Puffer’s overtime winner lifts Chiefs past Langley

A battle of Mainland division rivals saw the Chilliwack Chiefs beat the Langley Rivermen 4-3 at Prospera Centre.

Craig Puffer of the Chilliwack Chiefs goes down while trying to keep the puck away from three Langley Rivermen players during Wednesday night's game at Prospera Centre.

Craig Puffer scored the overtime winner Wednesday night, snapping a personal seven-game goal scoring drought as his Chilliwack Chiefs downed the Langley Rivermen 4-3 at Prospera Centre.

With the victory over their ach-rival, the locals improved to 18-8-0-1, moving three points clear of Prince George for top spot in the Mainland division standings. Chilliwack visits PG for a pair of games this weekend.

The speedy Chiefs had the Rivermen on their heels for most of period one, and took the just 1:45 in on a snipe by Chilliwack native Ryan Bowen. Jake Hand started the play with a cheeky backhand flip pass in the neutral zone, catching Bowen in full flight.

Langley defender Charlie Pelnik was the last man back and he got turned around by the rookie, who finished with a top-shelf shot for his fifth of the year.

The Chiefs doubled their lead at 7:14 on a power play goal by Tipper Higgins.

This play started at the Langley blueline, with a Higgins drop pass to Hand. Higgins went straight to the net while Hand peeled into the left faceoff circle. From just above the dot Hand made a pass to the right goal-post, where Higgins had a tap-in for his sixth of the season.

With a bit of puck luck, the Chiefs could have had two or three more.

But it was Langley getting the next goal, cutting Chilliwack’s lead in half with 4:01 to go.

Chiefs captain Eric Roberts got too aggressive trying to hold the puck in at the Rivermen blueline. Langley’s Evan Anderson chipped the puck past Roberts to Marcus Vela, who led a two-on-one rush with Gage Torrel.

Closing in on the Chilliwack net, Vela saucered the puck to Torrel, who roofed the puck over Chiefs netminder Aidan Pelino.

Chilliwack regained the two-goal lead 3:54 into period two on a goal by Kurt Black. Taking a pass from linemate Jordan Kawaguchi, the Winfield native put a short-side shot over the shoulder of Langley netminder Bo Didur.

But moments later, Black was in the penalty box, banished with a double minor for high sticking.

With the second minor set to expire, Kevan Kilistoff put a pass across the goal-mouth to Torrel, who popped it past Pelino for his second of the game. Vela scored at 11:27 and the game was tied 3-3.

The Chiefs had a 31 second two-man advantage to end the second period and were still on the power play as the final frame started.

The Rivermen killed that off and gifted the Chiefs two more power plays late in the third period. The Chilliwack power play fizzled each time and the teams ended up in overtime. Five minutes of four-on-four solved nothing.

With 2:12 to go in three-on-three OT, Puffer netted the winner. Linemate Rory Bell did the heavy lifting, pouncing on a neutral zone turnover and taking the puck hard to the net. Didur stopped Bell’s shot, but Puffer whacked the rebound across the line for his team-leading 19th of the year, sending the crowd home happy.

The three stars were Chilliwack’s Brandon Potomak (first), Hand (second) and Torrel (third).

The Fortis BC Energy Player of the Game was Chilliwack’s Luke McColgan.

Announced attendance was 2,553.