With the list of missing (Roman Horak, Robin Soudek, Steven Hodges, Brandon Magee) and injured (Brandon Manning, Curt Gogol, Jesse Pauls, Brendan Persley, Mike Forsyth) nearly as large as the list of the healthy, the Chilliwack Bruins had every reason to wave the white flag Sunday night as they hosted the Vancouver Giants.
Few teams could lose their best defenceman and half their top six forwards and expect to beat anyone, let alone the perennial powerhouses from Van-City.
Full credit to the Bruins then, who put up a very gutsy fight for 40 minutes. But the third period was bad and the end result was consistent with hockey logic as the largely healthy Giants escaped Prospera Centre with a 6-2 win.
Kevin Sundher got the Bruins on the board first in this one, scoring at 9:34 of the first period. The Buffalo Sabres draft pick took a feed from Dylen McKinlay and got a step on Vancouver forward Brendan Rowinski. Sundher slipped a backhander through the legs of Giants keeper Mark Segal, and then followed the puck into the net.
The goal was Sundher’s 12th of the year.
Vancouver out-shot the good guys 12-4 in period one, and tied the game on a late five-on-three power play. With Zach Habscheid (holding) and Blair Wentworth (checking from behind) in the box, Brendan Gallagher went to work in the left corner. The Montreal Canadiens prospect spotted Zach Hodder sneaking down from the point, and fed him a pass in the slot. Chilliwack netminder Lucas Gore couldn’t get post to post fast enough to thwart the Giants blueliner, who potted his first of the year at 19:04.
Vancouver grabbed their first lead of the game 12:40 into period two on a strike by Dalton Sward. Veteran D-man Neil Manning earned the primary assist with a hot shot that Gore could only get a piece of.
The puck dropped into the blue paint behind him, and Sward swooped in for the tap in, his seventh of the year.
Chilliwack had two excellent chances to tie, but failed to hit the net on both. Defenceman Mitch Topping had a clear breakaway from the Vancouver blueline in, but missed left with a blocker-side shot. Moments later, Ryan Howse cut in off a faceoff and had Segal down and out. But the puck rolled off his stick and slid inches wide of the left post.
Dylen McKinlay succeeded in pulling the Bruins even at 16:55, scoring his second of the year on a penalty shot. Hooked by Zach Hodder on a short-handed breakaway, McKinlay was directed to center ice by referee Trevor Hansen.
The Langley native kept it simple, beating Segal blocker side.
But with the Bruins still killing the penalty (Tyler Stahl for boarding), Vancouver regained the lead. Again, Manning was the playmaker with a cross-ice feed to ex-Portland Winter Hawk Spencer Bennett, who calmly buried his 15th of the year.
Vancouver got the insurance goal 2:31 into period three on a goal by Nathan Burns. Rowinski got the assist with a shot from the right wing. Gore kicked the rebound right to Burns who had nothing but net to shoot at for his sixth.
Burns scored again at 11:06 and Sward wrapped up the scoring at 13:16 as the Giants improved to 18-17-1-4 and the Bruins dropped to 17-17-2-1.
The three stars were Manning (first), Sward (second) and McKinlay (third).
The Bruins are back in action Friday night, visiting the Kamloops Blazers in another key B.C. division tilt.