For the second time in three days, the Chilliwack Chiefs blew a lead on home ice, dropping a 3-2 decision to the Coquitlam Express Wednesday night at Prospera Centre.
In a game that was disturbingly similar to Sunday’s meltdown versus Trail, the Chiefs looked great early and awful for the rest, losing to Coquitlam for the first time this season and dropping their record to 19-8-1-1.
The only thing close in the first period of this one was the score.
Chilliwack dominated the opening frame, but only led 1-0 through 20 minutes on a goal by Spencer Graboski.
The 19-year-old scored at 11:30, with linemate Trevor Hills doing a lot of work to set him up. After some good board work by Tanner Cochrane in the right corner, Hills nabbed the puck and moved behind the Coquitlam net.
He came out the left side, then went back and came out the right side. He went back and came out the left side again with a shot on Express netminder Cole Huggins. The goalie made the stop, but Graboski knocked in the rebound for his sixth of the season.
Shots on goal through 20 minutes favoured the Chiefs 16-5.
Things fell apart in a middle frame oddly reminiscent of Sunday’s second period collapse versus Trail. Again, it was a costly gaffe that turned the game.
Sunday it was Josh Halpenny giving the puck away behind the Chilliwack net.
Wednesday it was Ben Israel coughing up the puck on a Chiefs power play. The first-year defenceman lost it at the Chilliwack blueline and watched Brandon Morley take off on a breakaway. With plenty of time to plot strategy, Morley went to the backhand, slipping the puck through the legs of Chiefs netminder Mitch Gillam to tie the score at 1-1.
Coquitlam’s John Siemer had a good period two.
The California native almost had a goal when he dipsy-doodled around Cooper Rush on a solo dash. Gillam robbed Morley on the rebound to keep it tied.
But on Siemer’s next shift, he did the same thing to Ben Masella and fed a cross-crease pass to Mitch Nardi, who put the puck upstairs for his fifth of the year.
Three minutes later, Cal Hofford put a seeing-eye point shot past Gillam to put the Express up 3-1.
Shots on goal reflected the lopsided play, favouring the visitors 19-10.
Making matters worse, Josh Hansen literally crawled off the ice at the end of the middle frame, and did not return for the start of the third.
He never returned, and Hills moved up to the top line, leaving the Chiefs without their top goal scorer.
Chilliwack had a bit more jump in the final frame, and put 20 pucks on net, but the two-goal hole proved too deep.
The Chiefs made it a somewhat exciting finish, closing the gap to 3-2 with just under two minutes left. A Shay Laurent point shot came off the end boards to Hills, who punched it home for his seventh of the year.
Gillam came to the bench with less than a minute left, and Chilliwack had an offensive zone faceoff with 16.9 ticks remaining, but the Express cleared the zone and escaped with the W.
The three stars were Huggins (first), Gillam (second) and Hills (third).
The Fortis BC Energy Player of the Game was Hills.
Announced attendance was 1,709.