The West Kelowna Warriors season came to an end on Tuesday night with a 4-3 overtime loss to the Merritt Centennials in Game #4 of their best-of-7 first-round series at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena.
For the fourth straight game in the series, the Centennials opened the scoring in the game at the 3:59 mark of the opening as a shot from Michael Regush off the rush from the top of the right-wing face-off circle beat Warriors goaltender Josh Bolding over the glove side for a 1-0 Merritt lead.
West Kelowna tied the game just past the midway point of the 1st period at the 10:44 mark with Parm Dhaliwal knocking the puck in on the blocker side of Centennials netminder Jake Berger. The puck was popped up in the air and after Berger could not glove it down, Dhaliwal banged in home for his 3rd goal of the playoffs and a 1-1 tie.
The Warriors took just their second lead of the series at the 13:51 mark of the 1st period after a set play off a face-off just outside of Merritt defensive zone. Connor Sodergren won the face-off back to Jonas Gordon with his pass to the middle of the ice for a streaking Jake Harrison. Harrison gained the zone and sniped a shot from the left-wing face-off circle over the blocker side of Berger for his 3rd of the playoffs and a 2-1 Warriors advantage.
Michael Ryan doubled the Warriors lead just 36 seconds later, at the 14:27 mark of the opening frame, with a pass from below the goal line from Sodergren that found an open Ryan in front of the net. As he was falling to the ice, Ryan slid the puck through the legs of Berger for his 3rd goal of the series and giving the Warriors their first two-goal lead of the series at 3-1.
Just before the first period came to an end, Brett Jewell got the Centennials to within a goal. At the 19:10 mark of the 1st period, Tyler Ward came into the zone off the right wing and his shot was stopped by the left pad of Bolding but the rebound was kicked to Jewell who was able to beat Bolding on the blocker side to get Merritt to within a goal and have the first period end 3-2 in favour of West Kelowna.
The 2nd period of this game saw no scoring but a change in the Warriors net. Affiliate player Josh Bolding started the game and stopped 14 of the 16 shots he faced in the opening period but was relieved by Cole Demers to start the second period.
Demers was very good coming on in relief as he made 16 saves on each of the 16 shots he faced in the 2nd period while Centennials netminder Jake Berger turned aside 13 second period shots and had stopped 33 of the 36 shots he had faced through two periods of play.
The 3rd period opened with the Centennials applying some pressure but unable to crack past Demers and the Warriors until late in the final regulation frame as with 26.6 seconds to go in the 3rd, controversy ensued in the Nicola Valley.
With Berger to the bench for the extra attacker, Tyler Ward threw a shot from the mid-point deflected off a Warriors defender and hit the post on the glove side of Demers before the puck slid back to him. The red light behind the Warriors goal went on despite the puck never crossing the goal line. The Centennials began to celebrate the apparent goal while the referees got together at centre ice. After a brief conversation, the official pointed to centre ice signalling a good goal without the puck actually crossing the goal line. Stephan Seeger got credit for the goal and the Warriors and Centennials headed to overtime for the second time in the series at 3-3.
The overtime did not last long as for the second time in the series, Stephan Seeger scored the overtime winner just 2:02 into the extra frame off a rebound on the glove side of Demers and gave the Centennials a 4-0 series win along with ending the Warriors season.
Josh Bolding started the game for the Warriors, making 14 saves on 16 shots in the first period before Cole Demers relieved him and stopped 28 of the 30 shots he faced in the defeat. Jake Berger made 43 saves on 46 shots in the Centennials net for the victory.
FINAL SCORE: 4-3 (OT) Centennials
SHOTS ON GOAL: 46-46
PP: Warriors (0/2) Centennials (0/2)
1) Stephan Seeger (2-0-2)
2) Tyler Ward (0-1-1)
3) Michael Regush (0-1-1)