Hitting the road appears to be the tonic the Chilliwack Bruins needed to turn their game around. The Bruins won their second straight on a five game trip through Alberta and the Central division, beating a tough Medicine Hat Tigers squad 4-1 at the Medicine Hat Arena Saturday night.
More impressive, they did so without their top two players.
Defenceman and team captain Brandon Manning missed his second straight game due to injury, leaving a gaping hole on the Chilliwack blueline.
And up front, Ryan Howse left for Toronto and the Canadian National Junior selection camp, pressing rookie Brandon Magee into the vacant spot alongside Roman Horak and Robin Soudek. The 16-year-old may not score 40 goals like Howse, but he brings a certain tenacious edge to the line.
His pugnacity was on display eight minutes into the opening frame as the Manitoba native dropped the mitts with Tiger rookie Curtis Valk. In a battle of the feather-weights, Magee (five-foot-seven and 161 pounds) earned a split decision with his similarly-sleight opponent (five-foot-eight and 140 pounds).
Chilliwack netminder Braden Gamble kept things scoreless through 20 minutse, with shots on goal favouring Medicine Hat 11-4.
Sundher opened the scoring in this one with a shorthanded tally, wiring a shot top-shelf shot with such velocity that it ripped right through the mesh. The unusual circumstances required a second look by game officials, but video review eventually confirmed Sundher’s 10th of the year.
The Bruins almost had a second shortie on the same penalty kill, but Steve Oursov and Mike Forsyth failed to finish a two-on-one rush.
Returning to five-on-five action, Curt Gogol doubled the Chilliwack lead at 11:12, showing off some rarely seen dangling skills. The 19-year-old forward, more known for scrapping than sniping, picked the pocket of a Medicine Hat defender, and notched his third of the year on a top-shelf backhand over the shoulder of Tiger netminder Tyler Bunz.
Sundher made it 3-0 at 12:31, converting a two-on-one feed from Forsyth for his second of the game.
It was Chilliwack’s third goal on just nine shots against Bunz, a fifth-round draft pick of the Edmonton Oilers in 2010.
The Tigers salvaged something from the second period when Emerson Etem scored on a power play at 13:38. His team-leading 20th of the year set off the annual Teddy Bear toss, with Medicine Hat fans raining stuffed animals onto the ice.
Shots on goal in period two favoured Chilliwack 9-8.
The Bruins started the final frame with a couple huge penalty kills, snuffing out back-to-back minors to Gogol (tripping and boarding). Goalie Gamble bailed his teammates out a couple times at even strength, but for the most part Chilliwack kept the Medicine Hat offence firmly under wraps.
Soudek applied the finishing touch on the win, scoring his 11th on a power play with 6:45 remaining.
Three stars were Gamble (first), Sundher (second) and Etem (third).
The road trip continues Tuesday in Calgary, followed by games in Red Deer on Wednesday, and Edmonton on Saturday.
The next home game is New Year’s Eve (7:30 p.m.) versus the Moose Jaw Warriors.