Chilliwack hockey fans will get at least one more home playoff game.
The never-say-die Bruins staved off elimination in their first round Western Hockey League playoff series, shocking the Tri-City Americans with a 4-3 overtime victory Friday night. Facing a two-goal deficit going into the third period, the Bruins pulled some more magic out of the hat, tying the game with less than two minutes remaining and then winning it on Roman Horak’s OT tally.
Referees Matt Kirk and Colby Smith took a novel approach in the previous game, calling just four minor penalties in Tri-City’s 4-3 overtime win. The referees in Game 5, Nathan Wieler and Sean Raphael, went in the opposite direction, handing out four minutes before the game was five minutes old.
Chilliwack got the first power play when Johnny Lazo was assessed two minutes for tripping at 1:53. But it lasted just six precious seconds before Jamie Crooks was banished to the sin bin for slashing. Jesse Craige (tripping) and Brandon Manning (hooking) were close behind, setting the Americans up with a lengthy man advantage. Manning had just stepped out of the box and was rushing back into the play when Tri-City opened the scoring. Brooks Macek earned the primary assist with a shot that was tipped into the Bruins net by Belarussian import Sergei Drozd.
While Drozd was netting his second of the series, Chilliwack rookie Chris Collins was looking for his first goal in 22 games. The snake-bitten winger looked like a man on a mission as he rumbled down the wing late in the first period. His shot was low and hard and stopped by Tri-City netminder Drew Owsley. But the goaltender left a juicy rebound for Alexander Wiklund, who fired it in for his first WHL playoff goal.
Chilliwack had just 64 seconds to enjoy Wiklund’s strike before the Americans surged ahead on a goal by Macek. Kruise Reddick won a faceoff to Drozd, who put the puck on net. The rebound went to Macek, who snapped the puck over Gore’s outstretched glove for his second of the series and a 2-1 Tri-City lead.
Shots on goal in the first period were 15-4 in favour of the Ams.
The Bruins played a strong second period, generating a handful of great scoring chances. Sixteen-year-old rookie Brendan Persley had the most notable opportunity, crashing the crease in search of the rebound from a Jesse Craige shot. He came within inches of shoving the puck across the goal-line, but Owsley held firm to keep it out. Minutes later, the Tri-City netminder came up with a huge glove save on Horak.
The Americans got their fifth power play opportunity midway through period two when Brandon Manning was sent off for hooking. Kruise Reddick made the Bruins pay, potting his fifth of the series to give his team some much-need breathing room.
Shots on goal in the second period were 14-12 in favour of the Bruins, who deserved a better fate, but faced a daunting uphill climb heading into the final frame.
Chilliwack finally got a break from the refs early in the third period when Adam Hughesman was sent off at 1:39 for tripping. The Bruins wasted little time cashing in, and once again it was Wiklund pulling the trigger. His tally ignited comeback hopes, which were almost immediately extinguished by more penalty woes.
Tyler Stahl got his stick up on Johnny Lazo at 5:09, drawing blood and earning four minutes for the foul. Just as he was set to return to the ice, Craige was sent off on a dubious boarding call. Tri-City had just under six minutes of uninterrupted power play time, but the Chilliwack PK came up big to keep it a one-goal game. Gore was the best penalty killer, making a pair of notable stops on Macek.
Gore was pulled from the net with just under two minutes to go, as head coach Marc Habscheid went with the extra attacker. And just like Wednesday night, the strategy worked to perfection. Ryan Howse came up with the clutch goal, taking a feed from Horak and scoring with just 94 ticks left on the clock.
His goal capped sent the game to OT, and this time there was a storybook ending.
Seven minutes and 16 seconds into overtime, a Matt Delahey shot resulted in a mad scramble around the Tri-City net. Horak eventually got credit for the goal, but replays showed it may have been Americans defenceman Tyler Schmidt who accidentally knocked it across the line with his glove.
Either way, the Bruins are hosting Game 6 Sunday night at Prospera Centre. Puck drop is 5 p.m.