By Jason LaRose, Hockey Canada
CHILLIWACK, B.C. – Kaden Pickering broke open a tie game with 8:44 to go, and the Chilliwack Chiefs punched their ticket to the championship game at the 2018 RBC Cup with a thrilling 3-2 semifinal win over the Ottawa Jr. Senators on Saturday night.
The Chiefs will face the Wellington Dukes in the final Sunday (4 p.m. PT, TSN), looking to become the third host team in the last four years to claim Canada’s National Junior A Championship.
With overtime looming (again), Kyle Yewchuk threw a shot on net that found its way to Pickering, who knocked the loose puck past Jr. Senators goaltender Connor Hicks to ignite the pro-Chiefs crowd at the Prospera Centre.
Chilliwack leaned heavily on its penalty kill to help it through; the Chiefs killed off all seven Ottawa power plays in the game, including a pair of four-minute man advantages in the third period.
For the tournament, the hosts have allowed just a single power-play goals in 25 chances.
The Chiefs were on the board first at 9:21 of the first period when Anthony Vincent swept in a Marcus Tesink rebound from the doorstep, but Owen Guy followed the bouncing puck and swatted the tying goal past Chilliwack netminder Daniel Chenard at 18:09 to bring the Jr. Senators even.
The momentum would quickly swing back to the Chiefs, though; Skyler Brind’Amour batted a rebound out of midair and past Hicks just 45 seconds after the Guy goal, sending Chilliwack to the intermission up 2-1.
Chenard and Hicks went save for save through most of a busy second period – both teams managed 12 shots on goal in the middle frame – but Ottawa would get back to even terms in the final minute when Pierre-Luc Veillette jumped on a rebound at the side of the Chilliwack net to make it 2-2 through 40 minutes.
The Pickering winner came during one of the few stretches of five-on-five hockey in the third period; the teams combined for 20 minutes in penalties during the final stanza, putting special teams to work on both sides.
Chilliwack is into the final for the first time in three trips to the national championship. They fell short in the semifinals in each of their first two appearances, in 2000 and 2002.
Photo credit: Dave Holland/Hockey Canada Images