PHOTO: Lisa Mazurek
VERNON, B.C. – The West Kelowna Warriors used another solid effort from Rorke Apple, who made 26 saves, and got goals from Johannes Løkkeberg, Jack Pridham and Landen Hilditch to finish the pre-season a perfect 4-0 with a 3-1 victory over the Vernon Vipers on Saturday night at Kal Tire Place.
For the fourth consecutive game in the exhibition campaign, the Warriors were first to find the back of the net on the strength of another solid effort of penalty killing early in the game and Norwegian forward Johannes Løkkeberg earned his first goal of the pre-season for a 1-0 advantage.
A strong presence on the forecheck by Brennan Nelson forced a turnover below the goal line and Michael Salandra set up Løkkeberg in the slot as the forward slid the puck to his body before ripping a wrist shot over the blocker shoulder of Vipers netminder Ethan David to draw first blood in the game at the 6:32 mark of the opening period.
West Kelowna doubled their lead with Jack Pridham finding the back of the net on a delayed Vipers penalty to give the Warriors a 2-0 lead. Pridham came off the bench as the extra attacker and took a Dylan Brooks pass in the slot before leaning into a wrist shot and hit the left arm of David before the puck trickled past the goal line at the 12:01 mark of the frame to give the Warriors a two-goal advantage.
Vernon made their effort to get back in the game in the opening of the 2nd period and got within a tally with veteran defender Connor Elliott sending a shot from the blue line that had eyes for the back of the net, working through traffic in front and past the glove side of Warriors goaltender Rorke Applebee to cut the West Kelowna lead in half at the 5:43 mark of the middle frame.
West Kelowna was able to swing the game back in their favour with a two-goal lead again from an unfamiliar source as blueliner Landen Hilditch, who has not scored in 40 career regular season games, potted the marker to give the Warriors a 3-1 lead. Cal Hughes was denied on a breakaway chance from the left side before Hilditch followed up on the play and deposited the rebound over the glove shoulder of David at 11:25 that pushed the visitors back ahead by a pair of goals.
The final period was the busiest for Warriors netminder Rorke Applebee, who turned aside 50 of the 51 shots thrown his way over the course of the two-game weekend against the Vipers and made a handful of big stops, including a shorthanded breakaway save on Owen Kim for the second consecutive night to help the Warriors secure the win.
Applebee made 12 of his 26 saves in the 3rd period as he went 26-for-27 in his second consecutive win while Ethan David turned aside 17 of the 20 shots thrown his way in the Vernon net in the losing effort.
FINAL SCORE: 3-1 Warriors
SHOTS ON GOAL: 27-20 Vipers
WARRIORS PP: 0/6
WARRIORS PK: 6/6
West Kelowna will get set for the opening of their 2023/24 regular season when they take on the Penticton Vees on Friday, September 22nd at Royal LePage Place. Puck drop is set for 7:00 PM from RLP with tickets now available for purchase on the Warriors website as well as at the Warriors Office.