Black Press Sports
The Chilliwack Chiefs outplayed, outshot and outchanced the Nanaimo Clippers Monday night at Prospera Centre.
And still they lost, thwarted by goaltender Evan Johnson in a 3-2 defeat.
The Clippers keeper was outstanding, stopping 39 shots and putting Chilliwack squarely behind the eight ball in the third round of the B.C. Hockey League playoffs.
In the race to get three wins first, they are lagging behind. Chilliwack (1-2) will be in must-win mode Wednesday night as they travel to West Kelowna to face the Warriors (1-1), while the Clips (2-1) are one victory away from a spot in the Fred Page Cup final.
Chilliwack visits West Kelowna Wednesday night, while Nanaimo entertains West Kelowna Friday night.
The Chiefs found room to roam against Nanaimo and looked like the much better team in period one before 1,653 fans at Prospera Centre.
Despite killing off two Clipper power plays and having none of their own, Chilliwack out-shot Nanaimo 13-5.
With more finish they could have scored twice.
Darien Craighead missed by inches on a cross-crease feed from Jordan Kawaguchi and Taylor Allan fanned on a centering feed from Kohen Olischefski — both bluechip chances against Johnson.
Chiefs netminder Aidan Pelino didn’t have much to do as his teammates locked down Nanaimo’s big guns. Chilliwack bench boss Jason Tatarnic tried to play Dennis Cholowski and Austin Adam on defence every time Sheldon Rempal took a shift, and the BCHL’s regular season goal scoring leader didn’t get a sniff.
For all that, it was Nanaimo opening the scoring midway through the second period.
With Ryan Forbes in the penalty box for high sticking and the Clips on the power play, point man Kale Bennett wristed a shot on net. Pelino left the rebound on the doorstep where Nolan Aibel and Chris Dodero had whacks at it.
Pelino stretched post to post leaving the top of the net open and Dodero popped the puck over him for his fourth of the playoffs.
Chilliwack had back-to-back power plays of their own late in the middle frame, with lots of activity and near misses around Johnson’s net. But Nanaimo escaped to the third period clinging to that one-goal lead.
The Chiefs erased that 1:34 into period three on a Darien Craighead goal.
The Clippers fell 4-1 to the Chiefs Saturday night before 1,740 fans at Frank Crane Arena,
Nanaimo head coach Mike Vandekamp, didn’t think his team was sharp enough Saturday.
“We’ve been playing a pretty strong game when it comes to having heavy sticks and battling and we didn’t win enough battles – small stuff, faceoffs, puck possession…” he said. “And mentally and emotionally we didn’t have as much focus and as much discipline as we’ve had in the games up to this point.”
After a scoreless first period, the Chiefs’ Jake Smith opened the scoring after a giveaway led to a two-on-none opportunity right in front. Kale Kane added a power-play marker to make it 2-0, but Rempal closed the gap to 2-1 after deking out the Chiefs’ goalie.
In the third period, Kawaguchi was allowed to come out from behind the net and fire a wrister home. The Clippers hit a post and a crossbar in the period, but came no closer and Craighead closed out the scoring with an empty-netter.
Pelino was the winning goalie with 34 saves and Johnson suffered the loss, making 28 stops.
“They came hard at us and for a lot of it, we handled them pretty well, but we just had a couple bad shifts and they’re good at capitalizing on their opportunities,” said Edwin Hookenson, Clippers alternate captain.
Forbes, Chiefs centreman and a former Clipper, said there was “real animosity” out there considering the teams don’t play each other often. He said the two teams played hard and with good pace.
“We knew they’re a good, hard-working team, we knew they’d come out strong and we just did our best to work hard,” said Forbes.
The Chiefs knew they needed to get back on even terms in Round 3 after losing their opener to West Kelowna.
“We knew coming into this there’s three pretty optimistic teams; they’re all good teams,” said Forbes. “So you lose a game, you want to have a bounce-back game and that’s what we accomplished tonight.”