The Chilliwack Chiefs are halfway to completing an epic comeback in the BCHL playoffs after beating the Langley Rivermen Thursday night at Prospera Centre.
Cole Donhauser and Kevin Wall each collected their first goals of the postseason in a 2-1 win that cut Chilliwack’s series deficit to 3-2.
For the first time in this series, the Chiefs looked like they did during the regular season.
The offensive firepower has yet to show up, with big guns Wall, Harrison Blaisdell and Matt Holmes combining for one goal in five games, but just about everything has clicked into place.
Two wins down. Two to go with no margin for error.
A big part of Langley’s success through the first four games of this series was physical play.
The Rivermen walked the fine line between clean and dirty, and the Chiefs were slow to push back. That changed noticeably in game five. Chilliwack’s fourth line set the tone every time they were on the ice, with Clark Nelson, Jacob Slipec and Chase Nameth hurling themselves around like 175 pound pinballs.
Nelson and Slipec had the visitors up in arms late in the opening frame when they caught Langley forward Ethan Leyh with a sandwich hit in the neutral zone, and Nelson delivered a ‘Crunch of the Game’ hit to Jake Livingstone that had the hometown crowd cheering.
Their play had a two-fold effect.
Several teammates followed their lead and upped their physical game, and Langley was goaded into taking some penalties.
Chilliwack scored the only goal of the opening 20 on the power play, with Ryan Helliwell in the sin bin for taking a run at defenceman Alexander Marrocco.
Point man Nathan Kelly saucered a pass to Cole Donhauser in the right faceoff circle. From one knee, falling away from the net, the New York native snapped a shot that caught net inside the far post.
The Chiefs led 1-0 on the scoreboard and 8-5 on the shot-clock.
The next goal didn’t come until midway through the third period.
Brett Rylance earned a highlight reel assist as he drove wide to the left around Langley defenceman Ryan Helliwell. At the bottom of the faceoff circle he tapped the brakes, executed a half spin and fed a backhand pass across the goal-mouth to Kevin Wall, who had a tap-in for his first of the playoffs.
At the other end of the ice, Daniel Chenard was locked in.
The goalie went down awkwardly early in the game, stayed down for a moment or two extra and for the rest of the game looked a bit uncomfortable between whistles.
But whatever pain he felt didn’t show up in his play as he turned in perhaps his best performance of the series.
The only puck to evade him was one he didn’t see. With 4:36 remaining in the game, Langley defenceman Alec Capstick fired a half-slapper from the point that the goalie couldn’t track through a forest of bodies in the goal mouth.
Otherwise he was perfect.
His biggest save came on a Rivermen power play in the second period when Tanner Versluis was left all alone at the top of his crease. Chenard showed no lack of flexibility stretching post to post to make the save, robbing Ethan Leyh on another blue-chip chance moments later.
The Quebec kid ended up stopping 26 shots.
Since being lit up for three goals on 10 shots in the first period of game three, Chilliwack’s netminder has stopped 64 of 66 pucks and looks back to his dominant self.
That’s another great sign as the Chiefs try to extend the series tomorrow night in Langley.
Game time for game six is 7:15 at the George Preston Arena.
If the Chiefs force a game seven, it’ll be a 7 p.m. start Saturday night at Prospera Centre.