Pelino backstops Chiefs to overtime win

Struggling Chilliwack netminder Aidan Pelino had a nice bounce-back effort in a 3-2 victory over West Kelowna Saturday night.

Chilliwack Chiefs goaltender

For the second straight night the Chilliwack Chiefs and an Interior division opponent went to extra time.

And this time they won.

After losing 3-2 to the Penticton Vees Friday, the Chiefs bounced back to beat the West Kelowna Warriors 3-2 at Prospera Centre.

Jake Larson had the winner and goaltender Aidan Pelino led the way with a 39 save effort as the Chiefs improved to 29-16-1-3.

They moved five points clear of the Langley Rivermen for first place in the Mainland division standings, with Langley losing 8-3 in Nanaimo Saturday night.

The Chiefs look fortunate to be facing a third string goaltender when Warriors affiliate player Stephen Heslop appeared between the pipes for just his sixth BCHL appearance. The 19 year old looked like a bundle of nerves in the opening minutes. At one point he ventured behind his net to play a loose puck and fell on his butt.

But Chilliwack couldn’t test the Victoria native, who settled in with a pair of solid glove saves and was solid and sometimes spectacular, from that point on.

The Chiefs had two power plays in period one and opened the scoring in the final minute.

Craig Puffer flew into the Kelowna zone, cut across the high slot and fed a pass back against the grain to Jordan Kawaguchi. The Abbotsford native had plenty of time to pick his spot, beating Heslop with a wrist shot for his 21st.

Shots on goal in period one favoured Chilliwack 14-11.

The home side doubled its lead early in period two on a goal by Rory Bell. Scott Davidson got the assist, taking a shot from just above the right faceoff dot. Heslop made the stop but kicked a massive rebound right to Bell, who punched it in while falling, tumbling heavily into the end boards. Bell must have hurt himself on that play because the rugged winger was next seen in civies, watching the third period from the seats.

A power play helped the Warriors get back in the game late in the middle frame. With Chilliwack’s Ryan Bowen in the box for interference, Kelowna’s Jason Cotton swooped into the left faceoff circle and threw the puck toward the net.

Camping in the goal mouth, Rylan Yaremko tipped it past Pelino, getting his team within one.

Shots on goal through 40 minutes favoured Chilliwack 27-23.

The Warriors were pressing to start the final frame, and got the equalizer at 9:48. Saskatoon native Andrew Johnson pulled the trigger, beating Pelino with a shot from the left faceoff dot, netting his 18th.

Chilliwack’s keeper had to be strong to get this game to overtime, with Kelowna out-shooting his crew 15-11 in the final 20.

He came through, buying his crew the time they needed to get the win.

With 1:28 left in the first OT period speedy Jake Larson ripped down the right wing and, from about 20 feet out, snapped a five-hole shot through Heslop to send the home crowd home happy.

The three stars were Chilliwack’s Scott Davidson (first), Heslop (second) and Chilliwack’s Luke McColgan (third).

The Fortis BC Energy Player of the Game was Kawaguchi.

Announced attendance was 2,186.

The Chiefs host the Vernon Vipers Sunday night at 5 p.m. at Prospera Centre.

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