The Chilliwack Chiefs ran into one of the top teams in Canada Friday night, with a predictable result. The Chiefs left everything they had on the ice, but it wasn’t enough against a Penticton Vees roster stacked to the max with talented skaters.
The Vees started slow but dominated the last 40 minutes, cruising to a _-_ win.
The Chiefs got the only goal in the first period off the stick of rookie Garrett Forster. Credit Trevor Hills with a hard-earned assist, with the New York native centering the pass whilst lying on his belly behind the Penticton net. Forster collected the pass, fought off a check from Mark McLellan and beat Vees keeper Michael Garteig blocker side for his fourth of the year.
Penticton had a few good chances and a late power play, when Chilliwack’s Jeremy Gossard got two and a game for a hit from behind on Bryce Gervais. But Chiefs netminder Mitch Gillam made a couple big glove saves to get Chilliwack through 20 minutes with the 1-0 lead.
Shots on goal in the first period favoured Penticton 11-8.
The vaunted Vees offence showed up in the middle frame and spent just about the entire period buzzing around the Chiefs net.
Penticton tied the game at 3:09 on a pretty goal by Minnesota’s Mike Reilly, who cut left to right across the slot and picked the top right corner with a backhander.
The Vees surged ahead at 8:20 on another highlight reel effort, this one coming on a three-on-two rush. Flying down the right wing, Connor Reilly threw the puck to his brother, centerman Ryan Reilly. Ryan fed the puck right back to Connor, who one-timed a shot through the wickets of Gillam for his 27th of the year.
With the Chiefs reeling against the ropes, Penticton seemed poised for a knockout punch when Chilliwack’s David Thompson took two minutes for holding. But the best chance on the ensuing power play belonged to Chiefs forward Michael Spring, who was thwarted on a shorthanded breakaway. Connor Reilly missed a two foot tap-in with an open net and Chilliwack dodged a king-sized bullet.
The Chiefs had a power play opportunity late in the period and cashed in on a goal by Derek Huisman. Malcolm Gould set him up with a gutsy cross-ice pass from the far left boards. Huisman one-timed the puck through Garteig for his team-leading 19th, briefly tying the game at 2-2.
But the Vees regained the lead with just 20.8 ticks left in the second period.
New York Rangers draft pick Steven Fogarty beat Chilliwack D-man Shay Laurent on a solo rush and finished with a shot over Gillam’s glove for his 17th.
Shots on goal in the middle frame favoured Penticton 19-9 and they went to the third with a 3-2 lead.
The Vees took less than three minutes to put the game out of reach in the final frame. Just 1:50 in, Connor Reilly threw the puck on net from the left wing boards. Travis St. Denis hacked away at the loose puck and pushed it across the line for his 24th.
Thirty-two seconds later, St. Denis pounced on a loose puck in a goal-mouth scramble, banking it off a leg and in for his 28th.
Joey Benik scored at 8:47, netting his 13th of the year to make it 6-2.
The final highlight was a brouhaha with 3:41 left, caused by a Kit Sitterley hit from behind.
The main event had Chilliwack’s Josh Hansen versus Penticton’s Grant Nicholson, with no punches thrown nor landed and Hansen earning cheers with an emphatic takedown.
Final shots on goal were 45-26 in favour of Penticton, with the three stars St. Denis (first), Connor Reilly (second) and Spring (third).
Announced attendance was 2,312.
The Chiefs are back on home ice tomorrow night at 7 p.m., hosting the Coastal conference leading Cowichan Valley Capitals.