Road trip ends with shootout loss

A tough three-games-in-three-nights road trip ended in heart-breaking fashion Sunday night as the Chilliwack Bruins dropped a 4-3 shootout loss to the Seattle Thunderbirds at the ShoWare Centre in Seattle.

Ryan Howse had a pair of goals and goalie Lucas Gore made 67 saves in regulation and overtime. But it wasn’t enough to halt a losing skid that has now grown to four games. Sunday’s result leaves the good guys ninth in the conference with a record of 24-29-2-3, four points behind the Kamloops Blazers (26-31-3-1) with three games in hand.

The Bruins scored the only goal in an action-packed first period, with red-hot Howse pulling the trigger. With Seattle’s Mitch Elliott chugging back into the play after serving two minutes for charging, Howse finished off a beautiful feed from Dylen McKinlay, snapping his 43rd of the season past T-Birds netminder Calvin Pickard.

Howse has 11 goals in his last eight games, leaving him two behind Spokane’s Tyler Johnson for the league lead.

Chilliwack had an excellent chance to double the lead when Seattle’s Burke Gallimore (cross-checking) and Brendan Rouse (interference) took back-to-back minors. The Bruins had 56 seconds of five-on-three power play time, but couldn’t cash in. Pickard took a sure goal away from Howse, sliding cross-crease with the double pad-stack to rob the Prince George native.

Lucas Gore was outstanding at the other end, turning away 22 shots in the opening frame.

The T-Birds finally solved the Chilliwack stopper 4:57 into period two with a power play goal by Travis Toomey. With Roman Horak banished to the box for hooking, Toomey took a feed from Rouse and snapped a glove-side shot off the post and in for his 19th of the year.

The Bruins re-took the lead at 13:48 on a goal by Robin Soudek. He didn’t earn an assist on the play, but Chilliwack defenceman Jesse Zgraggen deserved one for a nice pinch at the left point. Soudek nabbed the puck, cut to the middle and netted his 18th of the season with a low hard shot that eluded Pickard. The lead grew to 3-1 at 18:01 on another goal by Howse. Linemate Kevin Sundher did some great work to set him up, dipsy-doodling around a couple T-Bird defenders before firing a backhand shot. Howse buried the rebound.

Sundher’s assist extended his point streak to seven games.

Eighteen seconds later a 10-player brawl broke out. The chaos resulted in 11 minors, two fighting majors, four 10-minute misconducts and the approval of 5,319 Seattle fans. Chilliwack’s Brandon Magee got the worst of it with two minutes for cross-checking, two minutes for instigating, five minutes for fighting and the misconduct.

Unbeaten this season when leading after 40 minutes, the Bruins picked a bad time to cough up a third period lead. Elliott cut the deficit in half at 11:40 and Colin Jacobs got a power play marker with 1:48 remaining.

That was it for regulation and then overtime, leaving the teams to settle things in the shootout. Howse got the Bruins on the board first with Gallimore responding. Sundher missed for the first time this year (three for four), falling victim to a Pickard poke-check. Jacobs put the T-Birds up 2-1 and put all the pressure on Horak.

The Czech hit the goal-post, giving Seattle the shootout win.

The Bruins are back in action Friday night, visiting the Vancouver Giants. The G-men are in Chilliwack Saturday night and the Prince George Cougars make their final trip to Prospera Centre Sunday night.

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