A depleted Chilliwack Chiefs lineup turned in a gutsy performance Friday night, knocking off a healthy and talented Merritt Centennials squad 4-1 at Prospera Centre.
With five regulars injured (Ty Miller, Jeremy Gossard, Mathieu Tibbett) or suspended (Derek Huisman, Trevor Hills), the Chiefs relied on AP callups to fill the void.
Abbotsford native Matt Revel, Mitch Skapski and Austin Edwards and Ohio native Alex Feighan did fine filling in, helping the Chiefs beat their Interior conference rivals for just the second time in six head-to-head meetings.
Matt Hutchinson asked for a goal for Christmas.
He had to wait an extra 33 days to get it, but the North Vancouver native finally got his first of the season to open the scoring.
The 20-year-old blueliner put the puck past Merritt netminder Tyler Steel on a wrister from the top of the right faceoff circle, giving Chilliwack the lead at 8:34.
The Chiefs doubled it seven minutes later on a strike by David Bondra.
Malcolm Gould earned the assist with a sharp angle shot that Steel couldn’t handle. A juicy rebound was left four feet in front of the net for Bondra, who punched it in for his 17th of the year.
Shots on goal in period one favoured Merritt 21-7.
The teams skated through a scoreless second period, featuring a couple near misses at both ends and a spirited center ice scrap between Chilliwack’s Josh Hansen and Merritt’s Billy Marshall.
The Centennials finally got on the board four minutes into the third period.
With Chilliwack D-man Alexandre Perron-Fontaine banished to the penalty box for holding, Cents captain Evan Stack snuck behind the Chiefs penalty killers and went low blocker side for his team-leading 22nd of the year.
Chilliwack was in full hold-on mode for a few minutes as the Centennials pressed for the equalizer.
But against the flow of play, Spencer Graboski produced the insurance marker. The Quesnel native notched his seventh of the season, going to the front of the net to re-direct a Shay Laurent point shot.
Seconds later, Chiefs netminder Bryton Udy made his biggest save of the night, going right to left to take a labelled shot away from Merritt’s Brayden Low.
Kody Dhaliwal scored the final goal for Chilliwack, snapping in the rebound of a Hansen wraparound attempt for his 12th of the season.
Final shots on goal were 43-30 in favour of Merritt.
The three stars were Udy (first), Dhaliwal (second) and Hutchinson (third).
Announced attendance was 1,804.
Chilliwack returns to action tomorrow night at 7 p.m., hosting the last-place Trail Smoke Eaters at Prospera Centre.