The West Kelowna Warriors surrendered three power play goals and were on the wrong end of the special teams battle and a 5-3 score on Tuesday night against the Langley Rivermen at Royal LePage Place.
Game photos tonight provided by the always outstanding work of Ken Reid of Greystoke Photography:
1) NOT SO SPECIAL TEAMS
It’s a point that has been brought up numerous times behind the scenes and in pre and post game interviews with each member of the coaching staff but the Warriors special teams just has not gotten the job done. Tonight was a prime example of that as it looked like the Warriors could be on their way to gaining momentum but instead relinquished it and allowed Langley to take a two-goal lead after 40 minutes that ultimately decided the game. In the 2nd period, the Warriors were give back-to-back power plays and an opportunity to seize the period, one they had not been playing bad in by any stretch. But yet again, the power play fails them and as has been the way of the season for the Warriors, they are saddled with two penalties following that and the Rivermen cash in. It’s something you don’t see very often as Cavin Tilsley took an unnecessary slashing penalty resulting in Langley taking the 3-2 lead courtesy of Max Kauffman followed by a Michael Ryan high stick that Cooper Leitch buried on to give the ‘Riv their first two-goal lead of the game. In the 3rd period, the officiating unfortunately played a part in the game. When the score was 4-3, the Warriors were saddled with a grievous tripping penalty right off the face-off and had to go back to the PK. The call wasn’t a great one and was followed by a pair of non-calls that drew the ire of the Warriors coaching staff (myself and basically everyone else in the building included) and in particular had Warriors head coach and GM Rylan Ferster upset post game, calling it “the worst officiating he has seen in some time”. There’s no mistaking that the officiating was not as strong on this night but a power play that misses golden opportunities to take advantage of the contest and a penalty kill that finished the game at 2/5 isn’t going to result in many victories.
2) A SOLID GAME
I thought Tuesday night was actually a very entertaining game before all of the non-calls late kind of brought the mood down a smidgen. Both teams can skate (the Rivermen especially, can they fly) and played some very good 5-on-5 hockey, it’s just been the same old story for the Warriors that they can’t win the special teams battle and can’t quite find a timely goal when they need to, like in 6-on-5 time tonight. I don’t think the Warriors get enough credit for their 5-on-5 play, as they can hang around with anyone in this league when it comes to playing at even strength, and it had been a while since these two teams played but man, the Rivermen are legit. Very well coached by Bobby Henderson and his staff and they play hard, physical hockey with guys like Cooper Leitch and Andrew Dumaresque but can also play a skilled and speedy games with players like Max Kauffman and Brendan Budy. They’ve got a really good mix of skill and physical play with a solid defense with goaltending being there only question mark when it comes to consistency but Bo Didur was terrific on Tuesday night with 33 saves and named the game’s first star. I’d like to have more of a chance to watch the ‘Riv play cause I think these two would be fun to watch more than twice in a season. But Tuesday’s game was a solid effort from both sides and two teams that knew how valuable two points are at this time of the season and gave the fans their money’s worth in a solid game.
My takeaways from a 5-3 Warriors loss to the Langley Rivermen on Tuesday night at RLP is that yes, the officiating was questionable but the special teams need to do a better job in holding the Warriors in games. Without the special teams, West Kelowna should have won this game and came within a goal even while allowing three power play goals. I’m not sure what it is going to take for the Warriors to get on the right end of the special teams battle but it needs to be figured out and rather quickly because special teams plays an even larger part in the playoffs than it does in game #50. 5-on-5 this team can skate with anyone but when you factor in playing either up or down a man, the game changes in a hurry for the Warriors and it’s something that I know is addressed and will need to be heading into the regular season’s last eight games. The next one up for the Warriors is on Thursday night when the team travels up north to take on the Prince George Spruce Kings for the 2nd and final time this season and wraps up a stretch of three straight games against Mainland Division foes. The puck drops at 7:00 PM with the pre-game show live at 6:50 PM on the Warriors Internet Network and live on pay-per-view at http://www.hockeytv.com.