The Warriors came from behind to beat a solid Vernon squad 5-3 on Friday at RLP.
The crowd was awesome and the game was fast and feisty. It really did feel like the playoffs.
I’d say the Vipers were marginally the better team in the opening period, or perhaps for the first half of the game. Vernon played rough hockey all night, and got good results from that physicality early on. The Snakes’ forecheck was giving West Kelowna a tough time, while Vernon was clearing the D-zone quite effectively early in the game.
Vernon drew first blood when Dexter Dancs unloaded a quick snapper underneath Andy Desautels during a delayed WK penalty. The Warriors got one back on a bit of a broken play, when David Pope’s first shot was negated by a back-checking Colton Sparrow, before Pope was allowed to try again and beat Danny Todosychuk. Vernon then retook the lead when Jared Wilson buried a PPG courtesy a Brett Mulcahy screen.
A bad bounce and uncharacteristic Ryan Fraser-Lee turnover allowed Sparrow to make it 3-1 Vernon just 33 seconds into the second period. The Warriors continued to struggle for the first few minutes of the second period, but finally started to string some passes together and create some offensive traction midway through the frame.
Liam Blackburn finished off some nice work from Pope and Carl Hesler to begin the onslaught eight minutes into the second. Then the Vipers got in some penalty trouble, and Hesler roofed a Taki Pantziris rebound during a WK 5-on-3.
Tied 3-3 heading to the third, the Warriors brought a terrific final frame to the table, outshooting their guests 17-5 (43-28 overall) and generating a bunch of quality chances.
Down a man, the Vipers got in further trouble when Brett Mulcahy was given a major penalty for cross-checking Taki Pantziris into the end-boards. Despite allowing 2 PPGs in the game, I actually thought Vernon’s PK unit did remarkably well overall. The Vipes were 7 seconds from killing the 5-on-3 AND the major before Tyson Dallman jammed a second effort past Todosychuk to give the Warriors their first lead of the night midway through the third.
A late Jordan Masters goal (it sounds like his original shot was in before Jason Cotton made sure) sealed West Kelowna’s victory with a minute and a half remaining, though there was still plenty of time for rough stuff.
The whole game had a nasty demeanor and some cynical stuff both ways. Credit Taki Pantziris for returning, despite not being able to feel one side of his body after the Mulcahy hit. The first period also saw a multiple fight situation after Matty Saharchuk hit on Ryan Fraser-Lee, and (while they may not have known Brett Mennear and Saharchuk were already fighting) I wouldn’t be surprised to see short suspensions to Mac Ferner and Tyler Povelofskie for engaging.
Beyond the fights and obvious fouls however, there was the routine jousting after almost every whistle. Vernon brought the hate to RLP, and the Warriors responded with their own acrimony. It’s nice to see both teams escape without injury however, and serves as an appetizing preview should these teams end up meeting in the post-season.