The West Kelowna Warriors used the strength of a three-goal 2nd period along with three point nights from Stephen Kleysen and Chase Stevenson to propel them to a 4-2 victory over the Alberni Valley Bulldogs on Saturday night at Royal LePage Place.
Game photo tonight provided tonight by Wayne Moore of Castanet:
1) GOOD REBOUND
The Warriors needed the kind of effort they got on Saturday night and it was a terrific bounce back for a team that has gone through some recent struggles. The Warriors had lost their last three games and four of their last five entering Saturday night but pushed all those thoughts away with a solid 4-2 victory over an Island Division team in the Alberni Valley Bulldogs who had been riding high lately. Scoring came from different avenues than we are accustomed to seeing as Quin Foreman didn’t tally any points and Connor Sodergren had a goal. Stephen Kleysen played what I thought was one of his better games as a Warrior, picking up a goal and two assists for a three point night and defensively was rugged and hard to play against. Chase Stevenson may have been the best Warrior on Friday night in the loss to Vernon and continued that play into Saturday’s matchup with a strong showing of three assists (after scoring changes are made) and looked potent on the power play and is inches away from collecting his first BCHL goal.
Shane Farkas made 25 saves on 27 shots and looked very solid in the Warriors cage for his 7th win of his Junior ‘A’ career, making some key saves down the stretch when the Bulldogs were pressing in the 3rd period with their 16 shots in the frame. Defensively, the Warriors needed the night they had with a solid outing in their own end, allowing 11 shots through the first 40 minutes of the game. Jake Harrison and Nicholas Rutigliano I thought had particularly strong games in their own end, keeping skilled Bulldog forwards Jordan Sandhu, Tristan Bukovec and company to the outside and didn’t give them a real sniff at the night.
2) SPECIAL TEAMS CAME UP LARGE
Junior hockey, really all hockey in general, is much about winning the special teams battle, something the Warriors have not done a whole lot of this season but came up with a big performance tonight when it mattered most. The power play struck for two goals with Braiden Epp and Connor Sodergren provided the goal scoring on the man advantage while a late goal against on the penalty kill was all that blemished an otherwise outstanding effort from the penalty kill. The PK has been getting better over the last little while, going 10 for 12 on the weekend of games in Vernon and against Alberni Valley and seems to be gaining some confidence when a man down. Big efforts from Rutigliano, Scott Allan, Peter Tomaras, Jared Marino and more had a big impact on the PK and held a good Bulldog power play to minimal chances.
The power play has also been getting better, adding two power play goals tonight and kept it simple with pucks to the blue line and letting their point men fire away and getting traffic in front of the goal, a direct result of the Epp marker as he tipped in a point shot from Kleysen and was in the perfect area for the redirect. Sodergren’s goal looked a little different as he banged in a rebound loose in front off of Myrowich’s pads from a point shot, again from Kleysen and found his 11th goal of the year. That’s something worth noting for the Warriors on Saturday was the presence of their defense and the offense they got from the back end with two goals and three points stemming from their defense and is a welcome sight for Warriors fans and the coaching staff to see.
My takeaways from Saturday night’s win was that the Warriors had a strong 40 minutes, just like Friday, but this time they gave their goaltending some goal support and clutched up defensively when it mattered most for a big win heading into a tough week with three big divisional matchups against Salmon Arm and two against Merritt. Hopefully some confidence will carry over with this group as Salmon Arm will be equally confident, stemming off of their two wins this week over good teams in Penticton and Trail. The Warriors will need to match the intensity they had on Saturday and keep the offense rolling and have their defense shut down the ‘Backs, just as they did to the Bulldogs. Pre game starts at 6:50 PM on Tuesday night from RLP with puck drop at 7:00 PM with the Silverbacks in town. Listen live on the Warriors Internet Network or watch on hockeytv.com.