The Chilliwack Chiefs did their best against the BCHL’s best Friday night, but came up one goal shy in a 5-4 loss to the Penticton Vees.
The home team was one lucky bounce away from upsetting the juggernaut Vees. Instead, they’ll look for revenge Saturday night as they travel to Penticton for the back half of this home and home series.
The Chiefs survived the first 20 minutes, arguably out-playing the vaunted Vees in the opening frame. It was Penticton opening the scoring in this one, with Ryan Reilly getting credit for his ninth of the year. The 20-year-old flew down the left wing on a solo rush. He fired his first shot into the skates of Chiefs defenceman Shay Laurent, but the puck came right back to the Chicago native, who roofed the puck from 10 feet out.
The Chiefs came back four minutes later with a goal by David Bondra. Derek Huisman earned the assist, hounding the Vees into a turnover at the right faceoff dot.
The puck slid to Bondra and the 19-year-old lazered a top-shelf shot over the glove of Penticton netminder Michael Garteig from the very, very high slot.
Bondra’s ninth sent the teams to their dressing rooms knotted at 1-1.
Shots on goal through 20 minutes favoured Chilliwack 11-10.
The goals came like machine gun fire in period two as the Vees offence woke up.
Penticton took their first lead at 4:24, with Connor Reilly burying a cross-crease feed from Mario Lucia.
Curtis Loik gave the Vees a 3-1 lead at 10:33, punching in the rebound of a Ryan Reilly shot.
Travis St. Denis banked a puck off Chiefs D-man Ty Miller at 8:22, extending Penticton’s lead to 4-1 and forcing Chilliwack coach Harvey Smyl to burn his timeout.
Whatever Smyl said hit home, because his team came roaring right back.
As a Chilliwack minor penalty expired, Bondra stepped out of the sin bin and chased a puck into the Penticton zone. Vees goaltender Garteig came racing out of his net, trying to get to the puck first. Bondra was faster, grabbing the puck, sidestepping the diving goalie and sliding the puck into the empty net.
Seventy seconds later, Laurent threw the puck on net and Malcolm Gould popped it in for his 10th of the year.
The Chiefs were back within one.
Chilliwack goaltender Mitch Gillam did his best to keep it there, using a lighting quick glove to rob Bryce Gervais. Penticton defenceman Troy Stecher had another glorious chance, missing a two-foot tap-in on a pass from Lucia.
The Vees had the last laugh in period two when defenceman Mark McLellan snuck down from the point to roof a feed from Cody DePourcq. One of just three Penticton regulars to not have a goal coming into the game, his first sent the Vees to the third with a 5-3 lead.
Shots on goal through 40 minutes favoured Penticton 25-18.
The feisty Chiefs kept battling in the third.
Kit Sitterley got Chilliwack back within one at 5:35, scoring on a power play. Spencer Graboski got the assist with a shot from the left wing boards. Sitterley was practically sitting in Garteig’s lap as he backhanded in the rebound for his seventh.
The Chiefs buzzed for the rest of the game, but couldn’t find the equalizer.
The three stars were Connor Reilly (first), David Bondra (second) and Mitch Gillam (third).
Announced attendance was 2,134.