It’s always disappointing to lose a game in overtime, particularly when you lead a game 2-0 on the road.
However, the scoreline doesn’t tell anywhere near the full story from Saturday’s contest in Langley. It’s a single point that cost a huge effort and sacrifice for the Warriors.
A night after a crazy win in Coquitlam, the Warriors headed into Langley missing the injured Brennan Clark, Liam Blackburn, and Ben Tegtmeyer as well as the WJAC try-out crew of Seb Lloyd, Ambrose Firkus, David Pope, and Adam Plant.
Zach Andrusiak and Brandon Duhaime were called up for the evening, and I thought they both played remarkably well. Their presence gave West K. 17 skaters. Things seemed to be cooking along too, until Carl Hesler was knocked out of the game. And Andy Desautels was knocked out of the game. And Braxton Bilous was (sick) knocked out of the game.
Cody Porter replaced Desautels and looked solid in his first BCHL action. It was a tough way for him to come into the game, and you certainly can’t fault him on the goals that did go in (2 tips and a lovely passing play). Meanwhile, the four blue-liners that remained showed incredible valour. Taylor Graham was a little under the weather but did his part and then some. Ferner and Ivey were both awesome. And Jaden Schmeisser was simply awesome, logging all kinds of minutes and impressing all night.
Given all of that adversity, it’s understandable that the Warriors were in survival mode for the second half of the game. The guys were absolutely out of gas, and seemed to struggle to find the energy to eat supper an hour after the game. It’s a phenomenal character showing from this team, and one of those ‘loser points’ that was very well earned. The Rivermen are a big and nasty hockey team, and while they paid the price for some poor discipline, they pounded the Warriors right to the brink in this one.
After a scoreless first period, the Warriors had a couple of minutes of 5-on-3 time to start the second (because of two blow-to-the-head majors to the ‘Men). Jordan Masters broke the ice when he blocked a Schmeisser point shot and shovelled it past Brock Crossthwaite. Connor Bucsis got his first BCHL goal on the 2-man advantage as well, with an assist to ‘AP’ Zach Andrusiak.
Langley had a really slow start to the game and also got in penalty trouble. The Rivermen were in a hole, but they improved steadily as the game wore on, perhaps sensing the payoff from their physical play and deeper bench.
Langley got a big goal from Mitch McLain (tipping a Chris Forney point shot) midway through the second period, and you had to wonder if West Kelowna would be able to hang on.
The Rivermen then tied the game early in the third, when Nathan Craft converted a nice McLain centring feed.
From that point on, the game really slowed down, with both teams looking a little tentative and passive. The Warriors in particular were just trying to stay afloat, and just getting to overtime seemed like a steep climb.
West Kelowna opened overtime with about a minute of pressure, but the Rivermen soon got the puck up ice and drew a powerplay on a Ryan Ivey high stick (unfortunately, just after Ivey had taken a high-stick himself). And early in their 4-on-3, the ‘Men got the winner when a Tanner Johnson blast was tipped in by Will Cook.
The battered and bruised Warriors have already earned at least three points on this three-game swing, and it’ll be interesting to see what this club has left for a matchup Sunday.
As of now, Mike Bois remains at the hospital with Desautels, Bilous, and Hesler meaning I don’t have an update on any of those guys for you. I can tell you that Desautels is ok (from a long-term health standpoint – no concussion or serious damage), which is a relief considering how he looked when he went off the ice. We’ll see if Bilous can play on Sunday, but I’m sure the other two are out, making that big ice surface a little more daunting than it usually is.
Anyone out there have a fake ID and some skates?