The Chilliwack Chiefs are through the Fred Page Cup BCHL final after dumping the West Kelowna Warriors Sunday night at Prospera Centre.
The Chiefs scored three in the third period, rallying from a 2-0 deficit to win 4-3.
They are the first team through to round four, and they’ll await the winner of a Tuesday nighter between West Kelowna and Nanaimo that will determine their opponent in the best-of-seven series.
The first period of this one started well as Chilliwack dominated possession and put the first six shots on goal. The Warriors barely took a step over center ice in the first four minutes, and took four-and-a-half to test Chiefs netminder Aidan Pelino.
And yet, on just their second shot of the game, the Warriors had a 1-0 lead.
Chilliwack D-man Rylan Bechtel skated deep into the West Kelowna zone on an offensive zone rush and forward Darien Craighead dropped back to cover. Craighead was caught flat-footed as the Warriors counter-attacked. Jonathan Desbiens blew past him on a rush down the right wing, snapping a shot from the right faceoff circle.
The puck got past Pelino, hit the left goal-post and settled in the blue paint where Kylar Hope poked it home for his league-leading 11th of the playoffs.
The visitors doubled their lead at 14:23 when Kristian Blumenschein wristed a shot on net from the left point and Liam Blackburn buried the rebound.
The Chiefs lost a player in the opening frame.
Jesse Lansdell got an automatic game misconduct for a hit from behind on Nicholas Rutigliano. They almost lost another when Vimal Sukumaran was sent tumbling into the end-boards by Rutigliano and skated off favouring his right shoulder. But No. 11 was back for the start of the second period.
Shots on goal through 20 minutes favoured Chilliwack 9-8.
The biggest problem the Chiefs have had against the Warriors is their inability to get to the net. West Kelowna’s big blueliners have boxed out Chilliwack’s forwards, kept everything to the outside and made life easy on goalie Matthew Greenfield.
When the Chiefs finally got on the board Sunday, it was because two players found their way to the goal-mouth.
Jeremy Germain went straight ahead off a faceoff against Blackburn and put a centering feed in front. Kale Kane was jousting with a Warrior defender and the puck hit him, deflecting to Olischefski who popped it past Greenfield at 9:54.
The referees seemed content to let the teams play until they called an out-of-the-blue elbowing minor on Mark Esposito late in period two. Pelino was Chilliwack’s best penalty killer, making massive stops on Blackburn and Hope to keep it a one-goal game.
Shots on goal through 40 minutes favoured the Chiefs 17-16.
Chilliwack played with desperation to start period three and it paid off big time.
Two goals in 13 seconds gave the Chiefs their first lead of the night, with Olischefski and Germain doing the damage.
Germain’s was a flukey one, showing the type of puck luck that’s eluded the Chiefs through most of these playoffs.
From behind the net, the Connecticut kid tried flipping a pass into the crease. The puck hit Greenfield’s paddle and squibbed under his right arm, dropping across the line to give Chilliwack the lead.
Jordan Kawaguchi added insurance at 7:08.
Captain K worked off the left wing wall with a shot that Greenfield couldn’t handle. Gooch collected his own rebound, cut across the goal-mouth and tucked a backhand shot into the cage for his team-leading ninth of the playoffs.
A Desbiens snipe with 3:46 to go set up an anxious finish and the last three-and-a-half minutes felt like 30.
Greenfield finally got to the bench with 30 ticks remaining, but a neutral zone faceoff win by Ryan Forbes left West Kelowna with little time to get anything done.
The three stars were Germain (first), Olischefski (second) and Kawaguchi (third).
The Fortis BC Energy Player of the Game was Jake Smith.
Announced attendance was 2,785.
— Mark Esposito was in the lineup, but not as a defenceman. With Linden Hora scratched, Espo dressed as a forward and skated alongside Forbes and Taylor Allan.