The Chilliwack Chiefs took over top spot in the British Columbia Hockey League Saturday with a 5-4 victory over the Penticton Vees.
It was the fourth consecutive win for the Chiefs and the second-straight weekend Chilliwack had knocked off the Vees, who have struggled while four of their top players competed at the World Junior A Challenge in Nova Scotia.
The Chiefs weren't quite as shorthanded, but head coach Harvey Smyl also had to deal with the absence of Austin Plevy and Cooper Rush, who took part in the Canadian Junior Hockey League's prospects game last weekend.
Chilliwack jumped out to an early lead thanks to dogged penalty killing work by Josh Hansen.
Hansen worked the puck behind the Penticton net, but when the Vees finally gained possession and tried to move it up ice, the Chilliwack native stole the disc back, spun and slid it past a surprised Nic Renyard.
Four minutes later, Jaret Babych banged home a rebound to give Chilliwack a 2-0 lead and extend his goal streak to four games.
Penticton battled back, however, and would draw to within a goal a minute later when wandering Chiefs goalie Mitch Gillam turned the puck over to Ryan Gropp, who quickly found the empty net.
Penticton's Brad McClure scored on a two-on-one to tie the game heading to the second period.
The rejuvenated Trevor Hills surprised Renyard with a long wrist shot to give the Chiefs another lead. But Penticton again fired back, with Gropp leveling the score on the power play.
The Chiefs' offence, however, would not be denied in the third. Luke Esposito scored off on a third-period power play, and Hills added his second of the game to give Chilliwack a two-goal lead. While Penticton would draw to within one and press late, the Vees couldn't find the equalizer.
It was a good weekend for Hills, Babych and Esposito, all of whom also scored Friday night in the Chiefs 4-2 win over the Coquitlam Express.
Hills notched power play goals in both the first and second periods, while Esposito—again on the power play—and Babych tallied in third period.
Alexandre Perron-Fontaine registered three assists to help the cause.
Chilliwack went three-for-four on the power play and outshot the Express 48-33 on the night.
With the two victories, the Chiefs are now unbeaten in their last eight games against Mainland Division opponents. Their only loss to a division rival was an overtime defeat in mid-September to the Surrey Eagles.
Thanks to the two weekend wins, the Chiefs moved past the Vees and up to the 10th spot in the CJHL's weekly Top-20 rankings. Chilliwack had previously been ranked 20th in the country. Penticton dropped to 12th in the rankings, while the Victoria Grizzlies sit at 15th.
Chiefs forward Austin Plevy scored what turned out to be the winning goal in the CJHL's two-game prospects showcase in Yarmouth, N.S., Sunday.
Plevy, along with Cooper Rush, each suited up for the Canada West team in the short series, which was played on an aggregate/total goals format.
Canada West won with a 8-6 aggregate score over the two games, thanks in part to Plevy's late marker.