The Chilliwack Chiefs led early, rallied late and fell in overtime, all during an entertaining Saturday night BCHL clash at Prospera Centre.
The Chiefs fell 5-4 to the Prince George Spruce Kings in the second to last home game of the season. Chilliwack (13-37-2-4) has one more in the friendly confines, hosting the Coquitlam Express March 1.
The Chiefs lit up the scoreboard in the first period of this one, firing three past Prince George keeper Jesse Jenks.
The best player on the ice was also the youngest. Chilliwack’s 16-year-old rookie Jordan Kawaguchi had two goals and was dangerous on every shift.
His first snipe was a beauty. The Abbotsford native picked the pocket of PG defenceman Christian Weidauer at the Chilliwack blueline and had a clear path to the Spruce Kings cage. He froze Jenks with a couple of subtle forehand feints, then pulled the puck to his backhand, sliding it past the sprawling netminder.
Prince George shot themselves in the foot a few minutes later, taking back to back penalties to set up the second Chilliwack goal. Jenks took the first with a delay-of-game minor. Bryant Christian’s slash put the Sprucies two men down for 1:21 and Mathieu Tibbet made they pay.
Carter Cochrane got the assist, sneaking in from the point to take a shot from the high slot. The puck hit a body in front and dropped to the ice in front of Tibbet, who turned and swept it in for his team-leading 27th of the year.
Kawaguchi got another beauty just over a minute later. Jumping on a loose puck a step or two inside the PG blueline, he skated into the left faceoff circle and blew a slap-shot past Jenks, picking the top corner of the goalie’s glove.
Jenks was done at that point, having yielded three goals on seven shots. Alex Murray came on in relief.
Kawaguchi almost had his third of the period as time ticked down. He curled off the right-wall and into the slot, taking aim at the far right corner.
He beat Murray, but watched the puck clang off the base of the left goal-post.
Shots on goal through 20 minutes favoured the Chiefs 12-10.
Prince George got one goal back early in the middle frame. With Chilliwack’s Jake Hand in the penalty box and his team on the power play, Spruce Kings D-man Skylar Pacheco delivered a rising wrist shot from the point.
Sean Landrey got his stick on the puck, re-directing it down and past Chiefs netminder Josh Halpenny.
Justin Rai was in the right place at the right time as the puck squirted out of a crowd of skaters in the Chilliwack goal-mouth. With Halpenny lying on his tummy, the Surrey native popped the puck into the unguarded cage for a power play goal.
Back to five-on-five, PG forward Brogan O’Brien wheeled down the wing and fired a long-distance shot from the left wing wall. Halpenny stopped it, but left the rebound in the blue paint for Marco Ballarin, who fought off a Cochrane check to punch it in.
Shots on goal through 40 minutes favoured the visitors 22-18 and they took their first lead of the game 2:59 into period three.
Chad Staley pulled the trigger on his 28th of the year, firing a backhand shot from the hashmarks that found twine over Halpenny’s glove.
Trying to give his team a spark, Chilliwack veteran Tanner Cochrane dropped the mitts with Stephen Penner at the 7:41 mark. Cochrane spent most of the bout hanging on and dodging overhand rights from the big blueliner, drawing cheers for the fight-ending takedown.
Chilliwack had a glorious chance to draw even with eight minutes left.
On a solo rush down the right wing, Tibbet burst wide around Wiedauer and cut hard to the net. The Prince George defender hooked him in desperation and sent him sliding heavily back-first into the right goal-post.
Sent to center ice for a penalty shot, the 20-year-old veteran sped in at top speed and tried a five-hole shot.
Murray slammed his pads shut to keep it out.
But Chilliwack kept coming, and got the tying goal with 5:26 remaining. Kiefer McNaughton carried the puck over the Spruce King blueline and saucered a pass to Jaret Babych as he scooted down the right wing. Babych fired from the faceoff dot, sneaking the puck through a sliver of space between Murray’s blocker and leg pad.
At the other end, Halpenny made a sprawling stop with 10 seconds left, stretching his right skate as far as it could go to kick a puck off the goal-line.
Five minutes of four on four overtime solved nothing, leaving the visitors to net the winner 19 seconds into three-on-three.
Rai got it, fending off a Kawaguchi check to slip a forehand shot past Halpenny.
The three stars were Kawaguchi (first), Staley (second) and Rai (third).
The Fortis BC Energy Player of the Game was Butcher.
Announced attendance was 1,589.