The up and down adventures of the Chilliwack Bruins continued Wednesday night as the home team fell 7-3 to the Saskatoon Blades at Prospera Centre.
In their first game since demolishing Portland 7-2 last Friday, the maddeningly inconsistent Bruins (12-10-2-1) re-appeared, delivering a spotty effort against a capable (20-6-0-1) but road-weary Saskatoon team playing its second game in as many nights.
Chilliwack got off to a great start in this one, opening the scoring just two minutes and 30 seconds in on a goal by ex-Blade Curt Gogol. Tim Traber set him up, skipping a cross-ice pass over the stick of Saskatoon defenceman Darren Dietz and catching Gogol in full flight.
Streaking in from the left, the 19-year-old snapped the puck past Blades keeper Steven Stanford for his second of the year.
But Saskatoon got the next one at 11:04, scoring on a flukey play around the Chilliwack net. Bruins captain Brandon Manning checked a Blades player to the left of the Chilliwack cage, and somehow the puck fluttered rainbow-style into the slot. Bruins netminder Lucas Gore had no idea where it was until it was too late.
Toronto Maple Leafs seventh rounder Josh Nicholls punched it in for his 13th.
Shots on goal in period one favoured Chilliwack 14-10.
Two quick strikes put the Blades in the driver’s seat early in the middle frame. On the first, ex-Chilliwack Bruin Chris Collins hounded former teammate Mitch Topping into coughing up the puck and tried a weak backhand shot.
The puck missed the net, but came out the other side for Brent Benson, who roofed it from a sharp angle for his fourth.
Just over two minutes later, Nicholls scored shorthanded on a pretty feed from Curtis Hamilton. Killing a slashing minor to Matej Stransky, Hamilton swooped in over the Chilliwack blueline and made a beautiful back pass to Nicholls.
Nicholls went low to the blocker side on Gore to put Saskatoon up 3-1.
Lukas Sutter buried the rebound from a Stefan Elliott point shot at 11:48 to end Gore’s night after four goals on 17 shots.
Braden Gamble got off to a shaky start in relief, giving up a goal on the second shot he faced. Blades blueliner Connor Cox pulled the trigger on his fifth of the year, sneaking in from the point with a top-corner wrist shot.
Mike Forsyth got one back for the Bruins, scoring with 11.4 seconds remaining in the second period, but Chilliwack faced a severe uphill climb heading into period three.
Shots on goal in period two favoured Saskatoon 15-10.
The good guys had more jump in their legs to start the final frame, but any comeback hopes were squashed with a Darren Dietz tally at 7:44.
Collins scored the final Saskatoon goal at 13:45, and Chilliwack’s Robin Soudek scored with just over four minutes remaining to wrap up the scoring.
Three stars were Nicholls (first), Collins (second) and Duncan Siemens (third).
The Bruins are back in action Friday night, hosting the Kelowna Rockets in a crucial B.C. division clash.
Puck drop is 7:30 p.m.
— Ten minutes into the first period, Lucas Gore passed Mark Friesen for tops all-time in minutes played for a goaltender.