The Chilliwack Chiefs turned back the years to 1990 for their home opener on Friday, beating the defending league champion Prince George Spruce Kings 6-2.
The home opener started out like any other, with player introductions and an opening video. The Chiefs had a member of the former owner’s family Rich Brew, Chilliwack Mayor Ken Popove, BCHL Commissioner Chris Hebb, BCHL Executive Director, Competition and Events, Steve Cocker, current ownership representative Ed Hasselman, original time keeper Don Dyck, who brought an original puck used during the 1990-91 season, and a minor hockey/lacrosse player who is fighting a battle with a very rare disease to drop the puck.
At the end of the ceremony, right before the national anthem, the Chiefs held a moment of silence to honour the memory of long time Chiefs staff member, fan, scout, broadcaster, statistician and historian Jacob Bestebroer (a.k.a. JB) who passed away earlier this week after his battle with cancer.
— Darren Francis (@FotoShotzcom) September 21, 2019
Of note, Chiefs starting goalie Mathieu Caron switched his traditional jersey number from 1 to 62. Once the puck dropped it didn’t take long for the Chiefs to strike first with Arlo Merritt scoring off a feed from 2021 NHL draft prospect Peter Reynolds. Prince George tied the game up after a bad give away from captain Nathan Kelly to Spruce Kings forward Brett Pfoh who would put it in past Caron on the short side.
The Chiefs came out in the second just like the first, scoring early with Ethan Bowen jumping on a rebound as he spun around to put it under Spruce Kings netminder Jett Alexander’s arm. PG tied the game on a power play as Preston Brodziak snuck behind the defense to put in a rebound off a Thomas Richter shot. Bowen notched his second on a broken play that he made look like he meant to do it after he fanned on his initial shot, picked up the puck and went forehand-backhand past Alexander at 9:55 of the second to put the Chiefs up 3-2. Spruce Kings defenceman Evan Orr took a hit to the head penalty which the Chiefs would capitalize on with Reynolds showing why he is slated to go in the first round in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft. The 16-year-old showed patience beyond his years in front of the net to increase the lead to 4-2 heading into the third.
In the final frame, Bowen completed his hat trick six seconds into a Chiefs power play, rifling a shot from the slot past Alexander at 7:11. The Chiefs would add insurance at 9:36 with Merritt tipping in a shot from Jack Agnew to the dismay of Alexander, who thought it was a high stick. At the 15:20 mark things got a bit rough as PG’s Colton Cameron hit Chiefs Jake Veri from behind while Jacob Slipic came to his aid and continuously cross checked Cameron. Chiefs forward Clark Nelson and PG defenceman Nolan Barrett would continue their battle well after the whistle as well.
Plenty of goal scoring to go around tonight across the league highlighted by a hat-trick performance by Chilliwack's Ethan Bowen.
— BC Hockey League (@GoBCHL) September 21, 2019
Caron looked like he didn’t miss a beat in his first game action since November of last year, making some stellar stops right off the bat. The Chiefs penalty kill was relentless in not allowing the Spruce Kings to set up in the offensive zone. And the Chiefs number one power play unit of Bowen, Larson, Wilkie, Renyolds and Moore made the Spruce Kings penalty killing units chase the puck like a dog to a bone.
Saturday vs. Coquitlam
The Chiefs tried to continue their momentum heading into Coquitlam to play the Express on Saturday night as Caron got his second straight start. The Express struck first when Tyler Schleppe notched his second of the season from Ryan Tattle and Adam Trotman. The Chiefs tied the game four minutes later on a goal by Detroit draft pick Cooper Moore, his third of the year from Brett Willits. The Chiefs continued their success on the power play as Ethan Bowen got his fifth of the season from Carter Wilkie and Peter Reynolds. Coquitlum tied the game late in the first as Schleppe got his second of the night from Tattle and Steven Bellini.
The middle stanza saw no goals or penalties. In the third, Coquitlam would get the winner on the power play from Nolan De La Durantaye with assists from Bellini and Cooper Connell.
Caron stopped 27 of 30 shots in the loss and Express netminder Clay Stevenson stopped 31 of 33.
The Chiefs’ record drops to 2-4-0-0 as the Express bounced back from being pummeled 6-1 by Langley the night before to improve their record to 3-1-0-0 to stay atop the Mainland Division.
The Chiefs’ next game is back at the Chilliwack Coliseum against the red hot Wenatchee Wild on Friday and Alberni Valley Bulldogs on Saturday.