There are an awful lot of emotions permeating the Warriors’ bus home tonight, but I don’t think any of them are shame.
The Warriors engaged in another epic duel in Vernon, and came within a heartbeat of a big regulation victory.
Things didn’t work out. The Vipers scored a late PPG and won it in the 68th minute. One of those games where both teams deserve it, the contest came down to special teams, power, and manpower.
However, with bodies dropping like flies, the Warriors earned at least a single point, and made themselves and their fans proud.
West Kelowna’s roster was already quite depleted to start the evening, with Ryan Ivey, Ryan Fraser-Lee, Nathan Craft, and Jordan Masters still all out of the lineup. Brett Mennear was a late scratch. Andy Desautels returned to action and was excellent, while Cody Porter was out sick (leaving Desautels backed-up by OK Rocket Reid Kilburn).
Things got steadily worse. Braden Pears missed some action after getting smashed from behind by Liam Couglin. Pears, however, endured some stitches and a nose-restraightening (by Vipers owner Duncan Wray!) before returning. Taki Pantziris also took a hit from behind (from Colton Sparrow, though I think the elevation of the hit was the problem, not the direction) and did not return. Ben Tegtmeyer took an awkward hit and couldn’t continue. Jason Cotton and Reid Simmonds both missed some action, only to return (albeit banged-up). By the end of the night, the Warriors had 13ish guys on the bench and Matt Anholt playing D with Plant, Ferner, and Pears.
So, given the circumstances, you can see why the Warriors fatigued as the game wore on. The Vipers play a bruising style (sometimes within the rules, sometimes way past them). Tonight their style paid off, as they came from behind to earn a massive OT win. the first star should have read ‘Vernon PK.’
Braden Pears opened the scoring with a blast from the left point on West Kelowna’s first powerplay of the night. The Warriors would end up 1/9 on the PP, including three minutes worth of 5on3 time. That’s a big part of the game story, and you have to give a ton of credit to Austin Smith and his PK unit, which was simply awesome.
Soon after the Pears strike, Seb Lloyd doubled West K’s lead when he tucked a David Pope rebound past Smith. 2-0 Warriors, West Kelowna had been simply dominant in the opening period, but couldn’t find a late PPG to put the Snakes away.
Vernon was much better in the second period, and got on the board when Tyler Povelofskie buried a breakaway courtesy a lovely Ken Citron feed. You’ve gotta watch those Vipers breakaway passes…
Up 2-1 after 40, the Warriors had a pretty good third period, particularly considering the short bench. Vernon didn’t get a ton of looks, though Desautels had to be sharp on a couple of occasions. With 6 ½ minutes left in regulation, Colton Sparrow was given 5+game for his hit on Pantziris. It was a golden chance to put the game away, but the Warriors couldn’t do much more than kill the five minutes off the clock.
Given one last chance, the Vipers made good when Carl Hesler was flagged for a late tripping call and Dexter Dancs converted a goal-mouth scramble during the ensuing 6-on-4. 12 seconds from the win, the Warriors suddenly had to play more hockey.
I will say this; Vernon was certainly the better team in overtime (outshooting WK 7-0 between the two periods). Desautels made one showstopping save on Dancs in the first frame, but couldn’t do anything about the winner, supplied by Dancs and pounded home by Riley Guenther late in 3-on-3 play.
It’s a frustrating and exhausting result for the Warriors – but no-where near deflating. The Vipers gain one point, but the Warriors also gain a point on Penticton and move into a first-place tie with the Vees.
From a neutral fan perspective? For the BCHL? Well, the game was a gem. Money well spent. The sport in fine form.
I do know Sunday will be a nice day off for this group. I have no idea at this point who will be back on Tuesday for a big matchup against Pen. We’ll leave that for next week though.