Goalie stands tall in Chiefs loss

A 46-save effort from Mitch Gillam wasn't enough to thwart the Penticton Vees, who beat Chilliwack 2-1 Friday night.

No one knows for sure how the 2012-13 Chilliwack Chiefs will end up.

But this we know with relative certainty.

Mitch Gillam will be good.

Chilliwack’s netminder was between the pipes Friday night as the Chiefs played their season opener at Prospera Centre, and he was better than good against the power-packed Vees. He was great, stopping 46 of the 48 shots he faced.

Sadly, that was one too many in a 2-1 loss.

But if Gillam plays at that level consistently, his team will win far more than they lose.

Gillam was a busy guy in the first period of this one, 20 minutes that featured no goals but plenty of penalties.

The Vees had two power plays within the first four minutes and came up empty on both. Gillam was the main reason, coming up with several stellar stops. The most eye-popping came on a two-on-one rush, with the 20-year-old darting from left post to right to stop Cam Amantea.

Chilliwack was out-shot 9-1 early, but the shot-clock balanced out later in the period as the Chiefs enjoyed some power play time of their own.

Michael Rebry (holding) and Troy Stecher (roughing) gave Chilliwack four minutes with the man advantage, but the home team came up dry.

In between power plays there was fight.

The newest Chief, Tanner Cochrane, dropped the mitts with Penticton’s Dexter Dancs, and got a few shots in before the linesmen jumped in.

Cochrane was still in the box to start the second period, and the penalty parade continued.

The Chiefs handed the Vees three more power plays in period two, including a brief five-on-three. Somehow, Chilliwack’s penalty killers kept Penticton at bay, helped again by Gillam the goalie.

The Peterborough native stopped 18 pucks and made another larcenous stop on Armantea. The Victoria native seemed to have Gillam down and out on a breakaway, only to see the netminder stretch out with a left-skate save.

Shots on goal through 40 minutes favoured Penticton 36-19.

It took 42 minutes and 18 seconds, but the Vees finally poked a hole in Gillam’s defenses early in the final frame.

Brad McClure pulled the trigger, sweeping off the left-wing boards and into the faceoff circle before sniping the puck up and over the goalie’s glove.

The Chiefs looked like dead men skating until newcomer Austin Plevy shook things up.

With his team already on a power play, the former Langley Riverman dipsy-dangled through a pair of Penticton defenders, and was hacked down as he neared the net. Stecher was banished to the box, giving Chilliwack a two-man advantage for 1:24.

Plevy only needed 11 seconds to finish what he started, putting the puck behind Chat Katunar on a shot from the right faceoff dot.

Plevy and company would have done well getting to overtime, but the game winner in this one came with 58.2 ticks left in regulation time.

Penticton’s Wade Murphy pulled the trigger off a pass from Dancs. Murphy, a 36-goal scorer in 2011-12, beat Gillam five-hole, raising his stick in triumph as the puck waddled across the line. Gillam was called to the bench in the final minute, but the Chiefs couldn’t net the equalizer.

The three stars were Gillam (first), McClure (second) and Plevy (third).

The Fortis Energy Player of the Game was Cochrane.

The Chiefs are back in action tomorrow night at 7 p.m., facing the Nanaimo Clippers.