Eric Welsh – Chilliwack Progress
The Chilliwack Chiefs posted 26 wins through an entire 58 game regular season in 2017-18.
On Saturday night, they recorded their 26th win of the 2018-19 campaign in their 36th game, outgunning the Coquitlam Express 7-5 in a wild one at Prospera Centre.
Playing their first post-Christmas game after a two-week break, the Chiefs took time to shake off the mashed-potato legs.
But the power play was effective and Chilliwack had an answer for everything Coquitlam did.
It wasn’t pretty, but a win’s a win.
Matt Holmes got the Chiefs on the scoreboard just 102 seconds in.
The forward started the play at the blueline, holding in a Coquitlam clearing attempt. Taking a pass from Skyler Brind’Amour, Holmes cut through the right faceoff circle and tried to slip a pass across the slot to linemate Cole Donhauser. The puck hit the Express defender and came right back to Holmes, who banged a five-hole shot through goalie Clay Stevenson.
The Express got that one back at 16:30.
With Chilliwack’s players treating the puck like a live hand grenade in their own zone, a frantic clearing attempt landed on the stick of Coquitlam sniper Chase Danol. The Michigan native skated unchecked to the top of the right faceoff circle and ripped a shot inside the left post behind Chiefs goalie Nolan Hildebrand.
The visitors took the lead 3:17 into period two on an absurd goal by Joshua Wildauer.
An Express shoot-in down the right-wing boards to0k a crazy carom out of the left corner, straight into the slot. Hildebrand, who’d gone behind the net for the shoot-in dove back into his cage to thwart Connor Gregga, but he was flat on his belly as Wildauer popped the loose puck into the yawning net.
The home team was saved by a dumb penalty taken by Coquitlam’s Henry Rybinski.
The Vancouver native ploughed into Hildebrand in the blue paint, drawing a rare five minute goaltender interference major, with a game misconduct tacked on.
The Chiefs made ‘em pay on the power play, scoring twice to turn momentum in their favour.
Harrison Blaisdell picked up his 21st of the year, getting his stick on a Jacques Bouquot backhander and deflecting it past Stevenson.
Then, following some good work by defenceman Marcus Tesink to hold a puck in at the right point, it was Ethan Bowen swooping through the left faceoff circle and delivering a perfect pass across the goal-mouth to Cole Donhauser, who rifled the puck into the net for his 12th of the season.
Another power play goal followed minutes later with Holmes pursuing a loose puck behind the Express net and delivering a centering pass onto the stick of Bouquot. The Connecticut kid snapped a quick shot past Stevenson, sending his team to the final frame with a two-goal lead.
Carter Wilkie tacked on another goal 44 seconds into period three.
Credit Blaisdell and Bouquot with good work on the forecheck, with Bouquot getting the puck behind the net and putting it in front for Wilkie. The Calgary native lazered the puck past Stevenson for his fourth of the season and a 5-2 lead.
Coquitlam came back with a power play goal by Chase Danol, who got the re-direct on a point shot by ex-Chief‘s defenceman Jordan Schulting.
With the Express pressing for another, Chilliwack got a huge goal against the run-of-play. Off a neutral zone turnover, Bouquot fed a lead pass to Blaisdell flying down the right wing. Cutting hard to the net, the Abbotsford native snapped a five-hole shot through the legs of Stevenson.
Not giving up, the Express got a goal by Jared Power, finishing off a nice three-way passing play with linemates Gregga and Pito Walton.
But Blaisdell applied the final dagger with 6:11 to play, scoring the hat-trick goal on a hot shot from the slot.
Coquitlam got one more, a late power play goal off the stick of Danol, to wrap up the scoring.
The three stars were Bouquot (first), Blaisdell (second) and Danol (third).
The Fortis BC Energy Player of the Game was Brett Willits.