Saturday, September 14, 2013 - Submitted by Wayne Moore
The West Kelowna Warriors didn't let Friday the 13th stand in the way of picking up their first win of the 2013-2014 BC Hockey League season. After dropping their first two games at the Showcase in Chilliwack last weekend the Warriors bounced back with a well-deserved 3-2 victory over the Merritt Centennials in their home opener before about 1,000 fans at Royal LePage Place. It was just the second time the Warriors have won a home opener. The other was in 2009-2010 when they edged Penticton 4-3. Ambrose Firkus and David Pope each scored while rookie Liam Blackburn knocked home his second of the season with what proved to be the game winner off a face-off 14 minutes into the second period. Seb Lloyd chipped in with a pair of assists. The Warriors held leads of 2-0 and 3-1 but were unable to pull away from the stubborn Centennials who got a goal from Sam Johnson early in the third to cut the deficit to one but were unable to put the equalizer behind netminder Andy Desautels. West Kelowna started where they left off against Nanaimo last weekend - dominating time of puck possession and buzzing all around the Merritt net. "I thought we had some pretty good jump early on and I think we had some good looks on our power-play," says Warriors head coach Rylan Ferster. "Give them credit for coming out in the second period real hard. We kind of had to weather the storm - we were on our heels. I don't think you are going to dominate them the whole night." Ferster says he thought it was a pretty even back and forth game over the entire 60 minutes. "A bounce here or there and we might still be playing." Firkus, who had chances for three or four goals Friday, opened the scoring nine minutes in on a Warriors power play. He had a deft toe drag in the slot and roofed a quick wrist shot blocker side past Centennials goaltender Devin Kero. Pope doubled the lead two minutes into the second when he played the part of 'toe' on a brilliant tic-tac-toe passing play with Jordon Masters and Lloyd. After Merritt cut into the lead Blackburn restored the two-goal margin when he buried a shot past Kero off a face-off deep in the offensive end. The Warriors were just 1 for 9 on a power-play which had six opportunities to put the game out of reach in the third period but was unable to do so. "I thought Merritt made some good adjustments on their PK (penalty kill) after we had some pretty good looks early on. I thought we had some good chances but I thought their best penalty killer was their goalie," says Ferster. "He has to be and I thought he made some fantastic saves for them. We would like our power-play to be better but I thought we had some good looks and we were getting a few pucks through." The Warriors outshot Merritt 42-28 and while he was forced to handle 28 shots, Desautels didn't face many quality shots. "The guys were great out in front of me. I didn't have to make any saves that were too stressful," says Desautels. "I just had to keep things simple and do what I needed to do to help the boys get the win." When he was called upon, Desautels flashed a quick glove hand to keep the Centennials shooters at bay. The Warriors will try to get on even terms for the season when they pay the Centennials a visit in Merritt's home opener on Saturday. "It's a very difficult place to win in and they have a team built for it," says Ferster. "They work real hard and they finish every single check so we will certainly be tested tomorrow night. Going in there is never fun."