Coquitlam Express throw scare into Chilliwack Chiefs

The Chiefs let the BCHL’s worst team hang around for 40 minutes before finally pulling out the W.

A team the Chilliwack Chiefs typically handle with ease gave them all they could handle Friday night at Prospera Centre, but the ultimate result was the same as it usually is.

Chilliwack (15-13-2-2) erased a one goal third period deficit on goals by Corey Andonovski and Matt Slick and extended their winning streak versus Coquitlam (3-22-1-2) to an astounding 24 games, including playoffs.

But it was root-canal painful getting there in a lackluster penalty fest of a game that saw the teams go a combined one-for-fifteen on the power play.

The Chiefs out-shot the Express 8-3 in a scoreless opening frame, which sounds OK until you consider the home team had four PP chances, including a five-on-three for 1:22.

The best opportunity coming out of those was a shorthanded breakaway for Coquitlam’s Jordan Schulting, who had two-thirds of the rink to think about what he was going to do and put the puck over the crossbar.

The good news for the home team is that their punchless opponents managed just three shots on the Chilliwack net, giving goalie Mathieu Caron little to do.

The visitors managed eight shots in period two and snuck one past Caron to open the scoring at 17:05.

Coquitlam captain Alex Ambrosio won an offensive zone faceoff and the puck found its way to Landon Fuller at the right point. While Ambrosio made a bee-line to the blue paint to create traffic in front of Caron, Fuller wristed the puck on goal. Eric Linell got his stick on it, tipping it past the goalie for his team-leading 13th of the season.

Coquitlam keeper Clay Stevenson only saw six shots in the second period and benefited from puck luck as three struck iron.

Anthony Vincent had the best chance off a centering feed from PJ Marrocco, who flew down the left wing and saucered a pass across the goal-mouth. Vincent had a gaping net to shoot at, with Stevenson’s stretched-out trapper the only obstacle. But No. 4 heard the ping every shooter dreads and his team skated into the final frame in a one-goal hole.

Chilliwack’s struggling power play got another chance to change the game early in period three.

Back-to-back minors to Fuller (interference) and Joshua Wildauer (hooking) gave the Chiefs 3:19 of PP time, including a 41 second five-on-three.

Head coach Jason Tatarnic called to timeout to rest his top unit and the move paid off as Tommy Lee zipped a pass across the goal-mouth to Andonovski, who one-timed it past Stevenson at 1:19.

The goalie’s luck with iron finally ran out at 9:05 on Slick’s go-ahead goal. The defenceman stepped into an Adam Berg pass at the point. The rocket shot hit the right post and then Stevenson’s backside before crawling across the goal-line. The netminder claimed interference, with Ryan Miotto invading his space as the puck came in, but his pleas fell on deaf ears.

Caron had to make a massive save with five minutes remaining to preserve the win as the Chiefs D left Express forward Christian Sanda alone in the slot. The goalie moved left to right in a hurry and took Sanda’s shot in the crest of his jersey.

Coquitlam’s last gasp came on a power play with 3:39 remaining as Vincent was sent off for slashing. Marcus Tesink tripped Wildauer to make it a five-on-three for 44 seconds, and no sooner did Vincent return to the ice when Stevenson went to the bench for a sixth attacker. But the PK came up large and all the Express could manage was a sharp-angle shot by Riley Johnson.

The three stars were Marrocco (first), Andonovski (second) and Fuller (third).

The Fortis BC Energy Player of the Game was Slick.

Announced attendance was 2,204.

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