The West Kelowna Warriors used a 36 save performance from Shane Farkas plus a three-goal third period to pick up a scrappy 4-2 road win in Merritt against the Centennials.
1) SCRAPPY BUNCH
The Warriors never led on Friday until Braiden Epp’s overtime winner 3:23 into the extra period and Saturday followed a similar script in which the Warriors didn’t have a lead in Merritt until the 16:39 mark of the 3rd period with Michael Ryan’s mid-slot wrister going in on the glove side of Berger for the 3-2 lead. A huge weekend for West Kelowna with a big four points and it was a very resilient effort from the Warriors, who jump all the way up from 6th place in the Interior Division to 4th place after the two wins over the Cents over the weekend. So many things were so impressive about the Warriors home-and-home sweep of the Cents with the first being that West Kelowna has had their struggles against Merritt, with just 4 wins in the past 15 meetings between the two entering the weekend and the Warriors squashed that stat with two big wins. West Kelowna also was playing with only 5 defensemen with a late scratch of Jake Harrison in the game on Saturday and the defense was big for the Warriors, blocking shots and getting in the way of passing lanes and reading passing attempts from the Cents, something that is so important when playing in an environment like the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena.
The game was a saw off for the most of the night with the Cents holding 1-0 and 2-1 leads but so much credit has to go to the Warriors, playing from behind to catch up to the Cents and get a big three-goal third period for the victory. Of course, a lot of that credit has to be shared in goal as Shane Farkas (given third star in the building in Merritt where he should’ve been first star) was outstanding for a second straight night. Farkas made 36 saves on 38 shots in a tough building to play in with lively end boards and where the play develops as fast as anywhere in the league. Simple dump ins from centre ice can cause problems because it’s almost like a slap shot from the blue line in normal arenas but the 17-year-old handled himself calm and cool and picked up his 9th win of the season. When considering the BCHL Player of the Week honours, Farkas’ name has to be in the conversation with 71 saves on 73 shots over his two games of action (good for a .973 SV%). A big effort from the crease on outward and a couple of goals from defensemen come into play in a big 3rd period, one of, if not the, biggest third period the Warriors have had all season long.
2) A LEAP IN THE STANDINGS
When looking back at this season after 58 games are played, this weekend may just seem like another four points for the Warriors but right now, that is a massive jump in the standings and some momentum for the Warriors to carry forward. Not very often can you leapfrog two teams on any given night in the standings but the Warriors did that when moving from 6th place to 4th in the division. They made up one of the games in hand they had against Salmon Arm (who were idle on Saturday night) and of course defeating the Cents, who had been in fourth place for a few weeks now it seems. All of a sudden, the Warriors sit in 4th place with 31 points and are 3 points back of 3rd place Trail with two games in hand. It’s crazy how, this year it especially seems, that two games can be so valuable in the standings but the Warriors picked up two wins they needed and kind of forgot about the Tuesday night loss to the Silverbacks. The Warriors have a tough schedule after Christmas with just 9 home games remaining on the sched after December 25th (and just four divisional home games remaining) so any points to pick up are huge heading into what will be a very beneficial Christmas break for the Warriors.
My takeaways from Saturday night’s 4-2 win on the road in Merritt are that this may have been the biggest game of the season for the Warriors, and they delivered with a victory. Yes, Merritt did outshot the Warriors 14-7 in the third period but Shane Farkas was outstanding over the course of the weekend and picked up a big and much deserving two wins. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again that this team has no quit, and that was on display in both games as one rush from the Warriors, with Quin Foreman centering for Stephen Kleysen to chip the puck into the goal, can change the complexion of the game and give the Warriors momentum to spur them on to a 3rd and 4th goal and eventually a win. An impressive weekend for this group who deserves a much needed few days off before two big home games before the Christmas break commences.
West Kelowna is back in action on Friday, December 16th when they host the Powell River Kings for the only time in the regular season. It’s the Warriors Teddy Bear Toss Night so fans, please bring a new or gently used stuffed animal to throw on the ice after the Warriors first goal of the game. It should be an exciting night from RLP and the Warriors will need a big crowd on hand to get as many teddy bears on the ice as we can!