Ties are a rare commodity in the BCHL, so rare that the Chilliwack Chiefs had yet to experience one this season.
Each of their 40 prior games had ended with a winner and a loser.
But the Chiefs finally found a game they couldn’t settle in 70 minutes Sunday night, battling the Westside Warriors to a 3-3 draw at Prospera Centre.
The Chiefs scored twice in the opening three minutes of this one, getting their first goal just 51 seconds in. David Bondra pounced on a loose puck in the Westside zone and took advantage of some horrific defensive coverage, darting right-to-left across the slot.
Warriors netminder Dwayne Rodrigue followed, leaving plenty of space on the glove side. Bondra’s cross-body wrister snuck inside the post, giving the Maryland native 16 goals on the year.
Chilliwack struck again at 2:30 on a goal by Michael Spring.
Mammoth defenceman Anderson White earned the first assist with a foray deep into the Westside zone and a hot shot that Rodrigue couldn’t handle. The puck squirted off to the left, where Spring was left with an unguarded cage.
The 20-year-old calmly popped the biscuit in the basket for his fifth of the year and a 2-0 Chilliwack lead.
When White was acquired from the USHL’s Des Moines Buccaneers at the CJHL trade deadline, Chiefs general manager Harvey Smyl insisted the 20-year-old had offensive upside.
He said this even though White’s career numbers suggested nothing of the sort, leaving at least one sports writer skeptical.
Apparently, Smyl was right.
“I’ve never had the green light to play as aggressively as I do here,” White said of his emerging offensive skill. “It was always tough for me when coaches told me not to do it, when I felt I could contribute that way. So, being able to do it here is a really good feeling.”
White’s Chiefs had all the momentum at that point, but a Spencer Graboski roughing minor at 8:05 gave the visitors a reprieve. The Warriors didn’t score on the power play, but they got some life in their legs.
“It was a great start, and maybe everyone got a little hyped up about the two goals and thought that would continue,” White said. “Forwards started not coming back far enough and the D started hanging onto the puck too long.”
Less than three minutes later, Westside was on the board on a goal by Manitoba native Dru Morrison. Chilliwack defenceman David Thompson started the sequence, picking up the puck in the neutral zone and retreating back into his own end.
Thompson ended up giving the puck away, and chaos ensued. Morrison finished the play with a wrister from the point that caught the top corner behind Chiefs netminder Mitch Gillam.
Shots on goal through 20 minutes favoured the Warriors 13-12.
The Warriors drew even at 4:37 of period two on another long-range bomb. This one came from Westside defenceman Matthew Berry-Lamontagna, who fired from the Coopers Foods ad on the far left wing boards. The long-named one put the puck past Gillam for his first of the year, chasing the keeper from the Chilliwack net.
Backup goaltender Bryton Udy took over and did much better, though he looked a lot like Gillam on the third Westside goal.
The Warriors took the lead on a strike by defenceman Peter MacIntosh, whose shot from the right point found its way through a partial screen and past Udy at 9:45.
But with the seconds ticking away in the middle frame, White came through with a timely tally for the home side.
The hulking blueliner cranked a shot from the left point that looked to change direction on its way into the Westside net.
Derek Huisman and two Warrior defenders were both in the path of the puck, but it was White getting credit for his first of the year.
“I thought it was Huisman’s stick that tipped it, but he told me it wasn’t,” White said. “So it definitely went off a Westside player. I probably should have grabbed the puck. It’s not my first BCHL goal, but it is my first as a Chief, so I should see if I can find it.”
The last highlight of the second period was a fight in which Chilliwack’s Shay Laurent absolutely pummelled Westside’s Shawn Hochhausen.
Shots on goal through 40 minutes favoured the Chiefs 29-20.
The third period started with another fight, this one between Thompson and MacIntosh.
MacIntosh jumped Thompson after the Chiefs D-man laid out a clean neutral zone hit on Warriors forward Marcus Basara.
Chiefs head coach Harvey Smyl was livid that MacIntosh didn’t get an extra two for instigating.
He vented his frustration upon referee Nick Swaine, and less than two minutes later his team benefited from a possible make-up call as Westside’s Max French was assessed a double-minor for slashing and hooking.
But the Chiefs came up empty on the four minute power play.
Neither team scored again before the end of regulation time, setting up sudden-death overtime action.
Five minutes of four-on-four went by uneventfully, leaving five minutes of uniquely-BCHL three-on-three hockey.
“It’s a lot of fun, very exciting and nerve-wracking out there,” White said. “Things can change very quickly if you get caught up ice or make a bad read.”
The Warriors almost ended it in the first minute when a horrible line change left Basara with a breakway from the blueline in.
But Udy came up with his biggest save, stretching out his left leg as Basara tried to slip the puck inside the left goal post.
“We were rotating three defencemen, shooting a D-man off to get a forward on for the rush. It gets a little confusing sometimes, and that’s what happened there,” White explained. “On the breakaway, Bryton thought he (Basara) was going to go forehand, so he shifted his weight. The guy went to his backhand, and Bryton kicked his leg out and got it with the blade of his skate.”
And that was it as the clock ran out with the teams still tied at 3-3. They say a tie is like kissing your sister, but with points at a premium in the Interior conference playoff race, the Chiefs will take the result.
“Right after the game, you think about all the opportunities you had to put the puck in the net, and it’s tough,” White said. “But one point is better than none and talking to the guys in the room, they think we’re starting to get back to what the Chiefs are all about.”
Chilliwack sits at 22-16-1-2, third in the Interior conference standings.
They host the second place Merritt Centennials Friday night at Prospera Centre.
The last place Trail Smoke Eaters are in Chilliwack Saturday night.
Puck drop for both games is 7 p.m.