Kevin Sundher had to work really hard at fighting back tears Wednesday night.
Normally a happy, smiling young man, the 17-year-old Surrey native shuffled his feet and stared at the floor, trying to process a 4-3 overtime loss to the Tri-City Americans.
Earlier that night, he’d been on top of the world, scoring a goal with 11.3 ticks left to cap off a miraculous last minute comeback and land his team in OT.
Sundher’s goal followed on the heels of a Jamie Crooks tally, which came with just 22.1 seconds left in regulation time.
A 3-1 deficit erased in the blink of an eye.
You had to see it to believe it.
Sadly, many who bought tickets to the game didn’t, flocking to the exits when it looked like the Bruins were heading for quiet defeat. It may be a very long time before they have the chance to witness something like that again.
Two last minute goals erased 59 minutes of frustration, and the Bruins came out for the extra session believing they were destined to win.
And they almost did.
Chilliwack carried the play in the extra session and if a Tri-City back-checker hadn’t caught up with Roman Horak as he teed up the potential game-winning shot from slot, we might be talking about a 2-2 series heading back to Kennewick.
But Disney script-writers had nothing to do with this one.
Kruise Reddick beat Lucas Gore through a maze of players with 4:51 left in the first overtime period, denying Chilliwack its fairytale ending and leading us back to Sundher, in the locker room, in the process of processing.
“This is a tough pill to swallow,” he said, slowly. “To work so hard and come back like that and then have it end the way it did, maybe it’ll seem a bit better in a day or two, but right now it really hurts.”
The overtime session was beyond description, full of end-to-end action and near misses at both ends.
“Every moment was so intense, and I thought we had them a couple times,” Sundher said. “But, the goal…”
A minute before Reddick ended the game, Gore made a spectacular save on Brendan Shinnimin, who teed up a wrist shot from 10 feet out. Gore’s glove plucked the puck out of the air, bringing the crowd to its feet.
They ooohed and aaahed as the Bruins buzzed around the Tri-City net, and the roof might literally have blown off Prospera Centre had they scored.
The whole scene caused ex-Bruins coach Jim Hiller to gush to the Tri-City Herald afterwards, “Oh my gosh. That right there is why people are so passionate about this sport.”
Chilliwack defenceman Matt Delahey, a veteran of 258 regular season and 21 playoff games in the Western Hockey League, can’t remember ever experiencing anything remotely close.
“The odds were against us, and it would have been easy to just roll over and die,” he said. “But we didn’t, and it was just a tough break at the end. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Delahey rarely came off the ice in overtime. When he did, it was for a 20 second break before he was right back out there. Potentially playing his last game in Chilliwack, the 20-year-old left everything on the ice.
But like his Western Hockey League career, Chilliwack’s post-season run may now be just one game away from ending, unless they can find a way to win in Kennewick, where they’ve only won twice in 11 all-time visits.
Once again, the odds are stacked heavily in Tri-City’s favour.
But if you were in Vegas right now with the chance to put a wager on the outcome of Game 5, would you really want to bet against Chilliwack?
See a weekend wrapup in the Tuesday Progress sports section.