by Eric Welsh – The Progress
The Chilliwack Chiefs are 3-0 since Christmas after dumping the Surrey Eagles 4-1 Saturday night at Prospera Centre.
In what was maybe their finest home-ice game of the 2017-18 season, Chilliwack dominated 80 per cent of the play and out-shot the visitors 39-23.
Four different Chiefs scored goals as the team improved to 19-15-2-2.
Though they’re still fourth in the Mainland division standings, Chilliwack moved to within two points of Surrey, six points of Langley and seven of front-running Prince George, with one or more games in hand on all of those teams.
The Chiefs peppered the Surrey net with 24 pucks in period one alone, sneaking three of them past Eagles netminder Daniel Davidson.
Anthony Vincent opened the scoring at 3:42 with a vintage Vincentian effort. Rookie defenceman Sean McCloskey set him up, firing a wrist shot on net from about 30 feet out as Vincent made a bee-line to the crease. No. 4 got a piece of the puck, deflecting it past Davidson for his seventh of the season.
PJ Marrocco collected the second goal with a power play snipe at 11:27.
Marcus Tesink delivered a point shot wrister and Marrocco buried the rebound from the left hash-mark for his f0urth of the season.
Kaden Pickering lit the lamp at 16:09 with a nice individual effort. The speedster pounced on a Surrey turnover at the Chilliwack blueline and took off like his skates were on fire. Leaving two Eagle defenders in his dust, No. 18 in black went with the forehand-backhand move, flopping the puck over Davidson and across the line for his 11th.
Chilliwack netminder Mathieu Caron earned his post-game meal with a handful of stops in the second period.
On a Surrey power play, forward Jeffrey Stewart split the Chiefs defence for a mini-breakaway. Caron stretched post to post, making the save with his left leg pad, but referee Bobby Williamson saw Tesink give Stewart a little hook on the arm as he shot, and gave him a second chance with a penalty shot.
As Stewart curled in off the right wing, Caron gave the Surrey native nowhere to shoot, and the 19 year old fired his blocker-side try over the cross-bar.
Caron made another big save later in the period as swift-skating Eagle blueliner Brendan Winslow snuck behind Chilliwack D-man Powell Connor for a breakaway. Winslow cut left to right across the goal-mouth, but Caron stayed with him and kept the puck out. The netminder benefited from some good luck seconds later when a Jackson Ross attempt pinged off the post.
Caron had to be razor sharp in the back half of the middle frame as his team ran into massive penalty troubles.
A too-many-men bench minor was followed by penalties to Connor (slashing), Matt Slick (roughing after the whistle) and Will Calverley (slashing).
Surrey had 5:17 of uninterrupted power play time, including a pair of lengthy five-on-threes. Caron and the BCHL’s second-ranked penalty killing unit answered the call in clinical fashion, but just 21 seconds after Chilliwack finally returned to full strength the Eagles got on the scoreboard.
Desi Burgart charged hard to the net and got his stick on the rebound of a Connor Sundquist shot, stuffing it past Caron at 16:46.
Shots on goal in the middle frame favoured the Eagles 14-5, thanks to all that power play time, but the Chiefs led 3-1 heading to the final 20.
Tempers flared midway through the final frame, when Surrey’s Owen Norton cross-checked Chilliwack’s Vincent into the board from behind in the right corner behind the Eagle net. Chiefs forward Adam Berg came to his teammate’s defence, dropping Norton to the ice with several cross-checks to the back.
When the refs were done sorting it out, Berg was handed a five minute major and a game misconduct and Norton was given two minutes for a check from behind and a game misconduct. Again the Chilliwack penalty killers came through, snuffing out a three minute Surrey PP, and seconds after getting back to even strength Caron turned in the save of the net when he darted left to right to rob Aaron White on a point-blank chance.
Moments after that, Tommy Lee put the game away. Marrocco skated into down the left wing and rattled a hot shot off the goalie mask of Davidson. Lee collected the rebound in the slot, cut to the left and slid a low shot inside the far post to wrap up the scoring.
The three stars were Vincent (first), Tesink (second) and Marrocco (third).
The Fortis BC Energy Player of the Game was Slick.
Announced attendance was 2,807.