The Warriors used strong D and offensive opportunism to beat the Silverbacks 4-1 on Sunday.
You could tell that the whole team was working hard to help Andy Desautels earn his first BCHL shutout, and they ended up coming pretty darn close.
But while the shutout would have been nice, winning a key divisional matchup on the road is payoff enough for a team looking to climb back into the playoff picture.
The first period was tight and well-played, though maybe not the most exciting frame of hockey. Like a good chess match, it featured some smart, tactical play, even if it wasn’t all that ‘spectator-friendly’.
Things opened-up in the second though, and the Warriors took advantage. There have been games this year (including the one home loss to Salmon Arm) where West Kelowna has played well, only to lose to an opportunistic opponent. In this one, however, it was the Warriors who played opportunistic hockey and ‘survived the swings.’
Adam Osczevski opened the scoring 3:30 into the second when he one-timed a determined Kylar Hope feed past Adam Clark. The ‘4th line’ (Hope/Mennear/Osczevski) may not have had a ton of shifts in this game, but they played arguably their best game of the year, and ended at a respectable +1.
A big turning point in the game occurred midway through the frame. With the ‘Backs pressing for the equalizer, Andy Desautels made a few strong saves before David Pope jumped off the bench and pounded one home (off a shin pad?). Instead of being tied up, the Warriors were in front 2-0 and never looked back. Seb Lloyd would add a crisp powerplay goal (from Jordan Masters) late in the period, giving West Kelowna a three-goal cushion heading to the third.
Jason Cotton would add a fourth goal early in the third, and suddenly the Warriors didn’t have much to worry about except for earning the shutout. They came awful close too, but conceded with just 1:16 remaining when Alex Gillies wristed one inside the post after Tyson Dallman was given a major for hitting-from-behind. Unlucky, Dez…
It’s an impressive and important road win for a team that came into play four points out of the playoff picture.
The Warriors have been terrific against Salmon Arm this year, especially at the Shaw Centre. And without question, a big part of that success is thanks to committed D against Anderson, Gillies, and Smith.
Hear Andy Desautels’ thoughts on the team D and the near-shutout in this interview.
* I should flag that this game did get a little more physical as things wore on, and there was a price to pay. Mac Ferner suffered an upper-body injury and did not return. Jason Cotton was shaken up on a hit after he scored, but did return. Jordan Masters also blocked a shot with his foot, and didn’t return. I’ll try to get updates on Masters and Ferner and also Brennan Clark at some point this week.