The West Kelowna Warriors had their chances but couldn’t quite find the equalizer in a 3-1 loss to the Vernon Vipers on Saturday night at Kal Tire Place.
1) A PAIR OF DAGGERS
The Warriors only played with 10 forwards and 5 defensemen on Saturday night which I think should play a big part into dissecting this game but there were a pair of potential daggers that, in my opinion, played a key into their 25th loss of the season. The first was the late 2nd period goal coming from Ryan Brushett. It’s a goal that I am sure Warriors netminder Cole Demers would like to have back as Brushett picked the corner on a shot from the top of the right face-off circle and beat Demers over his blocker shoulder. A nice-looking shot but I don’t believe that anything touched the puck before it hit the twine and with the Warriors tying the game just 48 seconds before that, it was a save the Warriors really could’ve used heading into the dressing room after 40 minutes of play with a tie instead of being down a goal. The second was a missed penalty shot by Chase Stevenson, who made a great play to get the Warriors first penalty shot of the season as he sped through the neutral zone and forced a Vernon defender to haul him down to prevent the scoring chance but gave the Warriors 17-year-old forward a free look at the net. Stevenson started slowly through the neutral zone and across the blue line but gained speed as he hit the slot behind faking to his forehand and sliding the puck off his backhand. The puck went through the legs of Darion Hanson but just past the blocker side post and the near miss would’ve changed the game for the Warriors but instead kept the game at a 2-1 lead for the Vipers, a lead that they would not relinquish.
2) RUNNING OUT OF GAS
It’s no secret that the Warriors are banged up and that came full circle on Saturday night as the Warriors iced just ten forwards and five defensemen for the game and we’re unable to find scoring. It’s not surprising when playing with that short of a lineup that coming down to the final ten minutes of the game, everyone is going to be gassed as they’ve used up all their energy. Guys like Stephen Kleysen and Tyler Jutting are forced to play nearly to the 40-minute mark but did play well in keeping a relatively fresh Vernon team to limited chances. Darion Hanson was very good for the Vipers tonight, making many key saves including a big right pad stop on Logan Mostat in the 3rd period on the penalty kill to keep the Vipers lead a one. I didn’t think he was tested in quality scoring areas as much as the Warriors coaching staff would like but still a very good night for number 30 in red. When the Vipers are throwing out a nearly full lineup and know how to wear down teams with physical play better than anyone else in the division, it’s a tough game from the get-go but the Warriors gave it their all and look like there may be a light at the end of the tunnel as a pair of pieces, including one big piece on the backend, could may their return on Wednesday night in Salmon Arm.
My takeaways from the Warriors 3-1 loss in Vernon to the Vipers on Saturday night at Kal Tire Place was that the Warriors had their chances but could not capitalize and an undermanned squad ran out of gas as the game went on and were unable to find the elusive equalizing tally. I really think the two daggers (maybe even the big save by Hanson on Mostat in the third) would’ve changed this game around if they went the Warriors way. Any goal in the final minute of a period is tough to give up, especially when tying the game was so trying for the Warriors, but not getting that penalty shot to find the back of the net really hurt the Warriors chances of tying the game up. Stevenson did all he could and beat the goaltender but the hockey gods were not on the Warriors side on this occasion as that puck trickled just wide of the post (at a time that Vernon was reeling a bit and spot the Warriors could’ve seized momentum on). But the game went to the Vipers and the Warriors will have to regroup for a big game on Wednesday night against a team they haven’t seen in about two and a half months in the Salmon Arm Silverbacks. The Warriors could be on the return to health in a way as a pair of men look to get back into the lineup and a February-long three days off will help that. Puck drop from the Shaw Centre is slated for 7 PM with the pre-game going at 6:50 as always on the Warriors Internet Network and HockeyTV.com.