Jason Cotton had memorable debut as the Warriors took an emotional 5-3 win over Salmon Arm on Friday.
Cotton had two goals and an assist, including the game winner with 0.6 seconds left in a wild second period.
I’d say this one was a little scrambly overall, though there was some strong physical stuff dished out both ways all night. Jordan Masters and Connor Bucsis both nailed Silverback Andrew Farny in the first period, and the game featured lots of nice open-ice hits as well as plenty of chippy stuff in the corners and off the puck.
There were half a dozen powerplays dished out in the first period, yet for whatever reason neither side was really able to create much offensively. The best chance of the first period was probably a Mac Ferner breakaway, but the D-man put his bid just over the net after being sprung from the penalty box. The Warriors hit iron a couple of times early in the game (Blackburn and Graham both did, I believe), with ‘Backs finding iron at least once later on (Smith).
The first goal came from Matt Anholt, when he finished a nice little give-and-go with Tyson Dallman from a turnover at the SAS blueline. Jason Cotton announced his arrival in the BCHL when he walked out from the corner and shrugged off a couple of checks before shelfing the puck over Angus Redmond.
It looked like the Warriors were in control, but suddenly the Apes strung together some good shifts in the West K zone and fought back. The Gillies/Anderson/Smith line was certainly dangerous, and they got on the board on a Landon Smith rebound marker after some good pressure.
Carl Hesler restored the two-goal lead when he finished off a lovely tic-tac-toe with Ambrose Firkus and Jason Cotton. Not sure if it went in off Hesler’s skate or stick, but it was a nice rush and I certainly think a legitimate goal. But West K was soon under siege again. Evan Anderson stepped out from behind the net and roofed a sweet backhander to get SA within one, and then Alex Gillies buried a rebound on a powerplay to tie things up 49 seconds later.
The wild second period still had one more gift in store, however. The turning point of the game came with 0.6 seconds remaining on the clock, when Jason Cotton ripped one short-side for a West Kelowna PPG.
The Warriors had a 4-3 lead after 40 minutes, and looked pretty good closing things out. The tribe got some clutch saves and shot blocks, but also had some great forechecking and some more pressure in the Salmon Arm zone. Jordan Masters probably saved a goal but got served a cross-checking minor with three minutes left, but there wasn’t too much panic as time wound down.
Finally, Brett Mennear sealed the win when he slipped his way past a defender at centre ice and fought the puck into the empty net.
It was a fun and emotional win over a key rival, even if it wasn’t a Picasso. The Warriors have now won four in a row, and thanks to a couple of other interesting results out of town are moving towards the top of the division.
What was the overall key to victory? Well, the Gillies/Anderson/Smith line did all of Salmon Arm’s damage, and they were certainly a force to be reckoned with. But that’s pretty much where it ended. The Apes didn’t get great service from their depth lines in this game.
Conversely, even after last-minute scratches to David Pope and Brennan Clark, the Warriors were able to roll four pretty impressive lines all night. Coach Ferster may still be toying with combos and stuff, but this forward group is deep and skilled. If it’s not Firkus and Lloyd playing tricks, it’s Anholt and Dallman grinding you down, or Hesler and Masters hassling you on the forecheck. Even the fourth line keeps on generating great shifts, and even some goals and powerplays. And of course, Jason Cotton has already proven to be an outstanding addition.
Check out Wayne Moore’s excellent game story here. John Hebert has a photo album on the Warriors’ facebook page. And stay tuned for video highlights and my interview with Jason Cotton. Tuesday’s highlights are now below, by the way.