The West Kelowna Warriors fell behind early and couldn’t climb their way back as they fell by a 6-2 score to the Merritt Centennials in Game #3 of their first-round series at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena on Monday night,
The Centennials, for the third straight game, opening the scoring early in the contest as just 1:53 into the opening period of play, Tyler Ward wristed a shot past the glove side of Warriors netminder Cole Demers off a West Kelowna turnover and gave the Cents a 1-0 advantage.
The Warriors pressured and hit a cross bar in the 1st frame coming off a Connor Sodergren shot but could not find an equalizer and the Centennials took advantage of that, scoring their second goal of the game at the 17:26 mark of the period as Zach Zorn was spotted back door on the glove side from a pass off the stick of Nick Fidanza and Merritt jumped ahead by a 2-0 score.
Cole Demers made 12 saves on 14 shots in the opening period of play in Game #3 of the series while Jake Berger, his counterpart in the Merritt net, made each and every save on the 16 shots he faced in the opening period.
The Cents extended their lead to three at the 8:43 mark of the 2nd period as Tyler Ward was spotted in front off of a Warriors turnover in their own zone by Nick Fidanza for his 6th goal of the series and a 3-0 Merritt advantage.
The three-goal lead did not last long as just 12 seconds later, at the 8:55 mark, affiliate player Tyler Chavez-Leech drove the goal wide on the right wing and found some daylight on the glove side of Centennials goaltender Jacob Berger for his first career BCHL playoff goal (and BCHL goal) and cut the deficit to 3-1.
Merritt took their second three-goal lead of the period as at the 16:45 mark of period number two Cade Gleekel wired a puck from the top of the right face-off circle beating Demers to the glove side for his first goal of the series and giving the Cents a 4-1 lead.
Before the period was out, at the 18:04 mark of the middle stanza, a creative end board bank pass from Connor Sodergren gave the Warriors their second goal of the game. Sodergren sent the puck from behind the blue line off of the end boards as it careened right back in front of the goal to an open Michael Ryan, making no mistake over the glove side of Berger for his 2nd goal of the playoffs and cutting the deficit to two goals once again as Merritt took a 4-2 lead into the 2nd intermission.
The Centennials got themselves their three-goal lead back on a centering pass from below the goal line that found an open Nick Fidanza in front and the Merritt forward buried his first goal of the playoffs and pushed the Cents advantage to 5-2 at the 5:22 mark of the period.
The Warriors didn’t force much to the goal in the third period of play, firing just four shots on goal in the final frame and Merritt’s Ethan King iced the game with an empty net goal with just 23 seconds to go in the game and preserve a 6-2 win on home ice and a 3-0 series lead for the Centennials.
Cole Demers got the start for the Warriors and made 33 saves on 38 shots in his 3rd playoff loss while Jake Berger was very good in the Merritt crease tonight stopping 30 of the 32 shots he faced in the game for his 3rd win of the series.
FINAL SCORE: 6-2 Centennials
SHOTS ON GOAL: 39-32 Centennials
PP: Warriors (0/3) Centennials (0/3)
1) Tyler Ward (2-0-2)
2) Nick Fidanza (1-3-4)
3) Henry Cleghorn (0-2-2)
The Warriors will look to stave off elimination on Tuesday night as they take on the Merritt Centennials in Game #4 of their first-round playoff series at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena. Puck drop is slated for 7:00 PM with the pre-game show starting at 6:45 PM on the Warriors Internet Network and www.hockeytv.com. If the Warriors can win on Tuesday night, Game #5 of the series will take place on Thursday night at Royal LePage Place for a 7:00 PM face-off.