BCHL playoffs: Kawaguchi’s OT snipe sends Chiefs to third round

The Wenatchee Wild are done and the Chilliwack Chiefs are moving on after a five-game victory in the second round series.

Jordan Kawaguchi’s overtime snipe sent the Chilliwack Chiefs on to the third round of the BCHL playoffs with a 3-2 win, completing a five-game defeat of Wenatchee in the Mainland division final.

It’s often said the hardest thing to do in hockey is close out a playoff series, and the Wild fought tooth and nail to stay alive.

One bounce the other way and this series may well have been heading back to Wenatchee for game six.

As it is, the Chiefs have sailed through two rounds playing just one game more than the minimum, leaving them in good shape for the double-round-robin third round that awaits.

The Chiefs took just 79 seconds to open the scoring in this one.

Rylan Bechtel made a nice play  to spring Kale Kane and Jordan Kawaguchi on a two-on-one rush. Kane fed the puck to Kawaguchi who cut across the goal-mouth and tucked it behind Wenatchee keeper Chase Perry.

The Wild answered back with a power play goal at 8:45.

Charlie Combs did the damage with a wrist shot from the top of the left faceoff circle that found its way through several players and past Chilliwack netminder Aidan Pelino.

It was 1-1 after one.

A lacklustre second period had zero goals and was notable only for Daniel Nachbaur’s attempt to antagonize Chiefs forward Kale Kane. A wrestling match more than a fight, Kane took Nachbaur to the ice and earned two minutes for roughing. Nachbaur got four for roughing plus a 10 minute misconduct.

The Chiefs had 15 shots to their name early in the third period as they struggled to crack Wenatchee’s defensive shell.

Perry held Chilliwack at bay with a huge save, robbing Darien Craighead as he one-timed a Jeremy Germain pass.

Moments later Kohen Olischefski pinged the  puck off the post and you could feel momentum starting to tilt towards the home team as the final frame continued.

It was a bizarre play that produced Chilliwack’s second goal at 9:53.

Dennis Cholowski picked up the puck to the left of his own net and scooted up the ice. The future National Hockey League draft pick tried a shot, or a pass, or maybe he just lost the puck — only he knows for sure.

Whatever it was, the puck went towards the  net where Perry badly misplayed it.

The goalie whiffed on it and the goal horn let him know he’d mussed up as the disc found the back of the net.

Cholowski’s unassisted tally put the Wild into full-on desperation mode, and they netted the equalizer with 5:32 to go. Wenatchee’s relentless forecheck and sloppy D by Chilliwack conspired to produce a blue-chip chance for Bryan Yoon.

The 18 year old defenceman rifled the puck past Pelino from 20 feet out, sending this game to overtime.

The Chiefs got a power play early in OT when Jesse Lansdell was hit into the boards from behind by Austin Chavez, and made the Wild pay.

Kawaguchi ended the series on something of a lucky bounce. Seconds after Yoon failed to clear the puck, Kane got a shot on net. It hit something or someone, and the rolling puck found its way to Captain K.

Gooch popped it past Perry to move his team on to the third round.

For the second straight year, Chilliwack is the Mainland division champ and they’ll get back to action early next week against the Island division champion Nanaimo Clippers and the winner of the Penticton/West Kelowna series.

See bchl.ca for more.