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Pushed To The Brink – Eagles 5, Chiefs 4

Photo: Damon James

Spencer Graboski’s goal got the Chiefs within one, but they ran out of time in this one. Photo: Damon James

Eagles 5, Chiefs 4 (Eagles lead series 2-0) Game 3 Monday night at Prospera Centre

Tough one Saturday night for the Chilliwack Chiefs. The effort was there, and there were things to like – but that’s not what the name of the game is in March.

Here’s what stood out:

1. The atmosphere at the South Surrey Arena was awesome. Really enjoyed…just…being there on Saturday night. Felt like a playoff game. Strong turnout from the Chiefs fans, as the fan bus was sold out in a day. They were loud, too. Really made a difference at times. A nod to them.

2. Chilliwack finally solving Michael Santaguida after being shut out for four periods. Santaguida wasn’t going to be perfect forever, but I started to think for a little bit there. Santaguida is also one of the only goaltenders I’ve seen to make a save with the glove standing up, drop the puck at his feet, and play it outside the blueline from a standstill. Unique.

3. So unique, it was Santaguida’s puckhandling gaffe that allowed Ryan Donohoe to score the first Chilliwack goal of the series. I didn’t actually see Donohoe’s backhander cross the line, as he stuffed it between the left post and the goaltender. Had to go on the reaction of the Chiefs fans on that side to know it was in. Nod to them again.

4. The Eagles’ Trevor Cameron, who pretty much had the game of his life with a hat-trick. That’s the playoffs. Nod to him. It doesn’t have to be Shaw/Tambellini/Hannoun all the time. That’s why the Eagles are so dangerous, and such a good club.

5. One too many odd-man rushes given up by the Chiefs in this game. The first one cost the Chiefs the opening goal on a bad line-change. The 5th goal was a killer with five minutes left – Chilliwack had opened things up pressing for the tie. David Thompson’s pinch from the left point wasn’t successful, and Adam Tambellini took off the other way, feeding Michael Stenerson for the goal. Ill-timed pinches and line changes hurt the Chiefs in the first period of game one, and it stung them again. That’s very frustrating when it happens in October, let alone late March. Game of inches, hockey is. It doesn’t take much.

6. Moments before the 5-3 goal, Luke Esposito just missed on a chance in front. Looked like the puck hit both the crossbar and the post, and was waved off very quickly. Looked like it was in from my angle. Inches.

grabscelly

Graboski after the 5-4 goal with 1:51 left in the 3rd. Photo: Damon James

7. 6 on 4 power play late, down a goal, Esposito wins a faceoff cleanly – Perron-Fontaine creeping in towards the circle, and the puck shot right past him out to centre. The Chiefs would not threaten again. Inches.

8. No fights, but plenty of scrums, wrestling matches, cross-penalty box chirping, fans getting into it with players and coaches – You know, a Chilliwack-Surrey playoff game. What a blast.

There have been stretches where the Chiefs have looked like the better team in this series, no question about it. The desire to win is clearly there, as anybody at the South Surrey Arena on Saturday night can attest.

But….

Well…..

Now – the right way to look at this from a Chilliwack standpoint is this: Surrey did what they were supposed to do in the first two games at home. The Chiefs have to do the same upon the series’ return to ‘The Hood’ on Monday night, and then again on Tuesday to give themselves a chance in game 5 – where anything can happen.

Otherwise, it’s an offseason.

Maybe an offseason talking about inches.

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