PHOTO: Tami Quan
WEST KELOWNA, B.C. – The West Kelowna Warriors erased a two-goal 1st period deficit but fell to the Cranbrook Bucks by a 6-3 score on Friday night at Royal LePage Place.
It didn’t take long for the visiting Bucks to jump on the scoresheet as just 32 seconds into the game, Cranbrook took a 1-0 lead courtesy of third-year forward Noah Quinn. The Warriors turned the puck over inside of their zone and Quinn got to the loose puck in front of the net, slipping a shot through the legs of Warriors goaltender Angelo Zol and under a minute in, Cranbrook took a one-goal lead.
The Warriors did have a few chances in the opening period, firing 7 shots on Cranbrook goaltender Nathan Airey but the University of Minnesota commit made all the saves he needed to, including a big stop on the blocker side on Landen Hilditch to keep the game in the Bucks favour before Donovan Frias gave the visitors a 2-0 edge.
Frias took a pass from below the goal line from his brother Julian after Jaxon Fuder diced his way into the offensive zone and Donovan, who scored his 5th goal against the Warriors this season at the 10:05 mark of the opening period gave Cranbrook a 2-0 lead.
For a fourth straight game, the Warriors mounted a comeback from a multi-goal deficit and it came just 1:08 into the period as Isaiah Norlin tallied on the power play to get the game within a marker. Ben MacDonald got the puck back to the top of the point where Norlin wristed a shot through traffic and past the glove side of Bucks goaltender Nathan Airey for his 5th goal of the season to make it a 2-1 game.
51 seconds later, Chris Duclair buried for the second straight game and got the game on even terms with his 14th goal of the season. After a Bucks turnover inside of the defensive zone, Duclair got the puck in the slot and swung it to the front of the net past Airey to tie the game at 2-2.
Cranbrook began to push and took control of the game once more as Luke Pfoh restored the Bucks lead at 6:53 of the 2nd period. Pfoh took a Jaden Fodchuk pass in the middle of the ice as he cut to the slot and buried a shot past the glove side of Zol for a 3-2 edge.
Bauer Morrissey extended the Bucks lead to two goals once more at the 12:46 mark of the middle frame with a power play marker. Morrissey sent a shot through traffic crom the left point and got his shot over the blocker side of Zol to give the Bucks a 4-2 lead.
Cranbrook finished out the scoring in the middle period with their third consecutive goal as Jack Silich found the back of the net at the 17:58 mark of the middle period. Nick Peluso got the blocker side of Zol and forced a pass in front where Silich buried on the glove side with just over two minutes remaining in the period to give Cranbrook a 5-2 lead.
Another power play goal pushed the Bucks to their largest lead of the game at the 1:07 mark of the 3rd period as early in the frame, Cam Kungle tipped in a shot from Noah Quinn to push the Bucks ahead by a 6-2 score.
The scoring concluded with a gorgeous goal from Ben MacDonald on the power play, notching his 22nd marker of the season. He stepped around a defender in the right face-off circle before sniping a shot over the glove shoulder of Airey for his team leading 11th power play goal of the season and made the score 6-3 at the 10:16 mark of the final period.
Angelo Zol started in goal for the Warriors, making 19 saves on 25 shots in his 6th loss of the season while Nathan Airey collected his 23rd win of the season, turning aside 26 of the 29 shots thrown his way.
FINAL SCORE: 6-3 Bucks
SHOTS ON GOAL: 29-25 Warriors
WARRIORS PP: 2/5
WARRIORS PK: 1/3
1) Noah Quinn (1-2-3)
2) Bauer Morrissey (1-0-1)
3) Nathan Airey (26 saves on 29 shots)
Fortis Energy Player of the Game: Landen Hilditch (0-0-0)
The Warriors (26-20-5-0) turn their attention to the Coastal Conference-leading Nanaimo Clippers (35-13-3-0) on Saturday night. It is Hockey for Habitat Night at Royal LePage Place with the proceeds from the 50/50 being donated to Habitat for Humanity. Puck drop is slated for 7:00 PM with tickets available for purchase on the Warriors website as well as in-person at the Box Office.
Season tickets for the 2023/24 season are now on sale! Fill out the form (https://form.jotform.com/230535299013251) and secure your seats for another exciting season of Warriors hockey!