Vees close out Chilliwack 4-0

Confidence and optimism on Tuesday. Heartbreak and despair on Friday.

Eric Welsh

Black Press Sports

Confidence and optimism on Tuesday.

Heartbreak and despair on Friday.

A lot can change in three days, as the BCHL’s Chilliwack Chiefs discovered this week.

On Tuesday night, the Chiefs were celebrating a 3-1 win over Penticton, whooping and hollering and considering the possibility of an epic first-round playoff upset.

By 9:12 Friday night, their season was over after a 4-0 loss to those same Vees in game six of their  best-of-seven series.

The Chiefs poured everything they had into the must-win game, but this time pure skill beat hard work.

Backed by a vocal crowd of 2,457 at the Prospera Centre, Chilliwack came out playing the physical game that got them this far. Local kid Josh Hansen set the tone a couple shifts in, leveling Penticton d-man Zach Urban behind the Vees’ net.

But the special teams that were so key for the Chiefs through five games abandoned them on this night. Chilliwack had three power plays in the first period and came up empty three times.

They struck out on another power play early in the second period, and ended the night 0-for-5.

Chilliwack’s penalty kill was better, led by shot-blocking demon Michael Spring, who repeatedly threw himself in front of Mike Reilly point shots.

The Vees opened the scoring five-on-five at 5:35 of period two on a flukey sort of goal.

Steven Fogarty sent a backhand centering pass into the Chilliwack goal-mouth from behind the net, and Chiefs’ netminder Mitch Gillam started moving left to right. But Fogarty’s pass hit the skate of Chilliwack defenceman Matthew Hutchinson, and Bryce Gervais slipped the puck between Gillam and the goal post for his third of the postseason.

Penticton’s next goal came 13 minutes later, credited to Wade Murphy. Gillam stretched post to post to thwart Murphy as he tried to bury the rebound of a Mario Lucia shot. But the puck dropped behind him, and Gillam’s own left leg swept the puck across the goal-line to put the Vees up 2-0.

Penticton’s power play finally broke through late in the middle frame.

Travis St. Denis shoveled the puck into the goal-crease after a rush down the right wing. Lucia went to the blue paint and chipped the puck up and over Gillam’s blocker to send the Vees to the third period with a seemingly insurmountable lead.

Chilliwack had another power play chance early in the final frame when Nick Buchanan hooked down David Bondra in front of the Penticton net. Joey Benik added an empty netter with 1:16 left.

Penticton meets the Merritt Centennials in the Interior Conference final series starting Tuesday night.

Buffalo d-man Vinny Muto scored, unassisted, at 18:14 of OT, as the Cowichan Valley Capitals clipped the Surrey Eagles 5-4 in Duncan. Brett Knowles had 2+2 for the Caps.

Game 6 went Saturday night in Surrey.

Teal Burns supplied 1+2 as the Powell River Kings stopped the visiting Coquitlam Express 4-1, grabbing a 3-2 series lead.

Chris Williams, Evan Richardson and Daniel Schuler, into an empty net, rounded out the Powell River offence.

Vernon’s Curtis Lazar had 1+1 as the host Edmonton Oil Kings opened the WHL playoffs with a 3-0 win over the Kootenay Ice before 9,000 fans.