The West Kelowna Warriors couldn’t capitalize on some 2nd period chances, especially on the power play, and ended up surrendering eight goals in an 8-3 loss to the Merritt Centennials on Friday night at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena.
1) LACKING FINISH
The Warriors, I think, deserved better fate on a night that kind of got away from them in the 2nd period but one that was within reach if the power play could find a way to score in an opportune time. West Kelowna saw three 2nd period power plays, all in the opening 10 minutes of the period, go by the way side as they couldn’t find a way to get past Jacob Berger, who to his credit was very good in the 2nd period as he turned aside 16 shots. There have been plenty of times this season that the power play has been a big letdown for the Warriors and if they had have converted on one of the attempts, this game could’ve had a completely different outcome. To jump back to the start of the period, the Warriors need to cut down on shorthanded goals against, cause it’s getting a bit out of control for a team that already struggles with the man advantage, never mind allowing goals while up a man. Brett Jewell’s shorthanded marker in the 2nd period certainly at the time didn’t seem like a back breaker but turned out to be one. To add to the scoring problems for the Warriors, their goaltending has to come up in big spots and Gabriel Morency did the opposite of that on Friday. A couple of goals you can’t fault him for but when you need a big save, possibly on the breakaway goal by Jewell, Morency couldn’t get his team a timely stop, which the Warriors have seen all too often this season. Morency went 12/17 on Friday, just not good enough to give the Warriors a chance. Now mind you, all of this can’t be hung up on goaltending as it’s takes a full team to earn a win and the defense tonight for the Warriors, and you could argue over the past few games, has been something we are unaccustomed to seeing in the past.
2) THE NEED TO GET HEALTHY
This coincides with my last sentence on my first thought and big reason why the Warriors defense has been a bit off over the past few games and that’s been the fact that the defense just isn’t healthy. Take arguably the top two defensemen off of any other team and I’m sure the same result will happen that your team defense is going to struggle and such has been the case with the Warriors as Scott Allan and Nicholas Rutigliano try and return to the lineup. The Warriors need the size of Allan and the minute-eating capability of Rutigliano to get their strong defensive play back because having 5 D every night is taking a toll on this team, as it would on any team. I don’t mean to harp on the defense because I know each of the D are giving it the vest they have and are gassed after every single night with guys playing minutes they are unaccustomed too but it’s no question that the defensive breakdowns and breakaways we have seen over the past few games are very uncharacteristic and something we haven’t witnessed in West Kelowna for a long while. Getting healthy is the number one priority for the Warriors and hopefully it comes soon to avoid nights like the one the Warriors had on Friday night.
My takeaways from the Warriors 8-3 loss to the Merritt Centennials on Friday night at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena were that the Warriors couldn’t find a way to score in a dominating opening 10 minutes of play in the 2nd period and needed some timely saves that were not there on this occasion. Credit to the Centennials who played a hard and fast game and got offense out of everywhere but I think this was a game that, if the finish was there, the Warriors could’ve seen go their way. Jacob Berger played a big part in the Merritt crease with some solid play in the middle stanza and was helped out by a pair of disallowed goals for the Warriors that could’ve changed the tide in this game but Merritt comes away with the win and these two teams could lock horns in the opening round of the playoffs just one week from now. The Warriors close out their regular season with a trip to the Shuswap to take on the Salmon Arm Silverbacks. West Kelowna needs a victory and a Trail loss (who play in Vernon tomorrow after a win on Friday night against the Vipers) to clinch 3rd place in the division and play the Silverbacks in the opening round of the playoffs. If the Warriors loss in any fashion on Saturday in Salmon Arm then it will be West Kelowna and Merritt in the first round. A big game for the Warriors to try and right the ship from Friday.