In a clash of Mainland division titans, the Surrey Eagles topped the Chilliwack Chiefs 6-4 Friday night at Prospera Centre.
A lousy third period killed the home team and cost them two valuable points in the playoff race. With the win, Surrey improved to 25-11-2-3, pulling to within one point of Chilliwack (27-13-1-1) for the division lead.
The Eagles got on the board first in this one, with Nicolas Pierog scoring at 4:45 of period one.
A second or two after an Eagles power play ended, Drew Best wheeled out of the right corner and fired a cross-crease pass to Pierog. The Ontario native tapped it in for his sixth of the year.
Chilliwack took 126 seconds to answer back on a goal by Tanner Cochrane. Luke Esposito glided down the right wing and saucered a centering pass in the direction of linemate Austin Plevy. The puck went off Plevy’s right skate to Cochrane, who punched the puck blocker side on Eagles netminder Michael Santaguida.
Just like they drew it up.
Chilliwack took the lead at 9:45 on a goal by Philip Zielonka. Cooper Rush did some good work to hold the zone, getting the puck to Esposito. Esposito fed Zielonka for a quick one timer, and the Quebec kid buried it for his team and league leading 29th of the year.
Shots on goal through 20 minutes favoured Surrey 15-10.
The Chiefs and Eagles combined for five goals in a fast-paced middle frame.
Jaret Babych put Chilliwack up 3-1 at 6:01, scoring on a two-on-one. The 18-year-old lifted a shot over Santaguida’s glove from six feet out for his 11th of the year.
Surrey clawed that one back in flukey fashion.
19-year-old winger Brett Mulcahy fired a shot from the right wing boards that hit a Chilliwack skate in front and flipped into the air. Chiefs netminder Mitch Gillam lost sight of it as it sailed over his head and landed behind the Chilliwack net.
Mulcahy nabbed the rebound and banked the puck off Gillam’s back and in for his 13th of the year.
The Chiefs regained the two-goal lead on the penalty kill, with a great hustle play by Austin Plevy. The Langley native turned on the jets to track down Jordan Klimek deep in the Surrey zone. After stealing the puck, Plevy hit the post with a wraparound. But he buried the rebound for his 23rd of the year and a 4-2 lead.
Two goals in 2:50 got the Eagles even.
Michael Stenerson got the first, with Abbotsford’s Devon Toews collecting the assist. Toews rattled a point shot off the end boards to Stenerson, who popped it past Gillam to make it 4-3. Mulcahy scored the second, finishing a cross-slot feed from Colton Mackie to tie things up.
Shots on goal through 40 minutes favoured Surrey 30-23.
The Eagles took the lead 2:01 into period three on another oddball goal. A sharp angle shot got Gillam turned around in the crease. Facing the goal judge and lying on his back, he made one stop with his right arm.
But Best had no trouble with the rebound, giving Surrey a one-goal advantage.
Gillam redeemed himself as the period went on, making two or three stellar stops to keep the Chiefs within one.
But the Eagles got the dagger with 9:27 left.
Toews picked up another assist with a shot from the left point. Kevan Kilistoff picked up the goal with a slick redirect, tipping the puck past Gillam on the backhand to put Surrey up 6-4.
In a desperate gambit, Chiefs coach Harvey Smyl pulled his goalie with 2:21 remaining. Chilliwack had four or five near misses, but couldn’t get anything past Santaguida.
The game ended on a rough note, with Chilliwack’s David Thompson driving Brady Shaw into the boards from behind.
Thompson got tossed with 16 ticks remaining, and that might be remembered the next time these teams meet.
The three stars were Mulcahy (first), Plevy (second) and Stenerson (third).
The Fortis BC Energy Player of the Game was Esposito.
Announced attendance was 2,209.
Chilliwack hosts the Salmon Arm Silverbacks tomorrow night at 7 p.m.