On a night when the results of the game were meaningless to his Chilliwack Chiefs, head coach Brian Maloney was able to have some fun with his lineup, and it resulted in a special moment for Chilliwack’s Bowen brothers.
Maloney opted to give hard-charging winger Adam Berg a rest, and dressed 16 year old Ethan Bowen in his place. Playing in just his fifth career junior A game, Ethan was sent out to center ice to take the opening faceoff, which he won, flanked by his 19 year old brother Ryan.
“Brian texted me yesterday morning saying, ‘Get prepared. You’re in Thursday,’” Ethan said. “He never mentioned starting with Ryan on the wing though. It was pretty cool when we heard the lineup. People were making jokes about Daniel and Henrik twins. Powell (Connor) was joking about me not winning that faceoff and I told him I was going to and I did, so we had a laugh about that.”
That alone was a special moment for the siblings, but what came later in the period was even better, with Ryan setting up Ethan for his first junior A goal. Ryan skated down the right wing wall below the hashmarks before delivering a crisp pass across the goal crease to Ethan, who banged it in at 18:27.
One of four Chilliwack goals in a game they won 4-1 over Steinbach’s Pistons, and a moment they’ll never forget.
“That puck is in my stall right now and it’ll be in my room soon,” Ethan said with a grin. “I just put my stick down and Ryan’s pass happened to hit it and go in. It was a perfect pass.”
Corey Andonovski had opened the scoring just over a minute earlier, with a big helping hand from Kaden Pickering. Pickering used his speed to track down a Steinbach player behind the Pistons net and pick his pocket. Pickering looped out of the right corner and dished the disc to Andonovski in the slot. Ando finished with a top shelf rocket, ripping the puck over the glove of Steinbach goalie Matthew Radomosky.
Through 20 minutes, the team with nothing to play for was beating the team with everything to play for 2-0, outshooting them 14-7.
The Pistons needed to win the game to leapfrog the Wellington Dukes in the standings and qualify for semi-final Saturday, but they played with a curious lack of urgency.
If you didn’t know which team was facing sudden death, you’d have picked the Chiefs.
The score was the same through 40 minutes as it was after 20.
Steinbach blew a fantastic chance to cut the lead in half when Austin Heidemann stormed in on a shorthanded breakaway and was tripped at the last second by Chilliwack captain Will Calverley.
Heidemann was given a penalty shot against Chiefs goalie Mathieu Caron, who, by the way, hadn’t seen live action since late in the regular season on Feb. 24. The swift-skating Piston forward came in at a crawl and loaded up a wrist shot, only to see Caron flash the leather and get it with the glove.
“During the six weeks we’ve had, the ends of practices have been a lot of shootouts,” Caron said. “I felt confident in my skills and knew I just had to wait him out and try to make myself look as big as I could.”
Caron put a little extra flare on the glove save, not a full windmill, but a definite swagger snap.
“It’s all part of the fun,” he said. “When you make a big glove save you always want to put a little extra on it.”
Caron committed more thievery early in the third period. Steinbach’s Jaret Lalli came down the right wing with a hot shot that the goalie stopped, but the rebound came out to the slot where Tyson McConnell had a half empty net to shoot at. But Caron stretched post to post, making an acrobatic save to keep the Pistons at zero.
“It was a little nerve wracking for me at the start of the game, but I fell back into my rhythym pretty quickly,” the netminder noted. “The penalty shot kind of helped get my confidence back up and after that it was smooth sailing.
“I wouldn’t have minded the shutout, but that’s the way it goes.”
The Chilliwack power play wasn’t good for anything but killing the clock for most of the game, but it finally produced a goal early in the third period as Pickering flew into a goalmouth scramble and, doing a Bobby Orr-esque dive, snapped the puck past Radomsky at 6:50.
The Pistons got their lone goal on a five-on-three power play.
Anthony Vincent was hauled down without penalty on a shorthanded rush and Steinbach broke back four on two. Forward Drew Worrad was able to skate straight through the slot and rifle a blocker side shot past Caron at 9:23.
They’d get no closer.
Chilliwack’s Harrison Blaisdell wrapped up the scoring at 16:45, taking a shot from the left-wing wall that hit a Piston in front of the net and fluttered up and over Radomsky.
Despite needing to win, Steinbach coach Paul Dyck never got Radomsky to the bench for the extra attacker and 3:15 later the final whistle blew on the Pistons season.
Chilliwack’s Player of the Game was Pickering. Steinbach’s was McConnell.
The Chiefs return to action Saturday night at 7 p.m. in a semi-final vs the Ottawa Junior Senators.