The Chilliwack Bruins and Tri-City Americans played a classic Friday night at Prospera Centre, with the home team escaping with a 4-3 win.
In their first meeting since a memorable six-game playoff series last spring, the Bruins got goals from four different skaters and a 40 save performance from Lucas Gore, snapping a two-game losing skid in the process.
The good guys scored the only goal in a fast-paced first period, getting an even-strength tally from Ryan Howse at 11:52.
Roman Horak did most of the work, splitting two Tri-City defenders on a rush up the left wing. With Ams goaltender Drew Owsley sliding over for the shot, Horak slid the puck across the slot to Howse, who had a yawning cage to shoot at for his team-leading 18th of the season.
Period one included one scary moment, one that may cost the Bruins a valuable blueliner for a lengthy period of time. Jesse Pauls was hit by a Tri-City forechecker behind the Chilliwack net, and slumped to the ice in pain.
As play moved into the Tri-City zone, the Chilliwack native was literally crawling off the ice at the other end. When the whistle finally blew, Pauls was helped off the ice, putting absolutely no weight on his right leg.
Coming into the game, Pauls ranked 14th among Western Hockey League blueliners with one goal and 14 points in 20 games.
Any long term injury would be devastating to him and his team.
In a game filled with bone crunching checks, the biggest hit of all came early in the middle frame when Tri-City's Tyler Schmidt lined up Chilliwack's Tim Traber just inside the Bruins blueline. Caught with his head down, Traber was steamrolled by the veteran defenceman and left the ice looking woozy. The 17-year-old did return to the game.
On the scoreboard, the Ams drew even 2:53 into period two with a power play goal by Adam Hughesman. Kruise Reddick earned the primary assist with a shot from the high slot that ended up rattling around the Chiliwack goal crease.
Two Tri-City forwards were lurking near the blue paint, and Hughesman was the last to get his stick on the puck as it dribbled across the goal-line. Hughesman added a second power play tally at the eight minute mark to give his Americans the lead.
Tri-City dominated the rest of the period, out-shooting Chilliwack 15-6. But the Bruins managed to equalize with 2:20 remaining on a goal by Kevin Sundher. Sundher was being tackled by Ams defenceman Brock Sutherland as he crashed the crease and rolled a puck past Owsley for his sixth of the year.
Tri-City rookie Connor Rankin learned a valuable lesson in the middle frame.
He scores big points for guts, but Rankin now knows that 16 year olds should avoid dropping the mitts with 20 year olds, unless they want to get pummelled. Chilliwack captain Brandon Manning was the teacher, unleashing a flurry of rights until linesmen Chris Dehaan and Nathan Van Oosten jumped in to stop the one-sided fight.
With Brendan Shinnimin (high sticking) and Reddick (tripping) in the penalty box, the Bruins started period three with a two man advantage for 58 seconds. Chilliwack took just 31 seconds to cash in on a goal by Horak, who wired a hot shot from the slot that hit the bottom of Owsley's glove and bounced into the net.
Chilliwack's Brandon Magee added valuable insurance at 6:48 on another Bruins power play. Jeff Einhorn started the play with a shot from the left point. Owsley couldn't find the puck with Sundher hacking away in his crease. Magee picked up the loose puck, cut across the goal-mouth and slid the puck into the unguarded net for his fourth of the season.
Tri-City got within one on a late power play goal by Brooks Macek, and Justin Feser hit the post with 2:08 remaining.
Manning went to the box with 1:44 remaining, giving the Ams a six-on-four advantage (goalie pulled), but Chilliwack weathered the storm, improving to 11-8-2-0 on the year.
Three stars were Magee (first), Sundher (second) and Gore (third).
Chilliwack is back in action Saturday night, hosting the Regina Pats at Prospera Centre. Puck drop is 7 p.m.