Wednesday, September 18, 2013 - Submitted by Wayne Moore
The West Kelowna Warriors broke open a tight 2-2 tie with three goals in the third period to squeeze past the visiting Vernon Vipers 5-3 Tuesday in a seesaw affair at Royal LePage Place.
The Warriors built a 2-0 first period lead only to sit back and watch the Vipers equalize after 40 minutes.
Third period goals from Brett Mennear (shorthanded), Ambrose Firkus (on the power-play) and David Pope then allowed the Warriors to pull away.
Seb Lloyd and Jordan Masters also scored for the Warriors, while Carl Helser and Adam Plant each added a pair of assists.
Mason Blacklock scored all three goals for the Vipers.
"We're up 2-0 after one and you like to think we can come out a little harder than we did," says Warriors head coach Rylan Ferster.
"Full marks to Vernon, they're a very good hockey team but I didn't think we had our best period in the second and gave up two goals I thought were preventable. In the third period we get a couple of breaks - Ambrose Firkus makes a nice individual effort and David Pope makes another nice one."
Lloyd opened the scoring in the first when his shot from the corner of the crease banked in off Vernon defenceman Michael Statchuk. Masters made it 2-0 five minutes later when he converted a nice three-way passing play from Firkus and Liam Blackburn just as a Vernon penalty expired.
The Vipers fought back in the second as Mason Blacklock converted a two-on-one for his first and tied it when he hit a wide-open net on a power-play when the Warriors gave the puck away while goalie Andy Desautels was caught up behind his net with teammate Taylor Graham.
Brett Mennear’s first BCHL goal gave the Warriors a one goal lead on a shorthanded breakaway five minutes into the third, however, Blacklock completed his hat-trick seconds later on the same power-play to even the score 3-3.
Firkus scored what proved to be the winner three minutes after that beating Danny Todosychuk high to the short side from the bottom of the right circle.
Pope put the game out of reach later in the period when a quick wrist shot from his off-wing went in off the far post.
Warriors special teams continued their early season struggles Tuesday.
The penalty kill, last in the BCHL at just 62.5%, gave the Vipers two goals on three opportunities while the power-play, 13th in the league at 13.8%, went just 1-4.
"We seem to be thinking we're doing the right thing and then something happens and it doesn't go our way," says Ferster of the special teams. "We'll just have to work on them."
He adds one of the Vernon power-play goals was more of a communication breakdown between defenceman and goaltender and not a system breakdown. "We've had a few like that already this year" the coach admits.
The Warriors top line with Lloyd centering Masters and Pope scored three of the team's five goals Tuesday. The trio now sits one, three and four in team scoring with seven goals and 17 points between them through five games.
"Playing with Dave and Jordan they're both great players and they both kink of play the way I like to play - moving the puck and give-and-go's," says Lloyd of the line’s chemistry.
"It's fun to play with them and I think it's only going to get better and better as we find a little more chemistry."
Tuesday's win was the Warriors’ third in a row, all against division foes, since dropping their opening two games of the season in Chilliwack.
The Warriors continue their six-game string of divisional matchups this weekend when they tangle with the Salmon Arm Silverbacks in a home-and-home set beginning Friday at Royal LePage Place.
Last season the Warriors had their hands full with Salmon Arm, with the two teams splitting the season series, each winning three times with one game ending in a 2-2 tie. Salmon Arm had three wins and a tie over the final five meetings.
The Silverbacks, with two wins and an overtime loss through their first four, are a much improved team over the club that squeezed past Trail for the fourth and final playoff spot in the division a year ago.
"We've heard a lot of good things about them improving. It's going to be fun to play," says Lloyd.
"They're going to be more skilled than last year from what we've heard. We're not going to change the way we play - we're still going to get on the forecheck, use our speed and skill. It should be a real fun weekend."