The Chilliwack Chiefs return to home ice Monday night with their backs squarely against the wall.
A 5-4 loss to the Surrey Eagles Saturday night has them down 2-0 in a best-of-five second round BCHL series.
That makes game three a do-or-die scenario for the home team, which now needs to win three straight games to move on in the postseason.
The Chiefs played a much better first period than they did Friday night, escaping with a one-goal deficit as opposed to four.
But a disturbing trend did continue.
For the fourth straight game, Chilliwack’s opponent scored on the first shot of the game. On a horrid Chiefs line change, Adam Tambellini led a two-on-one rush, flanked by Trevor Cameron. Tambellini saucered a pass to his linemate, who snapped a quick shot on net.
Chilliwack goaltender Mitch Gillam got a piece of it with his leg, but not enough to keep the puck from flopping across the line.
Otherwise, it was a pretty good period for the Chiefs, who held the shot-clock edge 13-6. Still, they couldn’t solve Surrey goaltender Michael Santaguida, who blanked them 4-0 in game one.
It was Santaguida himself who helped Chilliwack solve that puzzle early in period two.
With the Chiefs on the penalty kill, the netminder ventured out of his net to play the puck, giving it away to shorthanded scoring ace Ryan Donohoe. The 20-year-old put a backhander on net, sneaking the puck through the goalie to tie the game at 1-1.
The Eagles retook the lead six minutes later on a power play goal by Cameron.
Chiefs coach Harvey Smyl had steam coming from his ears after Trevor Hills was assessed a deuce for interference.
On the power play, Abbotsford native Devon Toews launched a point that was stopped by Gillam. But Cameron waded into a goal-mouth scramble, nabbed the rebound and popped it the puck into the cage.
Chilliwack kept coming and evened the score less than two minutes later.
Luke Esposito drew the only assist on Austin Plevy’s fifth of the playoffs at 13:22.
The Chiefs grabbed their first lead of the series at 18:49 on another Donohoe strike. Seconds after missing an easy tap-in, the Ontario native poked the puck past Santaguida for his second of the game and third of the postseason, sending Chilliwack to the third with a 3-2 lead.
That lead stood until the 7:30 mark of the final frame.
Cameron grabbed the puck in the neutral zone and took off on a great solo rush, splitting the Chiefs D before beating Gillam for the hat-trick marker.
The game winner came with seven and a half minutes left, off the stick of Surrey’s Nicolas Pierog. The Eagles won a faceoff in the Chilliwack zone, getting the puck to Craig Wyszomirski at the point. His shot was stopped by Gillam, but Pierog buried the rebound.
Pierog gave the Chiefs a golden opportunity to tie a couple shifts later when he took two minutes for roughing.
On the power play, Esposito looked to have a shot cross the line, but the referees immediately waved it off. On replay, Esposito’s shot was seen to hit the junction of post and crossbar, and did indeed stay out of the net.
Second later, Michael Stenerson scored on a two-on-one rush, popping a pass from Tambellini past Gillam to put Surrey up by two.
The Chiefs got within one with 1:51 to go on a crash-the-crease goal by Spencer Graboski.
Gillam came to the bench with just over a minute remaining and Philip Zielonka took Pierog’s stick to the face with 40 seconds left to give Chilliwack a power play.
Working six-on-four, the Chiefs led a last-gasp charge, but couldn’t beat Santaguida.
The Eagles escaped with the win and a 2-0 series lead.
Game three is Monday night in Chilliwack.