Chiefs edge Express to bump slump

A 45 save effort from goaltender Mitch Gillam helped the Chilliwack Chiefs beat the Coquitlam Express in BCHL action Friday night.

The Chilliwack Chiefs got their first win of 2013 against a team they dominated in 2012, edging the Coquitlam Express 5-3 at Prospera Centre Friday night.

Facing a Mainland division foe they’ve owned this season, the Chiefs got two goals apiece from Spencer Graboski and Luke Esposito to bump a two-game post-Christmas losing skid.

They improved their record to 22-10-1-1 heading into a Saturday night game against another division rival, the Langley Rivermen.

Friday’s first period wasn’t the best for the home team, but they escaped to the break tied 2-2.

Coquitlam had the lead just 1:42 in on a pretty goal by veteran John Siemer. The 20-year-old schooled Chiefs D-man Ben Masella, turning the rookie around on his way to the goal-mouth. Siemer out-waited goaltender Mitch Gillam and slid the puck inside the left post for his 18th.

Chilliwack came back at 5:02 on a goal by Spencer Graboski. On a Chiefs power play, defenceman David Thompson wristed the puck on net from the right point. It hit an Express defender and landed in front of Graboski, who popped it in to tie the game 1-1.

Coquitlam regained the lead 1:05 later on a power play of their own.

Siemer drew the primary assist with a point shot that bounced off the end boards and came out the other side of the Chilliwack net. Phillip Zielonka tucked it inside the right post for his team-leading 20th of the year.

The Chiefs were good on the forecheck in period one, and it was good work down low that led to their second goal.

Graboski and linemates Trevor Hills and Tanner Cochrane buzzed around the Express net. Graboski got the puck and tried a centering pass to Hills. Coquitlam D-man Michael Maciag reached out to stop the pass, and redirected it into his own net.

Shots on goal in the first period favoured Coquitlam 16-14.

The Chiefs tightened up defensively in period two, and surged ahead on goals by Mathieu Tibbett and Luke Esposito.

Tibbett’s tally was one that will haunt Cole Huggins in his nightmares.

The Express goalie Cloutiered a shot from center ice, looking skyward as the puck took a funny last-second bounce and slipped under his right armpit.

Four minutes later, Esposito crashed the net to redirect a Hills shot/pass past Huggins.

His 12th of the year sent Chilliwack to the third with a 4-2 lead.

Shots on goal through 40 minutes still favoured Coquitlam 28-24.

The Express came out buzzing in the final frame, and got within one at 2:40 on a goal by Travis Stephens, who buried a cross-crease feed from Brandon Morley.

Coquitlam kept coming and almost got the equalizer seven minutes later. Mitchell Fyffe made a slick backhanded centering pass to Sam Majka, who one-timed the puck on net. But Gillam butterflied and squeezed the pads to keep it out.

Gillam came up with another massive save with 4:52 remaining. Zielonka had a breakaway from center ice in, going from forehand to backhand with his shot. Gillam stretched post to post and got it with the glove.

Zielonka could only shake his head in disbelief.

As it turns out, that was the last gasp for Coquitlam. Zielonka took an ill-advised spearing major in the final minute, and Esposito scored his second of the game into the empty net with less than a second left remaining.

The three stars were Graboski (first), Siemer (second) and Gillam (third).

The Fortis BC Energy Player of the Game was Chilliwack’s Brodyn Nielsen.

Announced attendance was 1,769.

Chilliwack Progress