Vees prevail

The Warriors ran out of credits when another outstanding performance ended in overtime heartbreak on Thursday.

It’s a tough one to swallow for sure.  I’ve had a few people already suggest to me that the better team lost on in game five, and there is a case to be made for that.

This one was the first low-scoring game of the series but still exceptionally well-played both ways.  The Warriors, in particular, had an outstanding road effort.  West Kelowna had a lead heading to the third too, before the Vees somehow found a way to tie it and then deliver another OT heartbreak.

The Vees took game five 2-1 and win the series 4-1.  But the final scoreline doesn’t tell the story, nor give any justice to the way West Kelowna finished the season.

Can it really be true?  Has Max French played his last game in a Warriors sweater?

Can it really be true? Has Max French played his last game in a Warriors sweater?

The first period of game five was the first scoreless period in the series, and really didn’t yield much in terms of chances.  Sam Mellor was robbed by Tyler Briggs early in the frame.  Max French cranked right where the post meets the crossbar later on.  Both clubs got two cracks at the powerplay as well.  But the goalies were excellent, and the teams blocked shots and shooting lanes with courage.  Overall, I’d say there wasn’t much advantage either way.

I thought the Warriors really took over in the second period, and did a great job of ‘dictating play’ in Penticton.  Reid Simmonds gave the Warriors the lead when he converted a scramble after some terrific pressure in the Vees zone.  However, this was another period in which the Tribe probably should have had more.  The Vees escaped a few adventures thanks to a little luck and a bunch of lovely saves from Chad Katunar.   The second periods have seemed to decide games in this series, and this game story was another one of Penticton somehow surviving.  Katunar’s heroics in the second played a big part in the survival today.

Early in the third, the Vees found the equalizer thanks to a strong drive to the net.  With ‘AP’ Josh Blanchard heading to the goal-mouth, Cody DePourcq threw a puck that appeared to hit Blanchard’s skate and bounce past Tyler Briggs.

The rest of the third period was a bit of a chess match.  I was impressed at how calmly the Warriors played (despite their season being on the line).  Katunar made a couple more big saves.  Briggs also was unreal.  Clutch, veteran goaltending both ways.  Adam Plant had a good chance that he nudged a little wide.  Guys were trying to pick corners and missed some nets at bad times.  Give the Warriors credit – they kept pushing till the end despite the stakes.  And I can’t say I noticed any fatigue from either team.  And for the third time in as many games, the contest went to extra time.  This is the Interior Conference final, after all.

The Vees found the series-winner very early in the first OT, when a James De Haas point shot bounced off something and past Briggs.  From what I’m hearing out of Penticton, it sounds like Brock Balson tipped it.  Which gives the former Silverback two OT winners in the series.  Nicely done, Brock.  (BTW – At the end of the game, Tyler Briggs was announced and entered as a well-earned second star.  But that’s now been changed, I guess to get Balson in there.  I’d say Briggs still belongs on that list though.)

The Vees were elated (and I know they were relieved) to knock off the Warriors and punch their ticket to the finals.  The Warriors were shell-shocked, heartbroken, and exhausted.

This was the scene when the Warriors got home.  Pics by Andrew Deans

This was the scene when the Warriors got home. Pics by Andrew Deans

It’s a very tough way to end the season.  The Warriors played their hearts out in this series and surely deserved to win more than one game.

Close games between good teams can come down to bounces, and the Vees got a couple more in this series.  I’d also give first, second, and third star honours to Chad Katunar.  Penticton sure is a good hockey club though.  Wow.

But I will say this:  This round didn’t feel like a five gamer.  The Warriors were a little slow to start the series, but still weren’t that far from heading home with a split.  West Kelowna then competed wonderfully at home, splitting a pair of OT decisions.  Game five was another barn-burner (albeit with a different feel) and again the Tribe probably deserved a better fate.

More importantly however, the Warriors go out knowing they not only played their hearts out, but played about as well as they possibly could have.

I’ve got so many more thoughts going around my head, and so many more things I want to say about this series and this team.

So I’ll leave it at that for now.  Congrats to the Vees on beating a very good Warriors team.  Penticton is skilled, hard-working, and well-coached.  They’ll have an awesome dual against Surrey.

And I’ll return to this blog in the next day or two to wrap up the Warriors’ season.

I did do one interview with Josh Monk.  It was just after the bus pulled into RLP at around midnight to a crowd of 50 or so cheering fans.  How much of a pro is Josh Monk?  He gave me this 2 minute window just after his last game of Junior.

Stay tuned for more…

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