A team with nothing to play for faced a team with everything to play for Sunday night at Prospera Centre, with a predictable result.
The playoff bound Chilliwack Chiefs had zero on the line as they hosted a desperate Victoria Grizzlies squad facing a must-win scenario. While the home team didn’t mail it in, they were far from their sharpest form, falling 8-5.
Chilliwack opened the scoring at 6:27 of period one on a nice goal off the rush. Kohen Olischefski started the play, carrying the puck down the right wing. He dished it into the middle for Jesse Lansdell who flipped it to the other wing for Darien Craighead. No. 7 stepped into a one-timer, blasting the puck past Victoria keeper Matthew Galajda for his 19th of the year.
The lead was short-lived.
Thirty four seconds later it was Grizzly D-man Chuck Bennis chucking a puck on net from the left point. Chiefs goalie Matteo Esposito either didn’t see it or misjudged it as it evaded his glove and slipped under the cross-bar.
The home team regained the lead with 2:40 to go in the opening frame.
With Chilliwack’s big line pressing and the Grizzlies scrambling all over their zone, Craighead skated into the slot and fed a pass to Jordan Kawaguchi at the right goal post. Captain K steered it in for his team-leading 43rd.
Again, the lead was short lived.
Just 69 seconds later Victoria’s Cole Pickup scooted into the high slot and lazered a shot that caught the top left corner over Esposito’s blocker.
The visiting Grizz started the day two points behind Alberni Valley for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Island conference. As the puck dropped to start the game in Chilliwack the Bulldogs were tied 1-1 early in the third period of their game against the Powell River Kings and Victoria was still alive.
But by the time the second period started in Chilliwack, the Bulldogs had picked up two points with a 2-1 overtime win.
The Grizzlies probably knew by then that they were dead, and that made the rest of the game in Chilliwack officially useless for both teams.
Victoria goals by Pickup and Brayden Gelsinger had the Grizzlies up 4-3 through 40 minutes. Chilliwack’s third goal came on a five-on-three power play, with Craighead sniping his second of the game and 30th of the season.
Pickup added his hat-trick marker 3:02 into the final frame, putting his team up by two, and that was enough on a night when the Chiefs lacked motivation..
Jared Virtanen scored Victoria’s sixth at 4:13 and on the ensuing shift Chilliwack coach Jason Tatarnic held his breath as Craighead dropped the mitts with Jake Stevens. The last thing the coach wanted was to see one of his superstars break his hand on a helmet or face-shield, but Craighead looked okay as he dropped Stevens with a right and left the ice with an automatic game misconduct.
After Aaron O’Neill scored for Chilliwack to make it 6-4 the Grizzlies answered with goals from Alex Peck and Pickup.
Kawaguchi picked up his 44th of the year at 17:27 to wrap up the scoring.
The three stars were Pickup (first), Kawaguchi (second) and PJ Conlon (Victoria, third).
The Fortis BC Energy Player of the Game was Linden Hora.