The West Kelowna Warriors couldn’t take advantage of some early 2nd period power plays and surrendered eight goals in an 8-2 loss to the Merritt Centennials at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena on Friday night.
The Warriors started the period in great shape getting an early goal at the 3:35 mark of the 1st frame as Quin Foreman was spotted open at the blocker side of Merritt netminder Jacob Berger. Michael Ryan pinched in from the defense and tucked behind the goal before coming out and finding the open Foreman for his team-leading 27th goal of the season and a 1-0 Warriors advantage.
The Centennials tied the game just 48 seconds later at the 4:23 mark of the opening period as an unfortunate bounce off the corner boards stemming from a reverse pass by the Warriors defense allowing Stephen Seeger to be alone in front and beat Warriors goaltender Gabriel Morency up over the glove side for the 1-1 tie.
West Kelowna regained their lead at the 13:15 mark after a strong penalty kill of a five-minute checking from behind penalty given to forward Braiden Epp. Parm Dhaliwal spun and fired from the right face-off circle and had the puck trickle through the blocker side of Berger and across the goal line for his 6th goal of the season and a 2-1 Warriors lead.
The Centennials didn’t let that lead last long either as at the 15:43 mark of the 1st period, Stephen Seeger shot the puck from the left goal line and found to top corner from a sharp angle as he tallied his second goal of the night and tied the game at two after one period of play.
Merritt would start the period with a bang and rattle off three straight goals in the middle stanza starting with a shorthanded goal at the 1:41 mark. Centennial captain Brett Jewell was sent in on a breakaway and beat Morency to the glove side for the shorty and giving Merritt their first lead of the game at 3-2.
The Cents captain was at it again after some strong pressure from the Warriors throughout the period but couldn’t crack Merritt netminder Jacob Berger despite three power play opportunities as Jewell was spotted on the back door at the glove side after a rush from Tyler Ward for his second goal of the game and a 4-2 Centennial lead at the 15:55 mark of the 2nd frame.
Merritt found the back of the net once more before the period was out at the 19:42 mark as with just 18 seconds left in the middle stanza, Zach Zorn shot the puck from the left wing that Morency got a piece of but not enough as the puck dropped behind the goal line and in for the Cents third goal of the period and a 5-2 lead after 40 minutes of play.
The Centennials found the back of the net three more times in the third period starting with a Henry Cleghorn goal at the 5:45 mark of the 3rd period as he was found alone in the slot for the goal on new Warrior netminder Owen Partrick making his first appearance in the BCHL as the Cleghorn goal pushed the lead to 6-2.
The Cents extended their lead to 7-2 at the 9:42 mark as Zach Court added to the scoring with a goal before the Warriors got their third goal of the game at the 13:16 mark as Chase Dubois converted on the power play on a bouncing puck for his 18th goal of the season. Merritt finish their scoring off with a goal at the 17:48 mark to make the final score 8-3 in favour of the Centennials.
Gabriel Morency started the game for the Warriors and allowed five goals on 28 shots and getting saddled with the loss before giving way to Owen Partrick, who made his first appearance in the BCHL and stopped 9 of the 12 shots he faced in the 3rd period. Jacob Berger started for the Centennials and was fantastic, making 30 saves on 33 shots in the victory.
FINAL SCORE: 8-3 Centennials
SHOTS ON GOAL: 33-29 Warriors
PP: Warriors (1/5) Centennials (0/2)
1) Stephen Seeger (2-1-3)
2) Brett Jewell (2-0-2)
3) Henry Cleghorn (1-1-2)
The Warriors (27-28-0-2) play their final regular season game Saturday night as they head to the Shuswap to take on the Salmon Arm Silverbacks (23-28-3-3) at the Shaw Centre. Puck drop is slated for 7:00 PM with the pre-game show starting at 6:50 PM with free audio available on the Warriors Internet Network and live video on pay-per-view at www.hockeytv.com.