West K. wins a barnburner in Victoria

It was smiles all around the Warriors bus on Friday, after a thrilling game and a come-from-behind win in Victoria.

For whatever reason, West Kelowna had a very slow start to the game.  Down 3-0 after 20, the Warriors didn’t seem to have an answer for Victoria’s transition game, and it looked like a blowout may be coming.  The Tribe fought back, however, and it ended up turning into ‘one of those games that has everything.’

Fast-paced, crisp, physical and emotional, the game swung back and forth wildly until Jason Cotton ended it halfway through the second overtime frame.

And West Kelowna’s roll continues…

Lots of room, lots of speed, lots of skill.

Lots of speed, lots of skill, lots of room.

Marc McLellan opened the scoring just 1:11, when he fired a short-handed bid that Andy Desautels should have had.  Desautels bounced back with a couple of marvelous saves on a Victoria powerplay (and recovered to play very well the rest of the way), but couldn’t do anything to prevent a nice Gerry Fitzgerald PPG eight minutes in.

The Warriors’ best chance of the opening period came when Reid Simmonds sprung Jordan Masters from the penalty box, though Masters couldn’t beat the glove of Alec Dillon (who was excellent all night).   Victoria then made it 3-0 when Garrett Forster scored on transition late in the frame.

I’m not totally sure what was going wrong in the first period, though the Grizzlies certainly impressed with their speed on transition.  The Warriors didn’t have much bite at all, and seemed to lack intensity and hunger.  Things sure changed in the second, though…

Jordan Masters got the Warriors on the board with a nice powerplay goal three minutes into the second. Tyson Dallman got another PPG a few minutes later, as momentum started to shift to the visitors.  Just 25 seconds after the Dallman marker, a fortunate bounce found Liam Blackburn all alone in front, and just like that the game was tied 3-3.

The second period was also punctuated by an excellent fight between Mac Ferner and Kevin Massy, with both guys landing some heavy right hooks.  Hear my post-game interview with Ferner right here.

Things kept getting better though, with both teams opening up in the third period leading to some awesome end-to-end hockey.  Reid Simmonds gave the Warriors their first lead 6:39 in, but former Warrior Jaden Schmeisser (who played wonderfully all night) had a nice tip-in a minute later to re-tie the game and set the table for fireworks in overtime.

OT really was fun to watch in this game, with a whole bunch of great chances both ways.  Both teams struck iron, both goalies made tremendous saves, and the fans were nearing hysteria.  Hesler was robbed by Dillon.  Gerry Fitzgerald cranked the post.  Andy Desautels somehow fought off a Storm Wahlrab breakaway.  Liam Blackburn hit the bar on a 2-on-0.

Finally, moments after a stunning (and perhaps controversial) defensive play from Adam Plant denied a Jaden Schmeisser opportunity, Jason Cotton buried a Seb Lloyd feed to give the Warriors a memorable 5-4 victory.

Photo by Tyler Nowek

Photo by Tyler Nowek

The game was awesome and everyone on the Warriors bus was pretty fired up afterwards.

With the win, the Warriors extend their unbeaten streak to ten games (the old club record was eight) and kick off a crucial road trip with a momentous victory.

Rylan Ferster also talked about the game as a key test for his club, and I think it’s fair to say that the Warriors passed the test by coming from 3-0 down to beat such a good opponent.

Saturday’s game starts at 7pm in Alberni Valley.

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