They didn’t make it easy on themselves, but the Chilliwack Bruins gutted out a 1-0 overtime win over the slumping Seattle Thunderbirds Tuesday night at Prospera Centre.
For the first time in franchise history, the Bruins played an opponent to a scoreless tie through 60 minutes. Shayne Neigum snapped the tie 37 seconds into overtime, sending the T-Birds to their 14th straight loss and helping the Bruins to solidify their hold on a Western conference playoff spot.
The Bruins, eighth place in the Western conference, improved to 26-28-1-5 and moved 21 points up on the ninth place Thunderbirds (14-34-6-4).
Top notch scoring chances were understandably few and far between in this one.
Ryan Howse and Roman Horak generated some minor excitement midway through period one, working a give-and-go to near perfection. Horak gave the puck to Howse and made a beeline for the net, but he couldn’t make contact as his linemate threw the puck into the goal-crease.
Howse ended up with the puck beside the net, but working from a sharp angle, he couldn’t lift the puck up and over Pickard.
Early in period two, Shayne Neigum had an excellent chance. He burned Erik Bonsor on a beautiful outside-in move, and had Pickard at his mercy as he pulled the puck to his backhand. But his shot hit the right goal-post and stayed out.
Four minutes into period three, Howse found himself on a clear breakaway from the red line in. With two Seattle defencemen in pursuit, Chilliwack’s leading scorer lifted his shot over the cross-bar and then went sliding heavily into the end-boards. He skated to the Bruins bench in pain, but was back on the ice for his next shift.
The Thunderbirds thought they might have collected the game winner with 7:02 remaining when Brendan Rouse, nephew of Bruins assistant coach Bob Rouse, tipped a point shot on goal and then bowled Chilliwack netminder Lucas Gore and the puck into the net. But referee Matt Kirk was quick to wave it off.
Gore made a similar stop on Rouse with four minutes remaining, and then thwarted Luke Lockhart on a hot shot from the slot with 30.1 seconds remaining in regulation time.
Shots were 28-26 in favour of Seattle heading into four-on-four overtime.
The winning goal came 37 seconds into the extra session off the stick of Neigum. Brandon Manning started the play with aggressive forechecking that created a turnover behind the Seattle net. Neigum collected the puck, and stuffed the it past Pickard on a backhand wraparound.
Gore played outstanding for the Bruins, but did not collect the shutout. He broke his stick midway through period two and skated to the bench for a replacement. Evidently, he forgot to ask the referees for permission. Invoking some obscure rule, they forced backup Braden Gamble to enter the game until the next whistle, which came 10 seconds later.
Gore would have broken the Chilliwack franchise record for shutouts in a season.
The Bruins now embark on a road trip through Saskatchewan and Manitoba that will see them away from home until Mar. 5.
– Three stars were Shayne Neigum (third), Calvin Pickard (second) and Lucas Gore (first).
– The announced crowd of 2,761 was the second lowest of the season. The season low came on Dec. 12 when 2,553 fans showed up to see the Bruins beat the Prince George Cougars 5-2.