There's nothing like a diet of Prince George Spruce Kings to get the Chilliwack Chiefs back on a winning foot.
The Chiefs beat Prince George by identical 4-2 scorelines Friday and Saturday to regain top spot in the Mainland Division and post back-to-back wins for the first time since mid-December.
The Chiefs are now 5-0 in games against the Spruce Kings this year, with Mitch Gillam allowing just six goals in those contests.
Gillam was the key Friday, as Prince George pounded 48 shots at the Chilliwack netminder but could only muster the two goals.
Philip Zielonka, Spencer Graboski and Brandon Volpe all beat Prince George goalie Kirk Thompson and Austin Plevy added a late empty-netter.
The next evening followed the exact same script as the previous night, although Gillam was less busy.
Again Zielonka opened the scoring for the Chiefs. Again the Spruce Kings tied the game. And again the Chiefs responded and held a 3-1 lead late into the third period. Prince George again made the game close with a goal in the last five minutes, but an empty-net goal again sealed the victory for the away side.
Zielonka finished Saturday's game with a pair of goals and now has five in as many games since being acquired by the Chiefs at the trade deadline. Josh Hansen also scored his first since returning from injury and Luke Esposito rounded out the Chiefs' scoring with the empty-netter.
While the Spruce Kings have improved since being shut out by the Chiefs in back-to-back games earlier in the year, Gillam and his defence continue to frustrate their division rivals.
"That's three games in a row we've outplayed them and have only got one point out of it so it's really frustrating," said Spruce Kings head coach Dave Dupas, referring to a 3-2 overtime loss in Chilliwack earlier in the month. "We have to find ways to beat the goaltender. You can't fault the guys for the effort they put in all weekend. They had a great series but just lost two hard-fought games."
Dupas also found himself ruing his team's luck against the Chiefs.
"It seems it happens every time they come in here," Dupas said. "[Friday] night it hits a defenceman's stick then it hits him on the head and then went bar down and in. [Saturday] a guy misses the net, the puck bounces over the net and hits Kirk [Thompson] in the back and sits on the goal line and they're standing there to tap it in. I don't know what you can do about those things but the fact of the matter is when there's a loose puck laying there they tap it."
Chiefs head coach Harvey Smyl, meanwhile, was pleased with his team's defensive play over the weekend.
"I think we did a lot of good things," Smyl said. "I thought we really played well defensively [and] limited their shots to the perimeter."
With Gillam having proven himself one of the league's best goaltenders, Smyl said that if his team can keep opponents to the outside, their goalie will usually do the rest.