Eric Welsh – Chilliwack Progress
Luck favoured the Langley Rivermen Friday night as they drew first blood in their first round playoff series versus the Chilliwack Chiefs.
The Rivermen benefited from three lucky-bounce goals in a 5-4 win at Prospera Centre, taking the W despite being outshot 41-32.
Tanner Versluis had two of them as Langley beat Chilliwack for the first time in nine meetings this season.
The home team got off to a rocky start and found themselves trailing 2-0 less than eight minutes in.
Ethan Leyh opened the scoring with a power play snipe. Defenceman Alec Capstick held in a clearing attempt at the left point and slid the puck cross ice to Leyh. The Port Moody native ripped a shot from the right faceoff dot that beat Chiefs keeper Daniel Chenard at 6:12.
The Rivermen got lucky on their second one.
A shot from forward Devin Leduc banged off the end boards and teammate Versluis before finding its way into the goal-mouth. It took a 90 degree carom off Chiefs defenceman Brody Gagno and into the net, and the visitors were very, very happy.
But 70 seconds later they were sad as Jacques Bouquot cut their lead in half.
Langley blueliner Jake Livingstone tried an ill-advised diagonal cross-ice pass in his own end. Bouquot intercepted it, skated in alone and put a glove side wrister past goalie Braedon Fleming.
Chilliwack tied it in the final minute on a goal by the captain, Skyler Brind’Amour.
With both teams playing four-on-four, No. 17 in white took a lap around the offensive zone, spinning away from Livingstone along the right wing wall and curling away from Garrett Daly along the left wing wall. He ended up in the high slot where he rifled a wrister that evaded Fleming’s mitt.
The Chiefs took their first lead on a goal by Ethan Bowen.
Brind’Amour drew the assist, shoveling the puck into the blue paint where Bowen found it before Fleming, popping it past the goalie 4:12 into period two.
Versluis scored in similar fashion at 6:15 to briefly tie the game, but a goal from an unexpected source gave the Chiefs a 4-3 lead through 40 minutes.
At the tail end of a long fourth-line shift, Brett Rylance darted into the Langley zone and had the puck poked away by a Rivermen defender. Clark Nelson grabbed the disc, skated behind the net and tucked a wraparound inside the far post.
The Chiefs couldn’t lock it down.
The home team gave up primo chances in the final frame and it eventually came back to bite them in the butt.
Goalie Daniel Chenard started the period staring down Matteo Pecchia, thwarting the Langley speedster on a breakaway. He threw himself across the net to take away a point-blank chance by Leyh, and seconds after that, the goalie slid across his crease and squeezed his legs together as Leyh flew down the left wing and tried a five-hole shot.
But with 4:52 to go, Chenard was down and out in his goal crease as Langley’s Mark Gallant scored on a bank shot from behind the end line to tie the game.
With 1:49 to go, Leyh skated down the left wing and put a centering pass into the goal mouth where it hit a Chiefs defender and pinballed into the net.
Chenard came to the bench for the extra attacker in the final minute and the Chiefs had an offensive zone faceoff with 20 seconds remaining. Brind’Amour won the draw but Chilliwack couldn’t get a shot as the Rivermen held on for the one-goal win.
The three stars were Brind’Amour (first), Versluis (second) and Cole Donhauser (third) with Nelson the Fortis BC Energy Player of the Game.