Comeback fever

The Warriors continue to entertain their fans, with another breaktaking comeback Sunday in Chilliwack.

Trailing 7-5 with less than a minute to go, the Tribe once again scored twice with the goalie on the bench for the extra attacker.  West K. dominated overtime too, and probably should have won the game several times.

However, it’s also a game the Warriors led 5-2, and it isn’t the squad’s finest showing lately.

It was the third game in three days for the Warriors, against a Chiefs group that had Saturday off but sits at the bottom of the Mainland Division.

I felt before puck drop that if the Warriors could score in the first five minutes or so that the matchup may well turn into a romp.  They got the dream start when David Pope scored a minute in, but boy was I wrong about what followed.

Not that anyone could have predicted what went down…

Ready, set, ignite

Ready, set, ignite

David Pope’s first course came 1:02 in, set up by some great forechecking from Liam Blackburn and a good touch from Ryan Fraser-Lee.

However, the Chiefs responded admirably, and opened their account when Jake Hand earned a solid assist on a Jordan Kawaguchi tally.

Two seconds after their first powerplay had expired, the Warriors jumped in front once again when Carl Hesler finished after Dallman and Blackburn had both stuck iron.  A neat Reid Simmonds bid made it 3-1 West K, and you had to think the Warriors were off to the races.  Back came Chilliwack again, however, with Tanner Cochrane finishing off a nice team move on the powerplay.

Leading 3-1 heading to the second, West Kelowna staked a claim with quick strikes from Matt Anholt and Jason Cotton (PP).   The Warriors led the game 5-1.  They are defensively strong, typically allowing ~2 ¾ goals against per game.  The outcome really should have been a foregone conclusion.

Credit the Chiefs though.  For a last-place team, they sure did a great job of dictating play and making the Warriors pay for some defensive lapses.

Blake Gober scored a lovely solo effort midway through the second.  Tanner Cochrane got a second when a Kyle Westeringh breakaway (out of the box) was stopped by Cody Porter and Cochrane was there to jam in the rebound.

Tyler Nowek, photo

Tyler Nowek, photo

Chilliwack kept pressing early in the third, and made the Warriors look like a shade of their usual selves.  Westeringh scored Chilliwack’s second PPG three minutes in.

Tanner Cochrane then made it a hat-trick and a Chiefs lead when he buried a perfect Zach Diamantoni setup.  From 5-2 down, the Chiefs had taken a lead, and were playing some potent hockey themselves.  Chilliwack got some insurance too, when a WK turnover led to a Jake Hand tally and a 7-5 disparity with just 2 ½ minutes remaining.

It had been a horrific third period from the Warriors, and despite a string of remarkable comebacks of late, another miracle comeback didn’t seem too likely this time around.

Wrong again, Zacks.

Trailing by two, and with Cody Porter on the bench for the extra attacker, the Warriors conjured up yet another marvel.

David Pope had scored three of the four goals in the two-goal comebacks against Trail and Nanaimo.  The Red Wings draft pick had both in this one, giving him ten in the last ten games.  The whole line (Pope/Hesler/Blackburn) was magical.

Pope’s first was a 6-on-4 strike, and just a great shot with Carter Cochrane in the box.  Back within one, the Warriors sent Porter back to the net before winning a faceoff and getting another puck deep.  Adam Plant made a couple more outrageous plays to just hold the puck in the Chiefs end.  Carl Hesler won every big draw.  A Chief (Tibbet?) missed the empty net too.  But the Warriors dug deep again, and found the equalizer with 7.4 seconds left after a missed Ben Tegtmeyer shot was shovelled back in front by Carl Hesler.  The hat-trick goal, Pope completed another miracle comeback and another heart-stopping 60th minute.

The action was no-where near done however, and the Warriors had a bunch of chances to win it in OT.  Josh Halpenny (who replaced Spencer Tremblay after five WK goals) was tremendous in both OT periods.  He robbed a few guys, and maybe got lucky when a Ben Tegtmeyer deke appeared to cross the line but wasn’t awarded by the ref.  Tremblay also stopped Pope on a penalty shot after T. Cochrane gave Taki Pantziris a shot behind the WK net during 3-on-3 play.

Cody Porter also made a couple of solid saves in OT, including a good one Mathieu Tibbet, and actually played pretty well despite surrendering seven goals against.  Ask anyone and they’ll tell you he didn’t have much help.

The chances continued and the drama continued to grow, but there were no more goals, and the encounter ended in a 7-7 tie.  Just as everyone had predicted…

How do you draw up comebacks like that?

How do you draw up comebacks like that?

The draw ends Chilliwack’s 7-game losing skid and also West Kelowna’s 6-game winning streak.  However, the Warriors are now unbeaten in 12 and remain the hottest team in the BCHL thanks to the late theatrics.

I know the Warriors weren’t happy with their performance in the game, and they probably shouldn’t be.  The club played one of its worst games in a while and relied on another feverish finish to salvage a single point.  Having said that, every streak has to end eventually and a third game in as many days is as likely time as any to fall.

The Warriors were tired and banged up heading home.  It may not have been this team’s finest hour, but the group still got the job done this weekend.  Any road trip like that is hard, and the finale came with positives and negatives.  But to head home with 5 of a possible 6 points simply has to be considered a success.

Matt Anholt talks more about that here.

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