Chilliwack’s Skyler Brind’Amour fends off a Penticton Vee checker during Saturday’s BCHL game at Prospera Centre. DARREN FRANCIS PHOTO

Chilliwack Chiefs victorious in battle of BCHL’s best

The junior A club is all alone in first place in the league and Mainland division standings.

You can always tell how well things have gone for the Chilliwack Chiefs based on the volume of the music in the dressing room after a game.

Saturday night it was pumped to the max.

The Chiefs were in the mood to celebrate after beating the Penticton Vees 3-2 in a battle of the BCHL’s best at Prospera Centre.

It was a game they’ve had circled on the calendar for a while and a win that might give them home ice advantage throughout the playoffs.

And if there were any doubters left around the league waiting for this young Chiefs team to stumble in a big spot, too bad.

“Any time we get to play a team like that at home in front of one of the biggest crowds of the year (3,770) ­— we didn’t want to get too nervous or think about it too much, but when it came to game time everyone was ready, and it showed,” said Kevin Wall, who had two goals in the win.

The Chiefs took 10 minutes to adapt to Penticton’s pace, and gave up the opening goal to Vees forward Luke Loheit at 8:05. But once Chilliwack settled in, they were the better team.

Cole Donhauser tied the game with a power play snipe at 11:19 and Wall put the Chiefs ahead in the last minute of the opening frame, scoring on a shorthanded breakaway.

“They (Penticton) are a really fast team and they move pucks really well,” Wall said. “Once we adjusted and got the hang of it, we played our game and took over.”

Wall had his team up 3-1 7:49 into period two, scoring on a power play.

The Vees pushed back in the third period, getting within one on a goal by Massimo Rizzo.

Twenty eight seconds after Rizzo’s tally, Ethan Bowen was sent off for boarding and Penticton went to the power play.

But the Chiefs came through with a huge kill, and while the rest of the game wasn’t without its anxious moments, they held on for the W.

“You give a team like that a power play late in the game and they can make something happen,” Wall said. “ But the coaches really stressed staying calm and playing our game. We got the huge kill and we were fortunate to hold the lead.”

A white board inside the Chiefs dressing room shows the games remaining for the Mainland division’s top two teams, Chilliwack and Prince George.

The Chiefs are seven points up on PG (the Spruce Kings played Monday at Langley, after Progress press deadlines) and the players are starting to pay close attention to the playoff race.

“We’re definitely keeping an eye on it,” Wall admitted. “Coach (Brian Maloney) put it up one day and we had a meeting to talk about what we want to do to finish off the season.

“Every day we come in here and look at that and know what’s on the line.

“It helps us get ready.”

The Chiefs have a Wednesday night road game in Vernon followed by home games Friday against West Kelowna and Saturday against Surrey.

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