Jake Smith scored once and had two assists as his Chilliwack Chiefs blew the doors off the Prince George Spruce Kings Sunday night. Smith’s crew trailed 3-2 in the second period before scoring five unanswered, skating away with a 7-3 win at Prospera Centre.
The Mainland division leaders clinched a playoff spot and improved to 27-8-4-1, eight points better than second place Wenatchee, which holds one game in hand.
Aaron O’Neill scored the only goal in a scrambly first period, netting his fourth of the season on a power play. The Tennessee native took a pass from Darien Craighead to the left of the PG net, darted into the goal-mouth and steered the puck inside the far post with just 14.9 seconds left in the opening frame.
Jake Smith doubled the Chiefs lead just 1:57 into period two, bursting past PG defender Jordan Funk and roofing a shot over Joseph McLeod’s right shoulder for his sixth of the year. But Kyle Johnson replied for the visitors just 34 seconds later, flying down the right wing and wiring a short-side shot over the glove of Chilliwack netminder Matteo Esposito.
A fluky goal got Prince George even at 6:25.
Ex-Chief Tanner Campbell flung a centering pass into the Chiefs crease while being worked over in the left corner. New Chiefs D-man Rylan Bechtel reached back for the puck and accidentally deflected it through Esposito.
Esposito was pulled just over two minutes later when Campbell gave PG a 3-2 lead. Three goals against on 13 shots earned him a spot on the bench, with Aidan Pelino taking over between the pipes.
Another Chiefs newcomer breathed life back into the building at 12:32.
Kohen Olischefski retrieved a puck along the left-wing wall, getting it to Jeremy Germain who threw a pass into the goal-mouth for Taylor Allen. The Calgary native, just acquired from the AJHL’s Lloydminster Bobcats, snapped the puck past McLeod to square the score.
With 1:40 remaining in the middle frame, Craighead restored Chilliwack’s lead, wading into the crease to stuff a Jordan Kawaguchi centering feed past McLeod.
Vimal Sukumaran’s 25th of the year gave the Chiefs much-needed insurance 3:10 into period three, with Bechtel and Jesse Lansdell drawing assists.
Sukumaran’s teammates piled on from there.
Defenceman Mark Esposito jumped into the rush and finished off a Jake Smith centering feed at 8:14 to make it 6-3, and Zach Giuttari sniped his fifth of the year with 5:53 remaining to wrap up the scoring.
The last highlight was a fight.
Chilliwack’s Kale Kane dropped PG’s Ryan Fritz like a sack of hammers, crumpling the blueliner to the ice with a hard right.
Final shots on goal favoured the Chiefs 43-23.
The three stars were Smith (first), Allen (second) and Craighead (third).
The Fortis BC Energy Player of the Game was Germain.
Announced attendance was 2,018.
Chilliwack is back home Saturday night for a 7:00 p.m. start against the Victoria Grizzlies.