Loss ends season for Bruins

Alexander Wiklund of the Chilliwack Bruins tries unsuccessfully to get the puck past Drew Owsley of the Tri-City Americans during last night's game at Prospera Centre.

The season is over for the Chilliwack Bruins.

The home side battled hard, but dropped a 4-1 decision to the Tri-City Americans Sunday night at Prospera Centre, ending their Western Hockey League first round playoff series at six games. The underdog Bruins gave the U-S division champs all they could handle, but in the end, experience and skill trumped youth and determination.

Tri-City moves on to round two, and a date with an opponent to be determined. Chilliwack’s up-and-coming squad will spend the summer looking forward to bigger and better things in 2010-11.

The Americans were at their aggressive best in period one, hounding the Bruins with ferocious forechecking. The opening goal was created when the Americans harassed Matt Delahey into a turnover behind the Chilliwack net. Jarrett Toll ended up with the puck at the right point, and put a low shot on goal. Lucas Gore made the stop, but the rebound squirted out to Patrick Holland, who put the puck into the yawning cage for his second of the series.

Offensive highlights were non-existent for the Bruins, who struggled to generate any consistent pressure. Shots on goal reflected Tri-City’s territorial advantage, with the Americans holding an 18-6 edge.

The tables turned to start period two, with Chilliwack putting the first seven shots on net. Persistence paid off at 8:27 when Roman Horak tied the game on a power play goal. Zachary Yuen was serving two minutes for cross-checking as Brandon Manning started the scoring play with a long stretch pass to Dylen McKinlay. McKinlay fought off Ams defenceman Tyler Schmidt to get a shot on net, and Horak darted in to nab the rebound and beat Tri-City netminder Drew Owsley stick side.

But after a Shayne Neigum slashing penalty sucked away Chilliwack’s momentum, the Americans regained the lead at 12:55 on a goal by Jordan Messier. Messier and linemates Mason Wilgosh and Brooks Macek had the Bruins hemmed into their own end for an entire shift leading up to the goal. Defenceman Eric Mestery started the play with a shot from the right point that was deflected by Wilgosh. Messier was lurking off the left goal post, in the perfect spot to sweep home the rebound for his second of the series.

Shots on goal in the second period were 9-6 in favour of Chilliwack.

In the locker room between the second and third periods, the Bruins must have been saying to themselves, ‘Ah ha! We’ve got them right where we want them!’ Chilliwack has shown a knack for comebacks in this series, twice overcoming two-goal third period deficits to force overtime.

But the all-important next goal went to the Americans one minute and 31 seconds into the final frame. Belarussian sniper Sergei Drozd pulled the trigger on a cross-ice pass from Macek. Seconds before the goal, Bruins blueliner Brandon Manning went down in the left corner with some sort of leg injury. The defensive coverage broke down, and Drozd had an eternity to shoot before burying his second of the series.

Manning was helped off the ice after the goal, but returned eight minutes later.

Chilliwack had their chances in the third period, particularly when Horak and Ryan Howse were on the ice. But Owsley was outstanding, helping his team to weather the storm. Macek scored on a Tri-City power play with 3:25 remaining to wrap up the scoring.

In the final seconds, the announced crowd of 3,797 gave the Bruins a standing ovation. Twenty-year-old veterans Jesse Craige, Matt Delahey and Colton Grant were on the ice in the last minute for their final WHL shift. After the customary post-series handshake, the Bruins stood at center ice and gave their fans one last salute before heading off.

– Three stars were Drew Owsley (first), Roman Horak (second) and Sergei Drozd (third).