By Eric J. Welsh,
Jordan Kawaguchi scored two goals Saturday night as his Chilliwack Chiefs bumped the Langley Rivermen from the BCHL playoffs.
The Chiefs won 3-1 at the George Preston Arena, taking the best-of-seven series in six games.
The game ended in jubilation, with a vocal group of Chilliwack fans singing ‘Shananana, Shananana, Hey Hey, Goodbye’ so loudly in a hostile arena that it seemed they outnumbered the home crowd two to one.
The Chiefs move on to face the winner of the Wenatchee/Prince George series that could be decided Sunday night.
This game got off to a scary start when, 5:35 in, Langley captain Cooper Leitch drove Chilliwack defenceman Powell Connor into the end boards behind the Chiefs net.
Connor stayed down for a good five minutes, but was eventually able to stand up and get off the ice under his own power.
Leitch was tossed from the game and handed a five-minute major and Kawaguchi made the Rivermen pay, sniping his third goal and ninth point of the series on the power play that followed. Captain K caught Langley netminder Braedon Fleming playing deep in his crease and fooled the keeper with a backhand dart for a 1-0 Chilliwack lead.
Rivermen forward Reid Yochim evened it up on a shot that goaltender Mark Sinclair often stops, ripping a wrist shot over Sinclair’s glove at 14:33 for his first of the series. It was the only blemish in an otherwise stellar night for the stopper, who turned aside 32 of 33 shots.
The next goal didn’t come until late in the second period.
Connor McCarthy lit the lamp on a Chiefs power play, taking a pass from Kawaguchi and wiring a wrister past Fleming from the left point.
A desperate Langley squad pressed for the equalizer in period three, helped by a Chilliwack team that slipped into a defensive shell.
The Chiefs recorded just four shots on goal, sitting back as the Rivermen came in waves. But Chilliwack’s defenders stayed calm and executed the plan of head coach Jason Tatarnic well, keeping Langley shooters to the outside. Sinclair was razor sharp when an attacker broke through.
Langley coach Bobby Henderson called Fleming to the bench with a little under two minutes remaining, then watched with despair as Kawaguchi applied the dagger. Leading a two-on-one rush, Anthony Vincent zipped the puck across to Gooch who deposited the puck into the empty cage.
Fifty five seconds later the final horn made it official.
Langley done and Chilliwack moving on.