More than three thousand Chilliwack area middle school kids had a hoot Tuesday morning at Prospera Centre, attending a Western Hockey League game between the hometown Bruins and Swift Current Broncos as part of the Great Canadian Oil Change/Chilliwack Bruins ‘Celebrating Youth’ field trip.
Sadly, the Bruins didn’t have nearly as much fun, dropping a 5-4 decision in front of the season high crowd of 4,400.
Maybe it was the early start (10:30 a.m.) that doomed the Bruins, who sleep-walked through a listless first period.
The visitors opened the scoring at 5:39 on a goal by Justin Dowling. With Chilliwack’s Jamie Crooks banished the penalty box for goaltender interference, the 20-year-old worked off the left side boards, taking a shot into a crowded crease.
Chilliwack netminder Lucas Gore made the stop but couldn’t find the rebound. Dowling grabbed the loose puck and cut across the goal mouth, sweeping a backhander into the cage for his 12th of the year. Taylor Vause doubled the Bronco lead less than a minute later, driving wide around Chilliwack defenceman Tyler Stahl and beating Gore for his eighth.
Cody Eakin finished off a two-on-one rush with Dillon Wagner at the 10 minute mark, giving Swift Current three goals on six shots.
The Bruins managed to get one before the period was done.
Crooks got his stick on a Jeff Einhorn point shot, deflecting the puck past Broncos netminder Mark Friesen for his eighth at 16:55.
Shots on goal in period one favoured Swift Current 10-9.
Any comeback hopes the Bruins were fostering appeared to die 3:17 into the middle frame when Eakin blew a point shot past Gore for his 13th of the year. With four goals surrendered on 12 shots, Gore was replaced by backup Braden Gamble.
But Dylen McKinlay re-ignited the building at 11:55, scoring his first of the season on a Chilliwack power play. The Minnesota Wild prospect pounced on a loose puck as it squirted out of a crowd in the crease, beating Friesen with a five-hole backhand shot.
Roman Horak got the Bruins within one late in the period, scoring on a Bruins power play. Kevin Sundher and Robin Soudek did some good work digging the puck out of the left corner. Soudek came away with the puck and fed a perfect cross-crease pass to Horak, who had nothing but net to shoot at for his 15th.
Shots on goal in period two favoured Chilliwack 11-7.
The good guys failed to carry that momentum over to period three, testing Friesen with just five shots and no blue chip scoring chances.
The Broncos locked it down nicely, and Eakin sealed the win with 4:34 remaining, scoring his third of the game unassisted.
Ryan Howse scored his 20th of the year in the final minute to wrap up the scoring.
Three stars were Eakin (first), Sundher (second) and Vause (third).
The Bruins are on the road for the next seven, hitting Alberta for five games before Christmas and travelling up to Prince George for their first two after the break. The next home game is New Years Eve versus the Moose Jaw Warriors.