The Chilliwack Bruins did exactly what they had to do to put themselves into a playoff spot, with only seven games to go in the season. The Bruins swept their opponents in all three of their games this past weekend, picking up six important points in a tight playoff race. The Bruins have leapt over the Kamloops Blazers, Prince George Cougars, and Everett Silvertips in the standing to find themselves in sixth place in the Western Conference. In fact, the Bruins are the hottest team in the WHL at the moment with a current five-game winning streak.
After grinding out a 3-1 victory against the Lethbridge Hurricanes earlier in the week, the Bruins travelled to Kelowna where they battled it out with the B.C. division leading Rockets. The game was decidedly tight and evenly played. In fact, the game came down to a single shot; Chilliwack forward Jamie Crooks scored the game winning goal in the second period. Bruins netminder Lucas Gore turned away 29 shots in the shutout performance. The Bruins fired 30 shots on Rockets net, with 29 being stopped.
The Bruins returned home to the friendly confines of the Prospera Centre to face the Kamloops Blazers, who they were chasing for the final playoff spot at the time. The intense, hard hitting game was the typical slugfest you come to expect when Bruins meet Blazers. The Bruins came out on top with a 4-1 victory, outshooting their visitors 36-27. With the regulation win, the Bruins usurped the Blazers from their playoff spot and moved a single point ahead of them.
The final game of the weekend for Chilliwack saw them face-off with the top team in the Western Conference, the Portland Winterhawks, who were coming off a 5-0 shutout victory over the Vancouver Giants the previous night. The Bruins were able to get under the skin and into the head of the Winterhawks goaltender Keith Hamilton early, and were able to score often. The Bruins played their style of “hit-‘em-hard, hit-‘em-fast” from the outset and proceeded to beat down Portland 6-2. In the process, Bruins captain Brandon Manning netted the first hat trick by a defenceman in franchise history. Also notable was that Jamie Crooks, who is on fire in the last four games, netted his 17th of the year. Another franchise first occurred in this game as well; forward Ryan Howse scored his league leading 48th marker of the year, which broke the previous Bruins record of 47, which Howse posted last season. Lucas Gore turned in one of his typical all-star performances, making 43 saves.
The Bruins have really cleaned things up in their defensive zone in the last four games; they have averaged only one goal against in the last four contests. With the improved defensive play, the offense has been able to win the team some games, with 14 goals in the four-game stretch. The Bruins now sit in sixth place in the Western Conference with 65 points. They are a mere six points behind the Vancouver Giants, with seven games to go. As Chilliwack showed this past week, six points can be gained in what seems like no time at all.