The Chilliwack Bruins travelled a long way to take their lumps Wednesday night, rolling six hours down the I-5 to absorb a 9-2 loss in Portland. The uber-talented Winter Hawks ran roughshod over the visiting Bruins, who lost their second straight game by four or more goals.
Coming on the heels of a 7-3 loss in Vancouver last Sunday, Bruins head coach Marc Habscheid has to be concerned.
“Every team goes through a funk and I think we’re in one right now,” Habscheid said. “We can’t lay down and accept it. Adversity isn’t a bad thing, depending on how you deal with it. Our guys have to get that mental toughness, and learn something from this.”
The first 10 minutes of this one couldn’t have gone much worse for the good guys, who trailed 1-0 at the 2:49 mark, and then fell victim to a pair of early game-changing breaks.
A couple minutes after Portland rookie Brendan Leipsic opened the scoring, Chilliwack’s Dylen McKinlay seemed to net the equalizer. The Langley native had a Blair Wentworth shot carom off him and in as he crashed the crease, sliding hard into the Winter Hawk net.
McKinlay raised his arms in the air, but referees Jeff Ingram and Shane Warschaw headed straight to replay for a closer look. In the end, they determined the net came off its moorings before the puck went in, waving off what would have been McKinlay’s fifth of the year.
“I thought it was close, and the call on the ice was goal,” Habscheid said. “I didn’t think the video was conclusive enough to overturn it, yet they did.”
A couple shifts later, a Ty Rattie shot took a Winter Hawk bounce off Craig Cunningham, careening into the Chilliwack net. This time, replay confirmed a goal and a 2-0 Portland lead.
Things snowballed from there.
“Believe it or not, I really liked our game early on,” Habscheid said. “We had good energy and everything, but our goalies didn’t have the greatest night, and that took the air out of our balloon.”
Abbotsford native Riley Boychuk scored off a lightning quick transition play at 10:39, chasing Lucas Gore from the Bruins net. The 20-year-old gave up three goals on 13 shots before giving way to backup Braden Gamble.
The Winter Hawks welcomed Gamble to the game at 17:17 with another goal by Leipsic.
Kevin Sundher scored a late power play goal off a nifty behind-the-net feed from Roman Horak, but Chilliwack faced a mountainous deficit heading to period two. The deficit ballooned to 6-1 by the mid-point of the middle frame. Cunningham set up Rattie for his 21st of the season at 5:49, and Bartschi went five-hole on Gamble for his 26th of the season at 10:58.
Habscheid rarely singles out any players for direct criticism, but Gore and Gamble were in his cross-hairs after the loss.
“There were five of them (goals) that should never have went in, and it just snowballed from there,” he said. “Forwards and defencemen can have off nights, and sometimes it isn’t noticed. When a goalie has a tough night, it shows on the scoreboard.”
When Cunningham banked a puck off Gamble and in from behind the net at 12:06, Habscheid yanked the 19-year-old and put Gore back in net.
“Braden was really struggling, and we basically had no choice,” Habscheid said of the second switch.
The Winter Hawks added an eighth 27 seconds into period three, with Taylor Peters pulling the trigger on his seventh of the year. Then, 30 seconds after Sundher had the puck roll off his stick on a shorthanded breakaway, Portland’s Nino Niederreiter camped in front of the Chilliwack net to punch his 21st of the year past Gore.
Soudek scored his 14th of the year on a power play at 11:11 to wrap up the scoring.
Portland won their sixth in a row, improving to 33-14-0-3. The Bruins dropped to 21-22-2-2 heading into a Friday night game in Spokane.
The Bruins host Kamloops on Saturday. Catch a weekend wrap up in Tuesday’s Progress.