainland division leading Chiefs clashed at Prospera Centre.
The last time these teams met, in mid-November, the Clips throttled Chilliwack 10-2.
This time, Nanaimo needed just two goals in a 2-1 decision.
The Clippers were fast and feisty in the first period, getting their first goal just 74 seconds in.
Taking a stretch pass from D-man Yanni Kaldis, Nanaimo forward Anthony Rinaldi slipped behind Chilliwack blueliners Eric Roberts and Mark Esposito and had a breakaway. The Quebec native snuck the puck past Chiefs stopper Dave Poirier for his 12th of the year.
Poirier, making his first post-Christmas appearance, was something of a surprise starter. Normal number one Aidan Pelino wasn’t overly sharp in last weekend’s Surrey losses, leaving room to read between the lines with head coach Jason Tatarnic’s choice in goalies.
The Nanaimo forecheck kept Poirier’s Chiefs hemmed into their own zone for shifts at a time and it took seven minutes for Chilliwack to record a shot on net. A power play midway through period one kick-started the offence, and the home team finished with a 10-8 edge in shots, but the Clippers were the better team through 20 minutes.
The Chiefs played a better second period and started the third period well, but a Nanaimo power play goal at 9:52 of the final frame provided all the insurance the visitors would need.
Cole Maier started the sequence below the end line, finding Sheldon Rempel with a quick pass. Rempel was stopped by Poirier on the bang-bang play, but shoveled the rebound across the goal-mouth to Nicolas Carrier.
Poirier couldn’t get post to post quick enough to thwart the Quebec kid, who buried his ninth of the year into a wide open net.
The Chiefs had one last gasp on a late power play, getting within one on a Tipper Higgins snipe. From the left wall the Vermont native flung the puck on net, squeaking it through Nanaimo netminder Guillaume Decelles.
That left Chilliwack with 4:10 to seek the equalizer.
Poirier came to the bench with 1:13 to go but the home team couldn’t get a puck to the net, with the Clippers hanging on for the win.
Final shots on goal favoured Chilliwack 32-22.
The three stars were Decelles (first), Poirier (second) and Brendan Taylor (Nanaimo, third).
The Fortis BC Energy Player of the Game was Luke McColgan.
Announced attendance was 1,197.
The Chiefs are now winless in four heading, with a full week to think about before their next game, Jan. 9 in Langley.
Chilliwack hosts the Rivermen Jan. 10 at Prospera Centre.