The Chilliwack Bruins gutted out a 2-1 win over the Spokane Chiefs at Prospera Centre Tuesday night, earning their third victory in four early-season outings. Robin Soudek supplied the decisive goal late in the third period and goaltender Braden Gamble stopped 27 of 28 pucks as the Bruins remained unbeaten on home ice at 2-0-0-0.
While Ryan Howse didn’t light the lamp for the first time this season, he and linemate Roman Horak were dangerous all night.
Leading the league with seven goals through three games, Howse was after more in the first period of this one.
The pride of Prince George almost had his eighth 90 seconds in, taking a pass from Roman Horak and cutting across the Spokane goal crease. Only a timely trip by defenceman Tyler Vanscourt kept the puck out of the Chiefs net. Howse had another great chance later in the period, breaking in alone off another Horak feed. This time, it was Levko Koper applying the hook and forcing Howse to shoot the puck over the cross-bar.
Playing his first game since being returned to Spokane by the NHL’s Ottawa Senators, Chiefs D-man Jared Cowen had a rough opening frame. Shayne Neigum welcomed the big blueliner back to the dub, knocking him on his butt with a crunching hit behind the Spokane net.
Minutes later, Cowen coughed up the puck 10 feet in front of his net, setting up Horak for a glorious chance.
The capper was an ill-advised hooking minor on Howse that led to the first Chilliwack goal. Cowen watched from the penalty box as Bruins captain Brandon Manning launched a rocket from the point, beating Chiefs netminder James Reid through a screen.
That goal, at 10:56 of the first, sent Chilliwack to the break with a 1-0 lead.
Spokane’s Steven Kuhn had the lone goal of the middle frame, tying the game with a power play tally. With Bruins blueliner Mitch Topping serving two minutes for hooking, Kuhn cut through the slot, collected the rebound from a Cowen point shot and slid the puck under Gamble for his second of the season.
The only other highlight in an otherwise yawn-inducing second period was a scrap between Chilliwack’s Jesse Zgraggen and Spokane’s T.C. Cratsenberg. Zgraggen, making an early bid to be the best ever Bruin whose surname starts with Z, took the worst of the fight early, but ended the bout with a right that dropped Cratsenberg to his knees.
Shots on goal through two periods favoured the Bruins 20-17.
The game remained knotted at 1-1 late into the final frame, until Robin Soudek’s power play heroics put Chilliwack up for good. With Kenton Miller banished to the sin bin for tripping, Manning unleashed another point-shot cannon. Camped in the blue paint, Soudek nabbed the rebound and scooped a backhander past Reid for his first of the season.
Gamble preserved the win with a huge late save on Brady Brassart, flashing the leather as the Vernon native snapped a wrist shot from the left wing.
Final shots on goal were 28-25 in favour of Spokane.
Announced attendance was 2,670.
The three stars were Braden Gamble (first star), Brandon Manning (second) and James Reid (third).
The Bruins return to action Saturday night at 7 p.m., hosting the Seattle Thunderbirds at Prospera Centre.