The West Kelowna Warriors played a full 60 minutes in their 3-1 win on Saturday night at Royal LePage Place against the Vernon Vipers.
Photos from tonight, courtesy of Warriors video guy Matthew Abrey. Highlights will be up in the morning:
1) PENALTY KILL KILLING IT
Though I’m sure it wasn’t the way the Warriors coaching staff drew it up, being shorthanded nine times but the PK was, as the kids say, lit. 8/9 on the PK plus the turning point of the hockey game when the Warriors were able to kill off 3+ minutes of a 5 minute major given to Tyler Anderson for checking Riley Brandt from behind, which could have some lingering effects on the Warriors defense over the next few games. But outside of a 3rd period PPG from Jagger Williamson, the PK was perfect tonight and had a lot of players step up in the absence of one of their PKers in Anderson, who just past the midway point of the 2nd period.
I thought Jon Russell had his best game by far as a Warrior tonight, especially on the PK. He was hard on the forecheck and blocked countless shots to keep the Warriors ahead in the third frame. Very hard not to reward his effort with a star tonight. Nick Rutigliano was as advertised, a steady defensive presence, especially down a man, with a shot that broke the game’s deadlock in the 2nd period. He was a horse on the backend and ate a lot of the minutes lost from Anderson’s game misconduct. Mitchell Barker also had a very strong night penalty killing and produced two points as well. He was a key face-off man for the Warriors tonight, winning many draws inside the West-K end to get clearing attempts out of their zone on the PK. A good night all around.
2) SOLID TEAM EFFORT
The energy was there all night from the Warriors, who hadn’t played since last Saturday, and emptied the tank, if you will, for their only game of the weekend tonight. Vernon came into this game at 3-0 and feeling confident and I thought the Warriors showed from the get go that they were not going to be intimidated and maybe caught the Vipers by surprise with how quickly they could turn on the jets and generate offensive chances. Quin Foreman was especially explosive tonight, making what seemed like three strides to get from one end of the ice to the other. But everyone did their part in earning the Warriors 3-1 victory and their 2nd of the young season.
From the good goaltending they received from Xavier Burghardt to the good penalty killing they got to even a highlight reel goal on a nice saucer pass by Foreman to Mitchell Barker for the 3-1 marker, this game was all in favour of West Kelowna. Give credit to young 17 year-old Cole Demers who made 36 saves in the loss for the Vipers but was incredible in the game, especially the final frame, to keep Vernon in it for as long as possible.
3) MORE OF THAT, PLEASE
If that is any indication of how Warrior/Viper games will be for the remainder of the season, well sign me up. That game was fast and had the intense rivalry we’ve come to expect from two division foes. The action felt like it was a game in the middle of January and had Royal LePage Place captivated all night long. The Warriors will need to look on efforts like that one to pick up more W’s as the season rolls right along.
A big thank you to Warriors chaplain, pastor Don Richmond for coming on the broadcast to provide colour commentary tonight. It was a lot of fun to talk hockey with a great guy that has been around the game and the Warriors for years, You’re welcome anytime on the broadcast, Don! It was a pleasure to have you on.
The Bauer BCHL Showcase is just around the corner and there is a guaranteed dandy between the Warriors and the Chilliwack Chiefs scheduled for Wednesday night at 7:30 PM to kick off the festivities. It’s a rematch of the 2016 BCHL Finals which I’m sure will have the Chiefs fired up for some revenge. 7:20 PM pre game on the Warriors Internet Network and on FASTHockey.com before the Warriors finish their Showcase schedule at 1:00 PM the very next day against the Coquitlam Express. A tough turnaround for the defending National Champions.