If only the Western Hockey League would let the Chilliwack Bruins bank goals.
Three days after setting a team record for goals in a game with a 9-2 win over Lethbridge, Chilliwack’s offence ran completely dry in a 1-0 loss to the Kelowna Rockets Saturday.
Everything that came so easy against the defensively suspect Hurricanes was missing against the Rockets, who played stifling defensive hockey against a Bruins squad that had no answers.
Sniper Kevin Sundher acknowledged it was tough sledding all night, but said the Bruins did themselves no favours.
“It’s frustrating because this was a big game and we knew it,” he said. “These four-point games are vital and we just didn’t come out with our best effort. Not everyone came to play tonight, and if the whole team’s not going, we’re not going to win games at this point in the season.”
The Bruins entered the weekend locked in a three-way battle with Kelowna and Kamloops for the six-through-eight playoff seeds in the Western conference.
Chilliwack hoped to jump on the Rockets, who hosted Lethbridge Friday night.
But if the Rockets were tuckered out from playing the Canes, they didn’t show it — in fact, Kelowna seemed to get stronger as the night went on, out-shooting the Bruins 15-8 in the second period and 11-9 in the third.
“They work hard and that’s the main reason for their success,” Sundher said. “We thought we’d be more rested, but it was tight playoff-type hockey and we just weren’t ready for it.”
As the Bruins struggled to put a puck past Adam Brown, they must have flashed back to Tuesday, when everything they put on net seemed to go in.
“Lots of teams could have scored nine against Lethbridge that night because they just weren’t going,” Sundher lamented. “Kelowna just didn’t gives us the type of chances we got against the Hurricanes. Goresy (Chilliwack netminder Lucas Gore) gave us a chance tonight, but our offence just couldn’t find a way to get it done.”
Kelowna keeper Adam Brown continued his dominant play against the locals. The California native shut out the Bruins for the fourth time in his career — in 12 career appearances against Chilliwack, Brown is 10-0-0-1 with a .949 save percentage.
“Maybe we got a bit too high after that Lethbridge win, and maybe we weren’t as focused as we needed to be,” Sundher mused. “We weren’t finishing our checks and blocking shots and doing the little things it takes to win. It’s just frustrating because this game was so huge for us.”
Gore stopped 33 of 34 shots at the other end, keeping the Rockets at bay with a number of solid stops.
The only puck to elude him came on a Kelowna power play 3:59 into the third period when a Collin Bowman point shot caromed off the end boards and onto the stick of Lucas Bloodoff.
Bloodoff tucked the puck into the net for his 11th of the season.
The Bruins have a few days of practice before hitting the road Friday night to visit the Tri-City Americans. A back-to-back against Vancouver looms Saturday in Chilliwack and Sunday in Langley.
“This game leaves a bad taste in my mouth, and Tri-City and Vancouver are two teams we might play in the playoffs,” Sundher said. “We need to pull out some victories this weekend.”