A red-hot netminder stood on his head Saturday night, helping the Prince George Spruce Kings upset the Chilliwack Chiefs 5-3 at Prospera Centre.
Kirk Thompson stopped 45 of 48 shots, dealing Chilliwack its second loss of the weekend. After a 5-1 loss in Langley, the Chiefs’ record sits at 30-20-1-1. It looks likely Chilliwack and PG will see each other when the playoffs begin in mid-March.
The Spruce Kings got the game’s first goal when a Mitch Eden backhander deflected past Chiefs goaltender Mitch Gillam at 5:17.
But Chilliwack equalized just three minutes later on a pretty goal by Austin Plevy. Trevor Hills made it pretty with the assist of the year.
The Rochester native turned on the jets to chase down PG defenceman Spencer Schoech as he chased down a loss puck in the slot. Hills stole the puck and left a slick drop pass for Plevy, who beat Sprucies keeper Kirk Thompson blocker side for his 30th of the year.
The Chiefs had their legs moving in the opening frame, and it showed on the shot clock, with Chilliwack out-shooting Prince George 14-5.
The Chiefs continued to dominate the middle frame, though it didn’t translate to the scoreboard.
The Spruce Kings took a 2-1 lead 4:45 into period two on a scary play. Cameron Lawson’s innocent-looking shot from the far right wing boards hit Gillam in the Adam’s Apple. The goalie dropped like a rock and the puck rolled across the line.
Chilliwack’s netminder said afterwards that he couldn’t breathe. He llaid face down on the ice for three minutes before getting to his knees. Gillam surprised everyone in the building by staying in the game.
Luke Esposito tied things up at the 11 minute mark on a nifty solo effort. Attacking three PG defenders, Esposito split the first two and drove wide on the third, shoveling a backhand shot past Thompson for his 17th of the season.
PG took the lead again with exactly one minute remaining in the second period.
Shayne Morrissey put a shot on net from the left corner. The puck banked off Sprucies forward Chad Staley and in to make it 3-2.
But with 28.7 ticks left, Philip Zielonka got the Chiefs even again. Ryan Donohoe earned one assist with a hot shot from the slot. Josh Hansen scooped the rebound on net, and Zielonka got the last touch for his team-leading 33rd of the year.
Shots on goal through 40 minutes favoured Chilliwack 39-15, and the Chiefs set a season-high for shots in a period with 25.
But PG was one shot away from winning as the third period began.
That one shot came 8:16 into the final frame, off the stick of Bryant Christian. The Minnesota native scored off a two-on-one rush, with Chiefs D-man Shay Laurent caught being too aggressive in the neutral zone.
Sean Landrey came down the right wing and saucered a perfect pass to Christian, who snapped the puck past Gillam for his 10th of the season.
Chilliwack’s best chance to equalize came five minutes later when Jaret Babych took a feed from Zielonka, and let loose with a laser. But the puck hit iron, pinging off the left post and staying out. Gillam called to the bench with 90 seconds remaining, and Delta native Coltyn Hansen iced the game 10 seconds later, floating a long shot into the empty net.
Final shots on goal favoured Chilliwack 48-25.
The three stars were Thompson (first), Thompson (second) and Esposito (third).
The Fortis BC Energy Player of the Game was Hills.
Announced attendance was 2,263.