There was concern coming into Chilliwack’s first round playoff series that a goaltender might steal the show. In the short best-of-five format, either Chiefs netminder Mitch Gillam or his Prince George counterpart Kirk Thompson could be the difference.
That theory proved prophetic in game one, as PG took a 3-1 decision Friday night at Prospera Centre. Thompson was the game’s first star, stopping 43 of 44 pucks fired his way. Needing to win three of the next four to move on to the second round, the Chiefs have 21.5 hours to figure him out, or this could be a surprisingly short series.
Chilliwack skated well in the first period, out-shooting the Spruce Kings 18-5 through 20 minutes that took 57 to play.
With 3:53 left in the opening frame, seven or eight overhead lights either dimmed or went out entirely. The teams were sent to their dressing rooms whilst the problem was fixed, and the extra time was tacked on to the start of the second period.
The Chiefs continued to pepper the PG net with pucks in period two, but most were fired from the outside.
Chilliwack’s forwards tried to get to the slot, but found tough slogging through the Spruce Kings defence.
With time ticking down in the middle frame, the game had that first-goal-wins feeling.
And PG got it.
With 3:17 left and the Spruce Kings on the power play, Cameron Lawson got a piece of a David Stephens shot, sending the puck past Chiefs goalie Mitch Gillam on just the 11th Prince George shot of the game.
Through 40 minutes, the shot clock favoured Chilliwack 34-12. The scoreboard favoured the Spruce Kings 1-0.
With mountain got a lot taller 6:38 into period three when Coltyn Hansen doubled the PG lead.
The Delta native flew down the left wing, drove wide around Chiefs D-man David Thompson and cut hard to the blue paint, chipping the puck up and over Gillam.
The teams traded goals in the final minute.
Hansen scored his second of the game into an empty net with 16.4 ticks remaining, and Mathieu Tibbett broke up Thompson’s shutout bid with 3.7 seconds left.
The three stars were Thompson (first), Ben Masella (second) and Jaret Babych (third).
Announced attendance was 2,042.
These teams face off again tomorrow night at seven p.m. in game two of this BCHL first round playoff series.