The Chilliwack Chiefs sandwiched one bad period between two very good ones Friday night, outlasting the Coquitlam Express 5-2 at Prospera Centre.
in the last home game before the Christmas break, the Chiefs scored two in the first and two in the third, improving to 21-9-0-1 with a win over a Mainland division rival.
Their win moved them six points clear of the Prince George Spruce Kings for first place in the division. The Sprucies lost 3-2 at home to Merritt Friday.
Teddy bears and touques flew 8:57 into period one as Chilliwack’s Jake Hand opened the scoring.
Evan McEachern fired a shot from the right point that Coquitlam’s Chris Tai stopped. But the netminder lost track of the puck as it fell into the blue paint. Hand tucked it past Tai for his 12th of the year, setting off a storm of stuffies.
Chilliwack fans responded in a big way, halting the game for 10 minutes while players and volunteers cleared the ice. Twenty nine bags of teddy bears and touques, 1,740 of them, are destined for Chilliwack Community Services, where they will help make Christmas mornings happier.
Less than a minute after play resumed Chilliwack’s Kurt Black doubled the lead. Carrying the puck through the left faceoff circle with two Express defenders closing in, the Winfield native snapped a backhand shot inside the right goal-post for his 11th of the year.
Shots on goal through 20 minutes favoured Chilliwack 15-13.
But the Chiefs played a horrid second period and paid for it on the scoreboard. On their heels for the entire middle frame, Chilliwack saw its lead cut in half at 3:19 on a goal by Owen Stout, who converted a slick pass from Jackson Cressey.
Brendan Lamont sniped his 10th of the year at 13:11, seconds after a Coquitlam power play expired, knotting the score at 2-2.
Shots on goal through 40 minutes favoured Chilliwack 24-23, not what you’d have expected watching the Express completely dominate the middle frame.
One Chief who had his legs moving in this one was Brandon Potomak.
The Aldergrove native put the Chiefs back into the lead 4:36 into period three, scoring his sixth of the year on a penalty shot. Seconds earlier, the 19 year old was spun around by Coquitlam defender Cole Bevan as he charged the Express net on a breakaway.
Referee Bryan Bourdon immediately pointed to center ice.
Potomak wheeled in with speed, delivered three or four quick stick fakes, then slid the puck through the five hole as Tai dropped to the ice.
Defensively, the Chiefs went into lock-down mode. With six minutes to go, the Express had only managed one shot on goal in the third period.
Chilliwack’s Evan McEachern added insurance with 4:26 to go, stepping into a shot at the right point, driving it through a crowded crease for his third of the year. Potomak iced the game with 38.7 seconds left and Coquitlam’s goalie pulled, sliding the puck into an empty net.
Aidan Pelino got the win in net, stopping 24 pucks.
The three stars were Potomak (first), Corey Mackin (Coquitlam, second) and Hand (third).
The Fortis BC Energy Player of the Game was Chilliwack’s Tipper Higgins.
Announced attendance was 2,528.
The Chiefs finish their pre-Christmas slate with back to back road games.
Chilliwack’s in Trail tomorrow night, leading into a clash of titans Sunday night as the Chiefs visit the Penticton Vees.