An action filled game Friday night in Chilliwack saw the Chiefs hold on for a 5-4 victory over the Express.
It was the first meeting of the season between the two teams that entered the night tied in the Mainland division standings with 14 points each.
Matt Holmes opened the scoring for the Chiefs as he bust through the middle of the Express defence and snapped a shot that dribbled past Kolby Matthews.
Then as the Express first powerplay of the night came to an end, a turnover in the Chiefs zone sprung Harrison Blaisdell on a breakaway and he made no mistake snapping a shot through the pads of Kolby Matthews for 2-0 Chiefs lead.
Late in the first period the Express cut into the Chiefs lead on a powerplay goal by Alex DiPaolo as he stood in front of the net and had a Josh Wildauer shot from the slot bounce off the Express forward and in to make it a 2-1 game. It was DiPaolo’s team leading 4th powerplay goal on the season.
That goal gave the Express a boost that carried into the second period and they started to take the play to the Chiefs and started playing some of the best hockey of the night.
Five minutes into the second period the Express got a scare when Brett Willits cut to the net and as Pito Walton came back on the play there was a collision with goaltender Kolby Matthews and he was down for a few minutes and backup AP goaltender Jaden Little was preparing himself to enter the game. Thankfully his services weren’t required. It was a nerve racking moment for a team already without Clay Stevenson.
11 minutes into the 2nd period the Express tied the game on a beautiful shot by Connor Gregga ripping a wrist shot under the crossbar after Alex DiPaolo did a great job to keep the puck in the Chiefs zone.
Four minutes later the game quickly turned back in favour of the Chiefs. Marcus Tesink’s shot got to the net and the puck eventually bounced off Juliano Santalucia and into the net to put the Chiefs back in the lead at 3-2. Jacob Slipic ended up getting credit for the goal.
Off the ensuing face-off Christian Sanda was assessed a double minor slew footing.
Skyler Brind’Amour scored on a scramble play that had Kolby Matthews spinning around in his crease trying to keep up with the puck.
Then on the second of the Chiefs powerplays Cole Donhauser roofed a shot short side on Matthews to open a 5-2 lead.
All told the Chiefs scored three goals in a span of 1:28.
In the third period tempers got a little short. First, Christian Sanda and Brody Gagno dropped the gloves in the corner. That was followed moments later with another brief fight involving Josh Bruce and Ethan Bowen. All the players were given automatic ejections.
With 8 minutes to play Nicholas Wildgoose scored his first Express goal converting a pass from Dipaolo to make it a 5-3 game. DiPaolo finished with three points on one goal and two assists.
The drama at this point wasn’t done by any means. Brett Willits was called for his second goaltender interference penalty of the game and he was given an automatic game misconduct at 12:42. That was followed seconds later by a hit by Marcus Tesink on Josh Wildauer that was called for boarding giving the Express a two man advantage for 90 seconds.
Jason Fortier called his time out and like Sunday vs. Prince George Drew Cooper blasted home a one timer from the right point to make it a one goal game with over 6 minutes to play. The Express finished 2 for 8 on the powerplay.
The Express still had plenty of time on their powerplay as the play went to 5 on 4. The Chiefs fired the puck into the Express end and Matthews came out of his net losing the puck and it was played back Brett Rylance who snapped a shot and thought he beat Matthews, but the goaltender got back into his net in time to make a marvellous diving save to keep the comeback hopes alive.
The best chance for the Express to get the equalizer came off the stick of Jordan Schulting who was set up alone in front of the net but he put his shot wide of the Chiefs net.
In the dying seconds the Express got the puck to the net but were too cute trying to make the perfect play and the clock ran out as the Chiefs held on for the 5-4 win. The shots finished 33-28 in favour of Chilliwack.
The loss extended the Express winless streak in Chilliwack to 22 games (0-21-1) dating back to the start of the 2014-15 season. That also includes playoffs. The Express are winless in their last 29 regular season and playoff games vs. the Chiefs dating back to the 2015 playoffs.
The Express are in Surrey on Saturday night.