Wenatchee’s Lucas Sowder sinks Chilliwack Chiefs with overtime winner

The Chiefs played well against the BCHL champion Wild, but fell 2-1 in their RBC Cup opener.

The Chilliwack Chiefs dropped their opener at the RBC Cup in heartbreaking fashion Saturday night, falling 2-1 in overtime to the Wenatchee Wild at Prospera Centre.

Playing their first game since early March against the reigning BCHL champs, with new head coach Brian Maloney running the bench, the home team turned in a workmanlike effort. But the same problem that haunted them throughout the regular season and first round of the playoffs came back to bite them again as they failed to score a key goal when it mattered most.

“We’ve struggled to score all year,” Maloney acknowledged afterwards while adding he was very proud of his team. “We’re going to have to find ways to get pucks on net and look for some tips and stuff like that.

Wenatchee, a team that normally has no problem putting pucks in nets, must have been kicking themselves for all the opportunities they squandered in the first period.

The Wild were handed three power plays by an amped-up undisciplined Chiefs squad, including a five-on-three for 75 seconds. But the normally potent Wenatchee PP led by BCHL MVP Jasper Weatherby came up empty. At even strength, Wild forward August (Baron) Von Ungern had a great chance to open the scoring when a neutral zone turnover gave him a breakaway from the Chilliwack blueline in. But Von Ungern failed to slip his blocker-side shot past Chiefs netminder Daniel Chenard, and the score was tied at zeroes through 20 minutes.

It was Chenard’s crew who opened the scoring with the only goal of the second period.

Skyler Brind’Amour started Chilliwack’s play with some good spade work to get the puck back to the right point. Kyle Yewchuk fired a wrist shot that slammed off the end boards behind the Wenatchee net and came out the other side. In the right place at the right time, Jared Turcotte collected the puck and rifled a sharp-angle shot past diving Wild keeper Austin Park.

The score stayed 1-0 until less than 10 minutes remained in the game.

Off an offensive zone draw in the Chilliwack zone, Weatherby got the puck to defenceman Cooper Zech, who wristed a high shot on goal from the point. The puck hit Chiefs D-man Powell Conner in the goal-mouth and bounced to the right, where AJ Vanderbeck was waiting to snipe a sharp-angle shot past Chenard.

“That’s a line you just try to manage, and I think they are the best line in Canada,” Maloney said. “You just try to take away their time and space and get some bodies on them. I thought we did a decent job on them early in the game and they just kind of took over, which is to be expected.

“But for the most part I thought Vinnie (Anthony Vincent), (Adam) Berg and Cavs (Will Calverley) did a good job on them and they are up to the challenge.”

Chilliwack had a glorious chance to end it in regulation when Wenatchee took a too-many-men bench minor with exactly two minutes to play, but the most exciting moment in the PP was Chiefs captain breaking Wild goalie Park’s mask with a high wrist shot, and off to overtime we went.

Ottawa took 69 seconds to end OT in a 2-1 win over Wellington earlier in the day and Lucas Sowder took 11 seconds to give the Wild a win in this one. Collecting the puck off the opening faceoff, the speedster built up speed flying into the Chilliwack zone, split Chiefs Marcus Tesink and Tommy Lee, and beat Chenard on a spectacular end-to-end rush.

Chilliwack’s Player of the Game award went to Jared Turtte.Wenatchee’s Player of the Game was Lucas Sowder.

The Chiefs return to action tomorrow night with a 7 p.m. start against the Eastern regional rep Ottawa Junior Senators.

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