BCHL playoffs: Clipper goalie steals one-goal win

Evan Johnson was the difference for a Nanaimo Clipper team that was out-played but escaped Chilliwack with a 3-2 win.

The Chilliwack Chiefs out-played, out-shot and out-chanced Nanaimo Monday night at Prospera Centre.

And still they lost, thwarted by goaltender Evan Johnson in a 3-2 defeat.

The Clippers keeper was outstanding, stopping 39 of 41 pucks and putting Chilliwack squarely behind the eight ball in the third round of these BCHL playoffs. In the race to get three wins first, they are lagging behind. Chilliwack (1-2) will be in must-win mode Wednesday night as they travel to West Kelowna to face the Warriors (1-1), while the Clips (2-1) are one victory away from a spot in the BCHL final.

The Chiefs found room to roam against Nanaimo and looked like the much better team in period one.

Despite killing off two Clipper power plays and having none of their own, Chilliwack out-shot Nanaimo 13-5.

With more finish they could have scored twice.

Darien Craighead missed by inches on a cross-crease feed from Jordan Kawaguchi and Taylor Allan fanned on a centering feed from Kohen Olischefski — both blue chip chances against  Johnson.

Chiefs netminder Aidan Pelino didn’t have much to do as his teammates locked down Nanaimo’s big guns. Chilliwack bench boss Jason Tatarnic tried to play Dennis Cholowski and Austin Adam on defence every time Sheldon Rempal took a shift, and the BCHL’s regular season goal scoring leader didn’t get a sniff.

For all that, it was Nanaimo opening the scoring midway through the second period.

With Ryan Forbes in the penalty box for high sticking and the Clips on the power play, point man Kale Bennett wristed a shot on net. Pelino left the rebound on the doorstep where Nolan Aibel and Chris Dodero had whacks at it.

Pelino stretched post to post leaving the top of the net open and Dodero popped the puck over him for his fourth of the playoffs.

Chilliwack had back to back power plays of their own late in the middle frame, with lots of activity and near misses around Johnson’s net. But Nanaimo escaped to the third period clinging to that one-goal lead.

The Chiefs erased that 1:34 into period three on a Darien Craighead goal.

Vimal Sukumaran and Jordan Kawaguchi cycled the puck behind the net to suck in the Nanaimo defence. Captain K fed the disc to Craighead, who was left wide open on the right hash-mark.

No. 7 in white snapped the puck past Johnson for his fifth of the playoffs.

The Clippers came right back with another power play goal at 4:48, with Matthew Hoover one-timing a Yanni Kaldis feed past Pelino from the right faceoff dot, but Chilliwack drew even at 7:03 on a Sukumuran snipe.

More of a greasy goal really as the Montreal native camped in the blue paint, collected the rebound from a Rylan Bechtel point shot, wheeled and swept the puck past Johnson for his fifth of the playoffs.

The game came down to the last minute and it didn’t end well for Chilliwack.

With 45.5 seconds left, Kaldis skated the puck into the high slot and picked the bottom right corner with a rocket of a wrist shot, sending the Chiefs to their second home-ice defeat in the third round.

The three stars were Johnson (first), Cholowski (second) and Kaldis (third).

The Fortis BC Energy Player of the Game was Jesse Lansdell.

Announced attendance was 1,653.

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