With their backs to the wall Friday night, the Chilliwack Chiefs played their best game of the Fred Page Cup final so far, topping the West Kelowna Warriors 5-2 at Prospera Centre.
Down 3-1 in the best-of-seven series and needing a win to stay alive, the Chiefs played with desperation and looked like a much improved team.
Chiefs head coach Jason Tatarnic used the old ‘one game at a time’ cliché on Friday.
They’ve got the first.
Two to go.
Tatarnic also had some things to say about the BCHL’s standard of officiating in the postseason, suggesting in the Friday Chilliwack Progress sports section that West Kelowna was getting away with too much obstruction.
Midway through the opening frame Jordan Kawaguchi had a scoring chance taken away when he was hooked in front of the Warriors net, and Jake Harrison was sent to the sin bin.
Chilliwack’s power play has been woefully ineffective in this series, but this time they made West Kelowna pay, opening the scoring with the man advantage..
Darien Craighead earned the assist as he darted behind the West Kelowna net and hooked a slick pass back against the grain to Vimal Sukumaran.
Suk lifted a sharp-angle shot over Warriors netminder Matthew Greenfield for his sixth of the post-season.
The lead was short-lived as Chilliwack ran into their own penalty problems.
Jesse Lansdell was flagged for a cross-check, with the officials overlooking an equally vicious foul from West Kelowna captain Kyle Marino. On the same play, Olivier Arseneau was banished to the box for interference, handing the Warriors a two-man advantage.
They took 23 seconds to cash in, with Kylar Hope scoring off a goal-mouth scramble.
Chilliwack’s Kale Kane rang the puck off iron in the final minute, but the score stayed at 1-1 through 20.
Shots on goal favoured the Chiefs 8-7.
The home side caught a break as the second period started. Goalie Greenfield skated out to take his spot in the West Kelowna cage, but skated right back to the bench and took a seat.
He took a puck off the noggin late in period one, so, concussion maybe?
That’s only speculation, but backup Keelan Williams did take over between the pipes.
Chilliwack’s suddenly resurgent power play accounted for the only goal in the middle frame. Connor McCarthy leaned into a feed from Rylan Bechtel, one-timing a low shot on net. Williams left the rebound in the blue paint for Ryan Forbes, who fought off Warriors D-man Rylan Yaremko to poke the puck across the line.
The Chiefs had a glorious chance to break the game open when Connor Sodergren drew a double minor for high-sticking.
This time it was Dennis Cholowski launching a shot from the right point that rattled off the end boards and emerged to the left of the West Kelowna net. Sukumaran shovelled a backhand shot that rolled across the blue paint. Standing two feet off the right post, Kawaguchi popped it past Williams.
Shots on goal through 40 minutes favoured the Chiefs 21-12.
The Warriors were on the wrong end of another obstruction call early in the final frame as Scott Allen held Craighead as he pursued the puck.
The power play misfired and then it was West Kelowna’s turn with the man advantage as Rylan Bechtel was nabbed for high sticking.
Aidan Pelino was the best penalty killer, going post to post to rob Hope on a one-timer from the left faceoff dot.
The Warriors pressed in the closing minutes and Williams came to the bench with 3:16 remaining.
Craighead applied the dagger with 2:41 remaining, scoring into the empty cage.
Perhaps sensing West Kelowna might try something nuts in the closing seconds, Tatarnic got Pelino to the bench and inserted backup Bryce Scheibel..
Warrior forward Reed Gunville did do something dumb, but it wasn’t running the goalie
Gunville delivered a spear to the chest of Chilliwack’s Jesse Lansdell, drawing a double minor. Taylor Allan scored on the power play that followed, netting his second of the post-season.
West Kelowna’s Tyler Anderson wrapped up the scoring with a shorthanded snipe, beating Scheibel with 58 seconds to go.
The three stars were Pelino (first), Forbes (second) and Zach Giuttari (third).
The Fortis BC Energy Player of the Game was Jake Smith.
Announced attendance was 1,944.