After the longest game in West Kelowna Warriors history ended it was tough to summarize the emotions of the coaching staff. A poor start in the game had the 1188 fans (or the percentage of Warriors fans) felt like they might be getting run out of the arena. To tie it up and play two and a half overtime periods just shows how tight this series really is. To read all about what happened last night, click here.
You have to give everyone in the Warriors room credit for their effort after getting down 3-0 just 5:44 into the 1st. It looked like this one was over, but the Warriors settled in and closed the gap on the shot clock through the remainder of the period.
The Warriors physical play was paramount in starting to wear the Vees down in the middle frame, as they finished every single check that they had the opportunity to finish. There were also numerous scrums that showed just how much these two teams really don't like each other.
Tanner Campbell's goal probably flicked a switch in the Warriors mind that turned it from "wear them down" to "we can come back in this one." That was pretty true as the 3rd period started, West Kelowna threw everything they had at Hunter Miska.
Kylar Hope made it 3-2 and got the Warriors crowd alive and well again, then it was Rylan Yaremko who made a great power move off the rush and cut to the net tucking it around Miska to tie the game. West Kelowna kept coming all period long, out-shooting the Vees 22-6 in that final frame. That doubled the Warriors shot total that they had after 2.
Heading into the overtime frame for the 3rd time I'm not sure anyone expected it to go as long as it did. This is where you credit both goaltenders who held their teams in it. Miska robbed Jason Cotton early in the 1st overtime, and made big saves on Hope, Liam Blackburn, and Brett Mennear in the extra frame.
Stephen Heslop, who started in place of Scott Patton who is day-to-day, bounced back after the first 5:44 of the game and was a wall as well. He robbed Cody Depourcq in the 2nd overtime in tight when it looked like the Vees were about to end it on the scramble.
Special teams were also key in the game as the Warriors killed off a pair of overtime penalties, and the Vees killed off one in the 3rd OT. Yaremko had the best opportunity on the power-play for the Warriors, but that was at the end of the 3rd period when a pass deflected off his stick.
Any way you slice it, it's a 2-1 series lead for the Vees and last night was the best game of the series. Hopefully the fans return for what has been the closest series in the entire BCHL playoffs so far.
Game 4 Keys:
Fatigue - Both teams should be exhausted with the length of last night's game, but the Vees rolled their four lines throughout, while Hunter Zandee and Bennett Huber didn't see a shift after the 3rd period I'm pretty sure. Mac Ferner also didn't play too much in overtime, and his partner Braeden Jones played sporadically. The key for Rylan Ferster is going to be seeing how much he can get out of those 4 players early on in tonight's game and lighten the work-load of the other 10 forwards and 4 defensemen.
Physicality - The Warriors increased their physical play in Game 3 and will need to do that once again in order to be successful. You never like to see a player get hurt and leave the game like Mike Lee did last night for the Vees, but the Warriors must have hit him 15 times in a 3 shift stretch. It got to the point where he didn't want to go back and get the puck, and would pin whichever Warrior got their first to the boards. The physical play by West Kelowna was well received by the crowd and they'll need more of that in Game 4.
The Start - 3 goals in the first 5:44 of the game was just what the Penticton Vees wanted. Credit the Warriors fans who seemed to get energized a little more with each hit, when they could have sat on their hands (clappers) all night. The Warriors need to make sure that whichever goalie is in net tonight feels the puck early. Having a 3 on 2 against you with 16 seconds gone in the first and Jack Ramsey will all the time in the world didn't help Heslop last night. I expect that West Kelowna's coaching staff will have their team ready go from the second the puck drops.
Expect tight checking hockey all night, and a close game as it has been all series. This has been extremely entertaining so come on down and watch the Warriors and the Vees in Game 4 at RLP.