It was the Vipers who came out strong in the opening frame, firing shots on Matthew Greenfield early. It was a wrister from Brett Stapley that caught Greenfield awkwardly over seven minutes in, and while Greenfield thought he had it, Ben Butcher pushed it over the line.
A very physically played first period lead to a couple of penalties, but neither team could score on their man advantage. The Warriors took themselves off the power play twice in the hockey game with undisciplined penalties.
The Warriors out-shot Vernon by a 20-8 margin in the second period, but were unable to beat Andrew Shortridge, who made the solid saves when he needed to. On top of that, West Kelowna struggled to hit the net, putting the puck over the goal on at least five different occasions.
The game's momentum starting swinging early in the third period as Jonathan Desbiens buried a rebound after an awkward fall into the side boards. It was Desbiens' 41st of the season, and came with the Warriors on a carried-over power play from the middle frame.
West Kelowna shut it down defensively in the final frame, and it was the line of Quin Foreman, Jared Marino, and Reed Gunville who gave the Warriors the lead. After Foreman had a great chance at the side of the goal and hit the cross-bar, a loose puck popped out in front to Gunville, as his shot eluded Shortridge to give West Kelowna the lead.
With the net empty in the final minute, Scott Allan's clearing attempt looked destined for icing, but some wicked backspin (if that is possible with a puck) had it sit dead just past the blueline as Garrett Forster made it 3-1 into the empty goal.
After the goal went in, Brett Mennear took a high-stick to the face from Latrell Charleson, which set off Kyle Marino. Nothing major came of the scrum, but the Warriors were short-handed for a brief moment during the stoppage. A bench minor to the Vipers for their disagreement with the call evened things back up.
The second empty net goal also caused fireworks. After Quin Foreman took a two-handed slash from Bo Pellah and still put the puck into the yawning cage, it was Gunville who flipped the puck back towards the goal and hit Pellah with it. With Pellah writhing on the ice in pain, Ben Butcher wanted to even the score with Gunville, but nothing major came out of the scrum. Gunville took two for unsportsmanlike and a 10 minute misconduct for his actions.
- The atmosphere at RLP today was electric to say the least. Hopefully the fans other than the children there for Anti-Bullying Awareness had earplugs because it was that loud at times. It was definitely great to see all the schools enjoying the game, and hopefully they convince their parents to return to Warriors games in the near future.
- As for the game itself, credit the Vernon Vipers for their start, as they were forcing the Warriors into mistakes all over the ice in the first 10 minutes. Matthew Greenfield had to be sharp, and I don't fault him for the one goal that goes in. We've seen Greenfield get stung a couple times by the hard high one, and Butcher's marker was no exception, as he basically had an open net tap-in.
- It was good to see the response from the Warriors in the middle frame, although they didn't score, it was a good chunk of rubber towards Andrew Shortridge in the Vipers net. There were a couple of great chances in tight for the Warriors as well, but Jonathan Desbiens missed the net, and Bryan Basilico couldn't get a deflection to go.
- The third period was a solid frame from West Kelowna, as the power play finally clicked, as Desbiens tied up Bailey at #42. The fourth line was the important line for the Warriors in the game, as they matched up throughout the day against the Charley Michalowski line for the Vipers. Reed Gunville was rewarded with what ended up being the game winner.
- With a pair of empty netters plus ensuing fireworks, it is going to be interesting to see the way Wednesday's game goes down. With points so valuable for both teams, its hard to see it going straight sideways - but this rivalry has intensified to a new high over the two seasons that I've been with the Warriors.