The Chilliwack Bruins snapped a seven game losing skid Saturday night, downing the Kamloops Blazers 4-3 at Prospera Centre.
In the back half of a home and home against their B.C. division arch-rivals, the Bruins got two goals from Ryan Howse and outstanding goaltending from Lucas Gore to get the win and stay close in the chase for a Western conference playoff spot. Their record now stands at 22-26-2-2, which leaves them 10th in the conference, three points back of Kamloops for the eighth and final post-season berth.
The first period was a bad one for the good guys, who found themselves trailing 2-0 through 20 minutes. The Blazers held a 14-11 edge in shots on goal, opening the scoring just 1:41 in on a goal by Prince George native Dylen Willick.
Thomas Frazee doubled the Kamloops lead at 15:03, notching his 23rd of the season with an assist to defenceman Tyler Hansen.
With Chilliwack’s playoff hopes hanging in the balance and their losing streak in danger of going to eight games, Howse did what great players often do. He took over the game and maybe saved the season.
With a delayed penalty coming up early in period two, Howse worked his way in front of the Blazer net and rifled a shot past Kamloops keeper Jeff Bosch for his 34th of the year, cutting the two-goal deficit in half.
Just over three minutes later, Howse evened the score on a Chilliwack power play. With Blazer blueliner Josh Caron serving two minutes for slashing, Howse again worked his way into the low slot to finish off a nifty feed from Dylen McKinlay, snapping the puck top shelf over the glove of Bosch.
A power play goal was a welcome sight after going 0-for-6 with the man advantage in a 2-1 loss Friday night.
The Chilliwack power play could have done a lot more damage had they been able to cash in on Dalibor Bortnak’s four-minute double minor for high sticking. They could not, and the best chance on the power play belonged to the Blazers.
Colin Smith had an excellent opportunity on a shorthanded two-on-one, but Gore came up with a huge glove stop to keep the score tied at 2-2.
Shots on goal through 40 minutes favoured Kamloops 28-20.
Howse played a role on the third Bruins goal, scoring 43 seconds into the final frame, setting up linemate Roman Horak with a picturesque pass. The Czech import showed off his shot with a top-shelf bullet. His 22nd of the year set a new career high, eclipsing the 21 he tallied as a rookie last season.
The Blazers had a quick response, tying the game just over two minutes later on a goal by seldom-scoring Bernhard Keil. The German winger scored just his second of the season on a harmless looking shot that might have hit the stick of Chilliwack winger Mike Forsyth on its way into the Bruin net.
Sixteen-year-old Brandon Magee was the hero on this night, scoring the game winner at 6:09. Bosch made a highlight reel stop on Magee’s first shot, but the Edmonton native potted the rebound for his eighth of the season, and just his third in his last 21 outings. McKinlay drew the primary assist with another great setup.
The Blazers had their chances to equalize.
Ryan Hanes came within an inch, ringing a shot off the goal-post, and Gore came up with a huge stop in the final minute on a Brendan Ranford deflection.
But the Bruins held on to finally bump the slump.
Chilliwack returns to action Friday night in Kelowna, returning home for games against Kelowna (Saturday) and the Tri-City Americans (Sunday).