PHOTO: Jennifer Small
TRAIL, B.C. – The West Kelowna Warriors battled from behind all night long but were unable to get an equalizing marker as they fell by a 6-4 score to the Trail Smoke Eaters on Saturday night at Cominco Arena.
Power plays reigned supreme in the opening period with three of the total four goals coming via the man advantage but began with an even strength marker as Trail opened the scoring just 21 seconds into the game as Jason Stefanek took a turnover and pushed the puck up ice, making a move to the glove side of Matthew DellaRusso in the Warriors net and beating him for an early 1-0 lead.
A Smoke Eaters penalty allowed the Warriors to go to the man advantage and capitalize courtesy of strong puck movement and a one-time drive from Jack Pridham. Isaiah Norlin sent a pass to the left face-off circle that Pridham teed up and snuck off the post and off of Smoke Eaters goaltender Ryan Parker for his 16th goal of the season and a 1-1 tie game.
The Smoke Eaters came back with the first of two opening period goals on the power play as Adam Barone’s shot through traffic from the mid-point had eyes for the net at the 5:43 mark before Chase Stefanek, later in the period, tipped in a Barone shot at the side of the net and helped the Smoke Eaters to a two-goal advantage at 3-1 heading into the 2nd period.
Trail jumped ahead by a three-goal margin for the first time in the game at the 2:02 mark of the 2nd period as Ridge Dawson scored the first of his eventual two goals in the game to give the Smoke Eaters a 4-1 lead.
West Kelowna battled back in the game and cut the deficit to a pair of markers with Felix Caron making a move on the goal line and finishing on his backhand with a nice tally for his 24th goal of the season to send the Warriors into the 2nd intermission down by a pair of goals.
Michael Salandra made it a one-goal game at the 7:27 mark of the 3rd period, redirecting a shot from Caron in the slot past the blocker side of Parker before it was Dawson again who extended the Smoke Eaters lead back to a pair of goals at 10:13 of the final period.
The Warriors power play converted to get the game back within a goal again for the second time in the game as Johannes Løkkeberg zipped a shot over the blocker shoulder of Parker as the Warriors continued to battle from behind and make it a one-goal game once more.
With the net empty and DellaRusso to the bench, West Kelowna vied to get the game on even terms but were not able to find the equalizer with Mathieu Cobetto-Roy finding the empty net as Trail pulled away with a 6-4 victory.
Matthew DellaRusso started in net for the Warriors, making 24 saves on 29 shots in his 2nd loss of the season while Ryan Parker turned aside 24 of the 28 shots thrown his way in his 12th win of the season.
FINAL SCORE: 6-4 Smoke Eaters
SHOTS ON GOAL: 30-28 Smoke Eaters
WARRIORS PP: 2/2
WARRIORS PK: 1/3
1) Ridge Dawson (2-0-2)
2) Felix Caron (1-2-3)
3) Adam Barone (1-1-2)
Fortis Energy Player of the Game: Gryphon Bucci (0-2-2)
West Kelowna (24-8-7-0) make their way back to Royal LePage Place for the first time in 19 days as they take on the Salmon Arm Silverbacks (25-12-0-2) on Friday night. Puck drop is slated for 7:00 PM in West Kelowna with tickets available for purchase on the Warriors website as well as in-person at the Box Office, open one hour before puck drop.
The game against the Silverbacks is the first of two on Family Day Weekend as the Warriors will play host to the Langley Rivermen on Monday, February 19th. The Family Day game takes place at 2:30 PM and is presented by Pushor Mitchell with the final Skate With the Warriors planned following the final buzzer.