The West Kelowna Warriors relinquished four third period goals en route to a 6-2 setback against the Merritt Centennials on Friday night at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena.
1) THE FIRST 40/MISSED CHANCES
The Warriors weren’t shaping up too badly in a 2-2 tie after 40 minutes of play with the Centennials in a tough environment to play in. West Kelowna opened the game with a good push and had a good road period in the opening frame of the hockey game with the 2nd period being a bit different as the Warriors got into a bit of penalty trouble (called for four minor penalties in the frame) and were outshot by a 16-8 margin in the 2nd period, I’d actually give West-K the better of the scoring chances in the 2nd period of play with a trio of 2-on-1’s that they were unable to convert on that came back to haunt them in the third period. The first was a Connor Sodergren right circle shot that was stopped by Berger but could not be whacked in by the on-skating forward in Braiden Epp as he was tied up by Merritt d-man Zachary Bleuler and couldn’t get his shot away. The second was a Chase Dubois shot from a similar spot in the right wing face-off circle that hit the right pad of Berger and jetted out to Sodergren but again, he was tied up back door for the opportunity. The third (not so much a two-on-one but a really good save by Berger) as a pass from Michael Ryan on the left wing found Dubois at the bottom of the circle and Berger got across to make the sprawling left pad save to deny Dubois of a sure goal. Credit the Merritt netminder as Berger was great in the 2nd period and made a few key stops in a big time in the middle stanza of this game when it could’ve gotten away from the Cents.
2) THE FINAL 20
I don’t really know what happened in the final period of play for the Warriors in Merritt on Friday night but it was almost like a switch was turned off and it didn’t seem like there was much of a spark or pushback after the Centennials got their first, and only, lead just about 6 minutes into the period. West Kelowna had killed off a big penalty to start the period as 1:46 of PK time was needed to begin the final frame and the Warriors did a great job with that (and didn’t allow the top ranked Merritt power play to much in the game outside of their one goal in 2nd period). Odd man rushes were the theme of the night at times as Merritt capitalized on one of their 2-on-1’s in the 3rd period that extended the lead to 4-2 and put away what seemed to be a listless group in the remaining part of the period. It almost looked like it was the back half of a two-game weekend the way the third period played out for the Warriors who, mind you, are still without their top defenseman and captain and played with 10 forwards tonight. But needless to say the Warriors needed a better effort in the final period of play on Friday night and give credit to Merritt who came out with a strong third period and in a season series where the Warriors have been the better third period team, the Cents stormed back with a terrific final 20 minutes and came away with their 19th victory of the season.
My takeaways from the Warriors 6-2 loss to the Merritt Centennials on Friday night at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena is that in a game of this much meaning, and against a team that you are fighting with tooth and nail for home ice with in the playoffs, the Warriors needed a much better effort, at least in the final 20 minutes, to come away with a different result tonight. West-K had a power play with about 13 minutes left when the game was 3-2 for the Cents and they couldn’t gain any traction off of that, Merritt scored about four minutes later and that did in the Warriors. A tough pill to swallow but the great thing about Junior hockey is that on most nights, you’re right back at it and the Warriors are back at it tomorrow night with a matchup against the Coquitlam Express on home ice for the first time in six games. It’s Five Hole for Food night as fans are encouraged to bring a non-perishable food donation to the game for a chance to win a team signed Warriors jersey! If you can’t to the game, we’ll have the call as per usual on the Warriors Internet Network and www.hockeytv.com starting a 6:50 PM with the pre-game show.