WEST KELOWNA, B.C. – The West Kelowna Warriors once again rallied from a multi-goal deficit but could not find the go-ahead marker as they dropped a 5-2 score to the Coquitlam Express on Saturday night at Royal LePage Place.
The Warriors began the game with strong pace and pushed the opening few shots of the game before the Express found their legs and opened the scoring with Blake Setter giving the visitors the upper hand.
After a defensive turnover behind the goal, Ray Hamlin was able to collect the puck for the Express and attempted a wraparound try on the glove side of Warriors goaltender Angelo Zol, which he stopped before the rebound was popped in by a streaking Setter to the front of the net at the 6:32 mark of the opening period for a 1-0 Coquitlam advantage.
Both teams found some iron in the opening period that finished in the Express’ favour by a goal as Coquitlam defender Luke Vardy hit the post on a right point shot that snuck past the blocker side of Zol, who made 10 saves on 11 1st period shots while Rylee Hlusiak found the crossbar on a shot from the slot over the glove side of Express netminder Brady Smith, who turned aside all 10 shots thrown his way in 20 minutes.
A five-goal frame between the two sides set up an entertaining middle period that began with the Express taking a two-goal lead as Liam Tanner buried 1:23 into the 2nd period. Tanner got the puck at the goal line as he walked to the front of the net and roofed a backhand shot over the shoulders of Zol to push the Coquitlam advantage to a pair of goals.
The Warriors were able to get some momentum back in the 2nd period as Nic Porchetta scored his 11th goal of the season at the 3:54 mark of the middle frame. Jake Bernadet took a pass from Kaius Green as he got to the left face-off circle and set up Porchetta in the slot as he slipped a shot past the glove side of Smith to cut the deficit to a goal.
For the third consecutive game, the Warriors were able to climb back from an early deficit and it came shorthanded courtesy of Chris Duclair. The West Kelowna forward tried to center a pass to the middle of the ice that was knocked down by a Coquitlam defender before he retrieved the puck on the glove side and wrapped it around the blocker side and in for his 13th marker of the season at 7:03 of the 2nd period to get the game on even terms.
Similar to Friday night, however, the Warriors relinquished that tie as Coco Armstrong scored on the same power play to give the Express a 3-2 lead. Armstrong got the puck at the front of the goal and made a move to his backhand before lifting a shot over Zol to push the visitors ahead by a marker once again at the 8:03 mark of the frame.
Evan Brown pushed the Coquitlam lead back to a pair of goals with another power play marker at the 13:02 mark of the 2nd period and the third Express goal of the frame. A nice passing play went from Buttazzoni to Gavin Giesbrecht and back to the left face-off circle where Brown buried the one-timer to give the Express a 4-2 lead.
Michael Rubin capped off the scoring in the 3rd period with the lone goal of the frame coming at 3:30 of the final period. His left point shot got through traffic and past Zol on the glove side and added to the Coquitlam advantage as the visitors jumped ahead by a 5-2 score, the eventual final.
Angelo Zol started in net for the Warriors, turning aside 35 of the 40 shots thrown his way in his 5th loss of the season while Brady Smith was terrific in goal for Coquitlam, making 33 saves on 35 shots in his 7th win of the campaign.
FINAL SCORE: 5-2 Express
SHOTS ON GOAL: 40-35 Express
WARRIORS PP: 0/5
WARRIORS PK: 0/2
1) Mirko Buttazzoni (0-3-3)
2) Jason Gallucci (0-1-1)
3) Brady Smith (33 saves on 35 shots)
Fortis Energy Player of the Game: Chris Duclair (1-0-1)
The Warriors (26-19-5-0) will continue on home ice with a St. Patrick’s Day contest and throwing it back with green jerseys as they host the Cranbrook Bucks (34-13-1-2) on Friday night. Puck drop is slated for 7:00 PM at Royal LePage Place with tickets available for purchase online at the Warriors website as well as in-person at the Box Office ahead of puck drop.