The West Kelowna Warriors picked up a big road victory on Wednesday night as they gutted out a 4-3 win against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks at the Shaw Centre.
1) A SPECIAL PERFORMANCE
The Warriors special teams has taken a complete 180 from eight days ago against the Langley Rivermen on home ice as the Warriors have scored a power play goal in each of the last three games as well as killing off 16 of the last 17 penalties against. The Warriors added two power play goals in this game as Logan Mostat and Quin Foreman buried when up a man to give the Warriors a red-hot start when on the man advantage as they converted on their first two tries. The remainder of the game saw the Warriors PP go 0/4 but they did win the special teams battle as their PK held up strong on the night. After receiving the first five PP opportunities of the game, you figured that the tide would turn and it did in a big way as the Silverbacks picked up a pair of abbreviated 5-on-3 power plays, converting on the final one of those on an Elijiah Barriga shot from the top of the left face-off circle to knot the game at two. But the Warriors PK held up well for the remainder of the game as they killed off a big 3rd period penalty en route to their 26th victory of the season, also fueled by a Jonas Gordon third period fight as he dropped the mitts with Salmon Arm forward Ryan Hogg for a good scrap in the game’s final 10 minutes to provide an added spark to what was already a feisty affair against these two Interior Division rivals. The other part of the special performance tonight for the Warriors was the strong play of netminder Gabriel Morency who made 41 saves on 44 shots for his 4th victory as a member of the Warriors and now has won his last two starts. Morency made one save in particular, robbing Barriga on a breakaway with him speeding through the neutral zone and trying to beat Morency to the five hole but shutting him down with a great stop.
2) A PLAYOFF LIKE FEEL (AND POTENTIAL MATCHUP)
The standings in the BCHL’s Interior Division move up and down more than an elevator but as it sits right now, the Warriors and ‘Backs would play each other in the opening round of the BCHL playoffs and man, for a second year in a row, it would be one feisty affair between the two rivals separated by just about an hour and 45 minutes. This game had all the makings of a playoff-like contest with both teams looking for valuable February points while Salmon Arm still has yet to officially clinch a playoff spot with Surrey still in the mix and hanging around with a brief chance of seeing postseason hockey. Any matchup the Warriors get in the opening round of the playoffs will be tough but the ‘Backs have proven tough for the Warriors this season with four victories against WK this season. I’m sure when these two teams met in a week and a bit that the feeling will be very much the same as tonight with a tight affair and a decision between these two clubs not being decided by more than two goals this season as each team knows how one another plays and that results in very good games with the Warriors being the better team on this night and coming away with the deserving victory.
My takeaways from the Warriors 4-3 victory over the Salmon Arm Silverbacks on Wednesday night at the Shaw Centre are that the Warriors won the special teams battle again, for the third straight game, and picked up a large two points to boost them up to 3rd in the Interior Division standings. Despite points in this game that were a bit sloppy, from both sides it seemed, I thought the Warriors came away with a strong effort and beat a team that has had their number over the course of the season. Plus the return of both Nicholas Rutigliano and Peter Tomaras helped play a big part into the victory, especially from “Tigs” as his presence on the backend was welcomed as he ate up minutes on the Warrior blue line all night long and helped along fellow 20-year-old defensemen in Jonas Gordon for a solid game. Overall, a solid road game executed from the Warriors and a deserving victory to put them in 3rd place heading into the weekend and a big two games against two division leaders starts on Friday night with the team’s final regular season visit to the South Okanagan Events Centre to take on the Penticton Vees for the 6th time this season before facing off against the Victoria Grizzlies on Saturday night at RLP. Puck drop for Friday is slated at 7 PM with pre-game show getting underway at 6:50 PM on the Warriors Internet Network and www.hockeytv.com.