Powell Connor of the Chilliwack Chiefs tries to keep the puck away from Eric Butte of the Langley Rivermen during the first period of the Chiefs’ 2017/18 season home opener Friday night at Prospera Centre. (Jenna Hauck/ The Progress)

Strange night for Chilliwack Chiefs in BCHL home opener

Things went wrong in the pregame ceremonies and on the ice in a 2-1 loss to the Langley Rivermen.

A wild night at Prospera Centre started strange and ended sad for the hometown Chilliwack Chiefs, who fell 2-1 to the Langley Rivermen Friday night at Prospera Centre.

It was the home opener for the BCHL team, with player introductions and other things planned. But one slight miscalculation caused the start of the game to be delayed by almost an hour.

Recognizing law enforcement is admirable and bringing an RCMP tactical vehicle onto the ice before the game sounds like a great idea. But when the big blue truck got out there, turns out it couldn’t get back. It was too heavy, got stuck and sat in one spot through the raising of the RBC Cup host banner, the introduction of the 2017-18 Chiefs and Sharon Gaetz’s rendition of the national anthem.

With a helpful pull from one of the Prospera Centre zambonis it was eventually able to crawl off the ice, but it left a mess behind.

Two tire indents remained where the truck was. The teams were sent back to their locker rooms and it took another 20 minutes to get the rink back to playable shape.

The game finally began and the Rivermen put the first puck in the net at 4:59 of period one. Abbotsford’s Devin Leduc sniped one from a step or two above the right faceoff dot, whipping the puck past Chiefs keeper Daniel Chenard.

Chilliwack got that one back 4:59 into period two. With Langley’s Brady Berger in the penalty box and his team on the power play, Chiefs forward Kaden Pickering flew down the right wing and drove hard to the net. As he was getting hauled down by a Riverman defender, Pickering got a shot off from his belly. Langley keeper Braedon Fleming left the puck loose in the blue paint where Michael Lombardi jammed it in for his first BCHL goal.

Fleming was at the center of a unique penalty call later in the period, one that no one in the press box could remember seeing.

With a delayed penalty coming up to Chilliwack’s Harrison Blaisdell, the goalie darted toward the bench. But as he crossed center ice heading for the open gate, he played the puck, which apparently gets you two minutes for being an ineligible player.

Who knew?

The Chiefs had a golden chance to do more damage with the man advantage in the back half of the middle frame when Nicholas Ponak (roughing) and Eric Butte (high sticking) found their way to the sin bin. Chilliwack had a five-on-three for 45 seconds, and because Butte’s penalty was a double minor they had 5:15 of uninterrupted PP time.

But they couldn’t capitalize and the teams skated into the third period tied 1-1.

Stuff like that always seems to come back to cost a team, and sure enough the Rivermen scored the game winning goal 7:47 into the final frame. Chenard went behind his net to play a dump in and put it into the right corner where Eric Butte was waiting. As Chenard frantically tried to scramble back into his crease, Butte passed to Sean Gulka in the slot and he buried it into the unguarded cage.

Chilliwack pressed hard in the closing minutes, but Fleming came up big and Langley escaped to the final whistle with a big divisional win.

Fleming was the game’s second star, sandwiched between Chiefs Lombardi (first star) and Calverley (third).

The Energy Player of the Game was Chilliwack’s Tommy Lee.

His Chiefs are in Langley tomorrow night for the back half of this home and home series.

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