Wilderness guides will tell you the most dangerous thing in the world is a wounded animal, because they will summon everything they’ve got to stay alive.
The same might be said of the Chilliwack Bruins, who fought with the ferocity of a wounded bear to earn a 4-1 home ice victory over the Kelowna Rockets Saturday night. Missing three veteran defenceman (Brandon Manning, Jeff Einhorn and Zach Habscheid), Chilliwack was forced to play a forward, Curt Gogol, on the blueline. The Bruins also had a rookie, Turner Popoff, playing his first Western Hockey League game on D.
But the Bruins played one of their most disciplined games of the year (just one power play against) and did all the little things that coaches love (shot blocks and back checks) to earn their second victory in as many nights against the B.C. division leading Rockets.
Trying to rebound from a 5-4 shootout loss in their own barn Friday night, Kelowna scored the only goal in the first period. Saskatoon native Max Adolph parked in the blue paint and got his stick on a Mitchell Chapman point shot, tipping the puck five-hole on Gore for his second of the year.
Gore appears to be back in form over the last week, and the 20-year-old was both good and lucky through 20 minutes. He was lucky that Slovakian Gale Koren couldn’t hit a wide open net on a perfect feed from Kevin Smith. He was good on several stops, including a huge one on Minnesota Wild draft pick Brett Bulmer.
Bulmer had a shorthanded breakaway from center ice and had the dekes coming fast and furious as he stormed in. Gore almost bit on a backhand fake, but stretched post-to-post to make the toe save as Bulmer went back to the forehand.
Gore was the busier goaltender in period one, facing 12 shots while Kelowna’s Adam Brown faced 10.
The Bruins offence produced two goals in the middle frame.
Brandon Magee got the good guys on the board at 3:25, fighting off the check of Evan Bloodoff to shovel in the rebound from a Robin Soudek shot. Magee’s 10th of the year knotted the score at 1-1, and set the stage for Kevin Sundher’s go-ahead goal.
Ryan Howse earned the assist with a pass out of the right corner. Camped in the crease, Sundher had his first shot stopped by the right skate of Brown. But he shoved the puck and Brown’s paddle across the goal-line at 17:20.
Video review was required to confirm the goal, but referee Ryan Bonnett pointed to center ice and sent Chilliwack into the final frame with a 2-1 lead.
Shots on goal through 40 minutes were dead even at 21-21.
Through all their ups and downs this year, the Bruins have been very good at protecting late leads (
Commitment to team defence was evident early in period three as Jamie Crooks threw himself in front of a Kelowna point shot, and Gogol went down to block a Tyson Barrie attempt.
At the other end, Howse was making life miserable for Brown and the Rockets, scoring twice to put the game away. MacKenzie Johnston earned an unofficial assist on the first, breaking the cardinal rule of defencemen; thou shalt not throw passes up the middle, particularly when you’re the last man back. Howse picked off Johnston’s ill-advised pass and beat Brown easily at 8:58.
With 5:05 remaining, the 19-year-old Calgary Flames prospect took a dish from Roman Horak and snapped the puck from the left faceoff dot, blowing the puck past Brown for his 39th of the year. Howse’s sniping earned him first star honours, with Horak as the second star and Gogol the third.
Chilliwack returns to home ice tomorrow night at 5 p.m., hosting Jim Hiller and his Tri-City Americans at Prospera Centre.