The West Kelowna Warriors took their Home Opener in a 6-4 win that saw them come back from 3 goals down in the 1st period.
It was an even start to the hockey game as the first 6 minutes or so saw the Warriors have a couple of key opportunities in front of Anthony Pupplo, but both Brett Mennear and Kylar Hope could not find the net.
The Centennials had a great chance with Nick Fidanza in all alone, but Daniel Mannella was equal to the task.
Shortly after, the Centennials got their first goal on a nice shot from the slot by Tyler Ward. Off the next faceoff, Cole Arcuri walked in over the line and sent a backdoor pass to Zach Zorn for the 2nd Merritt goal in just 7 seconds. The Cents added another on the power-play when Nick Jermain tapped in another backdoor pass on what was a very pretty 3-way passing play.
The Warriors regrouped a bit after the 3rd goal, and Paul Lovsin got West Kelowna on the board with a goal at 19:55. Lovsin's 1st BCHL goal was his 25th Junior A goal, after spending 2 seasons (and winning 2 championships) with the AJHL's Spruce Grove Saints.
The biggest turning point of the game came at the 1st period buzzer, as Ryan Forbes of the Cents jumped Kyle Marino of the Warriors. Marino, who had his sore right hand taped up, could not oblige in the fight, and tried to avoid it. Forbes rained punches down and ended up with 7 minutes in penalties which put the Warriors on the power-play to begin the 2nd.
West Kelowna scored 3 times on the man-advantage, with goals from Marino, Brett Mennear, and the 1st BCHL goal from 16-year-old Jake Harrison. Just 49 seconds after the Warriors made it 4-3, Jake Tesarowski got into the 1st goal act with a nice finish on an odd-man rush.
From that point, the Centennials looked frustrated, as the Warriors continued to control the play, leading them to a 24-4 shots on goal margin. It would finish 41-20 in favour of West Kelowna.
The teams traded goals in the 3rd as Henry Cleghorn made it 5-4, but Rylan Yaremko sealed it at 16:16.
1st -Kyle Marino (West Kelowna, 1 G, 1 A)
2nd - Cole Arcuri (Merritt, 2 A)
3rd - Jake Harrison (West Kelowna, 1 G, 1 A)
W - Daniel Mannella - 4 Goals Against, 16 saves
L - Anthony Pupplo - 6 Goals Against, 35 saves
Nerves didn't really seem to be a factor early on, until the midway mark of the 1st when a turnover lead to the opening goal, and a bad faceoff pinch lead to the 2nd right after. The Warriors leadership group stepped up with their physical play and energy, while the penalty kill would kill off 2 of 3 in the opening frame.
The Lovsin goal (right after a couple Kyle Marino hits) really got the LOUD (1152 Warriors fans) back in the game with 5 seconds to go in the 1st. With the Forbes 7 minutes at the buzzer, the crowd you could tell was anticipating a big start to the 2nd.
The Warriors did not disappoint, I think partly due to the fact they didn't know they had 7 minutes to work with. The referees sent both teams to the dressing room after the incident at the buzzer, and nobody knew the extent of the penalties until then.
3 big power-play goals on that 7 minute advantage gave the Warriors a lead they wouldn't relinquish. Good work by the units who scored in 3 different ways. Big positives to see the 1st BCHL goals from Jake Harrison and Jake Tesarowski. Liam Blackburn had some good thoughts on those two as well, which you can see HERE.
The one Merritt player that stood out tonight was Gavin Gould. The Warriors would see #16 every single time the whistle blew, as he had run ins with numerous players throughout the night. Much like Rhett Willcox last year (now in Trail), Gould has the ability to get under the oppositions skin, but I don't think that the Warriors got sucked in tonight. The discipline in those situations will be key moving forward.
The Warriors and the Cents battle once more on Saturday night in Merritt. This should be another test for the Warriors, as they will go through the Centennials Home Opener ceremony, before many players play for the first time on the smaller surface of Nicola Valley Arena.
Rylan Ferster doesn't believe that the bad blood and high emotions will carry over to Saturday, but with young hockey players early in the season, you just never know. Looking around the league tonight there were some incidents that included instigating, a possible eye-gouging, and a couple check from behinds. Hopefully these incidents calm down as the season progresses.
Catch the action on WIN at www.mixlr.com/bchlwarriors starting with the pre-game show at 7:10. Also, check back around 3:30 pm for the Pre-Game stats pack right here on Battle Cries.