The Chilliwack Chiefs have their backs firmly against the wall in the Fred Page Cup BCHL final after losing the first two games of a best-of-seven series at home.
Chilliwack dropped game two Saturday night, falling 6-3 at Prospera Centre, and now head into the Interior for games three and four, Monday and Tuesday.
After failing to score any goals at all in a 2-0 game one loss Friday night, the Chiefs lit the lamp just 91 seconds into this one.
With West Kelowna’s Rylan Yaremko in the box and Chilliwack on the power play, Jordan Kawaguchi wheeled around a Darien Craighead pick and fired a wrist shot from the high slot. Warrior goalie Matthew Greenfield had Vimal Sukumaran camped in front of him and didn’t react until the puck was behind him in the net.
One shot. One goal.
Problem is the Chiefs got just one more shot for the rest of the period.
Chilliwack still hasn’t found a formula for beating West Kelowna’s ferocious forecheck, and spent most of the opening 20 chasing the puck in their own end or playing dump and chase without the chase offensively.
Thankfully, the Warriors only put five pucks on net and the Chiefs led 1-0 through one.
The home team was gifted a four-minute power play just 31 seconds into period two, Chilliwack only tested Greenfield twice with the man advantage. The best scoring opportunity was West Kelowna’s, with Kylar Hope bursting down the right wing and taking aim from 10 feet out. Chiefs stopper Aidan Pelino got it with the glove.
But seconds after the penalty expired, Nicholas Rutigliano fired a puck on net from the right wing wall.
It hit someone in front and deflected past Pelino to knot the game at 1-1.
Chilliwack’s netminder coughed up a softie at 6:18 as the Warriors took the lead. With West Kelowna on the power play, Jonathan Desbiens glided down the left wing and beat Pelino from a very sharp angle.
The Chiefs briefly tied the game at 11:46 when Jake Smith put a backhand shot on net and Aaron O’Neill popped the rebound past Greenfield. But the Warriors regained the lead less than two minutes later.
On the power play, Desbiens put a centering pass into the goal mouth. Jake LeBrun collected it and, from one knee, put the puck over Pelino’s glove for his third of the playoffs and a 3-2 West Kelowna lead.
Chilliwack had the last laugh in the middle frame, tying the game on a controversial Ryan Forbes goal.
Linden Hora launched a slap shot from the right wing as Forbes crashed the crease. He was upended by Warrior D-man Scott Allan as he arrived in the blue paint. Forbes ploughed through Greenfield, taking himself and the puck across the line.
After a brief conference, referees Adam Griffith and Troy Paterson pointed to center ice and cheers rained down from 1,901 hometown fans.
The common denominator on all three Chilliwack goals to that point? Traffic in the goal-mouth creating chaos for Greenfield.
Sounds cliché, but in playoff hockey it’s also the greatest truth.
The game turned for good 8:35 into period three, with the same cliché applying.
Connor McCarthy was flagged for kneeing, catching Kyle Marino with a neutral zone hit that sent the Warrior into a spin that would make a figure skater proud.
On the power play, Desbiens ripped a wrister past a screened Pelino for the game winning goal.
Chilliwack head coach Jason Tatarnic boldly pulled the goaltender with 2:33 remaining and West Kelowna’s Brett Mennear scored into the vacant cage 15 seconds later to put the game away.
Kyle Marino added another empty netter with 1:32 remaining to wrap up the scoring.
Making matters worse for the Chiefs, Pelino may have hurt himself in the final minute when he stretched post to post to make a save. He got up slowly, stayed hunched over and slapped his stick on the ice.
The three stars were Dennis Cholowski (first), Hope (second) and Desbiens (third).
The Fortis BC Energy Player of the Game was Forbes.