The Chilliwack Bruins find their backs squarely against the wall as they return home for games three and four of their first round playoff series against the Tri-City Americans. Tri-City took the opener 4-2 on Friday, and took a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series with an 8-1 win Saturday night. Brendan Shinnimin led the way with three goals for the Americans, but almost everyone got in on the act. The high-flying Ams blitzed the inexperienced Bruins with a lethal power play that went six for nine on the night.
The Bruins certainly didn’t get the start they wanted in this one, falling behind just one minute and 25 seconds in on a power play goal by Shinnimin. Shayne Neigum handed the Americans their first power play with a roughing minor. With Neigum watching from the penalty box, Shinnimin showed superb skill to glove down a head-high pass and golf a knuckle-puck over Lucas Gore’s right shoulder.
It was his first playoff goal in 13 career post-season games, and came on the first Tri-City shot of the game.
To their credit, the Bruins owned the rest of the first period, out-shooting and out-chancing the home side. Seconds after Shinnimin’s goal, Neigum almost redeemed himself on a breakaway, only to be thwarted by diminutive Americans netminder Drew Owsley.
Ryan Howse and Roman Horak looked dangerous and had a pair of two-on-ones in the opening frame. But they couldn’t beat Owsley, and Chilliwack had absolutely no puck luck overall, hitting a pair of goal-posts in the first period. The Bruins had perhaps their best scoring chance early in period two when Jesse Craige snuck in from the point and took a feed from Kevin Sundher. But Owsley stacked the pads to rob the veteran D-man at point-blank range.
From that point on, it was all Americans.
Tri-City scored three goals in 1:26 in their win Friday night. This time, they got a pair of goals 31 seconds apart to put the reeling Bruins on the ropes. At 7:01, Gore stopped a Jarrett Toll slap shot, but couldn’t control the rebound. Big winger Jordan Messier bulled his way in front and poked home the rebound for his fifth career playoff goal. A half minute later, Kruise Reddick darted down the left wing and snapped a wrist shot short-side on Gore to put the Americans up 3-1.
Just over four minutes later, Shinnimim scored his second of the game in controversial fashion. With Chilliwack killing off a Tyler Stahl hooking minor and Tri-City buzzing around the net, Bruins blueliner Matt Delahey flopped on a loose puck in the crease. But no whistle blew, and Shinnimin opportunistically shoved the puck across the goal-line.
On the ice, Neigum voiced his objections to the referees and then said something the goal-judge didn’t like. That goal-judge, an off-ice official who is supposed to approach his job objectively, reacted poorly and was seen blowing kisses at Neigum and high-fiving nearby spectators.
Shots on goal in the second period were 13-7 in favour of Tri-City.
Hoping to protect his starting goaltender’s confidence, Chilliwack coach Marc Habscheid lifted Gore to start the third period, replacing him with Braden Gamble. With Jeff Einhorn in the sin bin for roughing, Shinnimin greeted the rookie stopper with his third of the game at 3:34. The game was delayed for five minutes as ice crews swept up the hats thrown onto the ice by jubilant Tri-City fans.
The despondent Bruins thought they’d finally gotten some good news a few minutes later as a Jesse Craige point shot found its way into the Americans net, possibly bouncing off Neigum en-route. But the goal was immediately waived off, and after a few seconds of video review the official explanation given was that a player was in the crease.
Veteran tough-guy Todd Kennedy added insult to injury with a pair of late power play goals, and Eric Mestery added another with the man advantage as Tri-City helped Chilliwack set a dubious new franchise record for most power play goals against in one game.
The only good news for the Bruins came with 14:42 remaining when Roman Horak beat Ams goaltender Alexander Pechurskiy on a penalty shot. Pechurskiy came into the game with 8:07 left as Tri-City head coach Jim Hiller took the opportunity to give starter Owsley some extra rest before game three.
Three stars on this night were Todd Kennedy (third), Drew Owsley (second) and Brendan Shinnimin (first). The series resumes Tuesday night at Prospera Centre, with puck drop at 7 p.m.