No Penticton Vees was supposed to be a blessing for the Chilliwack Chiefs as they gunned for a berth in the Fred Page Cup final.
But it turns out the West Kelowna Warriors may be just as formidable a foe in the third round of the BCHL playoffs.
The Warriors authored an epic second round upset of Penticton Saturday night, capturing the Interior conference banner with a six game win over the heavily favoured Vees. On Tuesday night they took it to the Mainland champion Chiefs at Prospera Centre, skating away with a 5-1 victory.
Kelowna dominated from start to finish and the Chiefs only made it through the first period at zeroes thanks to goaltender Aidan Pelino..
The razor-sharp keeper flashed the leather a couple times, but his most larcenous save came off Bryan Basilico on a two-on-one rush. With Chilliwack defenceman Zach Giuttari the lone man back, Connor Sodergren scooted down the right wing and feathered a pass across the goal-mouth to Basilico. The Michigan native had half the net to shoot at, or thought he did, until Pelino darted across the crease, stretching out his right leg to keep it out.
Chilliwack held a 14-13 edge on the shot-clock, but most of their attempts came from the outside, a theme that held true throughout the game.
As good as Pelino was in period one, he was directly responsible for the game’s first goal.
Less than three minutes into the second period he ventured behind his net to play the puck with Kelowna’s Jake LeBrun steaming in. Pelino shot the puck into LeBrun’s shins and watched helplessly as the Warrior forward looped into the blue paint and slid the disc into the unguarded cage.
Kelowna doubled the lead at 7:22 on a goal by Sodergren.
Basilico drew the assist, driving down the right wing, pulling up and putting a cross-ice pass on Sodergren’s stick. The Massachusetts kid buried it behind Pelino for his fourth of the postseason.
Kelowna’s party was interrupted briefly by Chilliwack’s Captain K.
Taking a long cross-ice lead pass from Kale Kane, Jordan Kawaguchi busted down the right wing, dragged the puck inside on Kelowna D-man Rylan Yaremko and put the puck over Matthew Greenfield’s glove to breathe life back into his team.
Shots on goal through 40 minutes favoured the visitors 32-22 and the Warriors regained their two-goal lead 2:59 into the final frame.
Vimal Sukumaran took a bad slashing penalty away from the play, putting Kelowna on the power play where Quin Foreman scored his third of the playoffs.
Another power play snipe, by Liam Blackburn at 8:54, put this game away.
Chilliwack bench boss Jason Tatarnic pulled Pelino for the extra attacker with more than six minutes to play, and Hope scored into the empty net to wrap up the scoring.
The three stars were Greenfield (first), Pelino (second) and Jonathan Desbiens (Kelowna, third).
The Fortis BC Energy Player of the Game was Ryan Forbes.
Announced attendance was 1,598
– The Chiefs are in a bad spot now. In this double-round-robin format, holding serve on home ice is key.
Chilliwack almost certainly needs to take both games from Nanaimo, starting on the road Saturday night. They’ll host the Clippers next Monday night and visit Kelowna next Wednesday.
See bchl.ca for the full third round schedule.