The West Kelowna Warriors got off on the right foot in the first game of the third round in the BCHL playoffs, knocking off the Chilliwack Chiefs by a 5-1 score from the Lower Mainland.
A scoreless first period was the result of each team starting off the game trying to feel one another out, but also try and figure out the way the other was going to play. The Chiefs had the majority of the chances early on, with Matthew Greenfield standing tall in the Warriors net, before the Warriors started to find their legs. The turning point of the first, and maybe the game was the Warriors Kyle Marino getting ejected halfway through the period for checking from behind. West Kelowna seemed energized from the kill, and picked up their physical play while narrowing the gap on the shot clock, which read 14-13 Chilliwack after the opening 20.
Speaking of the shot clock, it was the Warriors who gave it a workout in the second period, firing 19 shots on Aidan Pelino in the frame, and picking up a pair of goals as well. Jake LeBrun got West Kelowna on the board with a good effort on the forecheck, stealing the puck from the goaltender Pelino and tucking into the open cage. The goal silenced the 1598 in attendance, and shortly after, the Warriors made it 2-0 as Connor Sodergren buried one from the left circle on a great cross-ice pass off the rush from Bryan Basilico. The Warriors continued to frustrate the Chiefs rush, breaking up passes or stealing pucks in the neutral zone. One rush did work out for the Chiefs, as Jordan Kawaguchi picked the top corner on a great rush through the attacking zone, beating Rylan Yarekmo in tight and then firing one past a screened Greenfield.
The Warriors were given an early power play in the third after Yaremko was slashed on a rush through the neutral zone by Vimal Sukumaran; and they made good on the opportunity, as Quin Foreman was the recipient of a loose puck in the crease that he was able to tap in. Liam Blackburn sent the puck towards the goal, as LeBrun tried to tuck it in; it went right to Foreman for the marker. The man advantage worked again for the Warriors once again in the third, as Blackburn picked the inside of the post with a shot as he showed great patience between the circles in picking his spot. The play was made possible by a great keep in by Kristian Blumenschein at the blue line.
The Chiefs pulled Pelino with 6:20 remaining in the third period to try and get within a pair, but Kylar Hope put the final dagger into the open net with a shot from center ice with 4:10 to go.
- The Warriors weren’t great to start the hockey game, but had that bend but not break attitude in the first seven or so minutes. The Chiefs held an early shot clock edge but there were no results from any Chilliwack opportunities.
- The rallying point of the first period was the Checking from Behind minor and Game Misconduct to Kyle Marino. You could tell that this team got behind their captain, killed off the penalty, then made sure it was their mission to win it on his behalf.
- The power play was the killer instinct the Warriors needed tonight in the third. They looked like the better team in the middle frame, and getting the early opportunity to score was the key to the third. Quin Foreman was in the right spot but some great work before that by Liam Blackburn and Jake LeBrun lead to the goal.
- Speaking of LeBrun, it was good to see him get his first of the post-season on a hard-working forecheck, then have a good night playing with Bryan Basilico and Connor Sodergren after the Marino ejection. Some good moments for LeBrun with the puck, and not afraid to finish checks and help out. Maybe his best game of the postseason tonight.
- The Warriors give up 33 shots in the game, but that’s not a number to be concerned with anymore. Prior to December 18th, the Warriors were allowing around 28.6 shots against per game, and had a 19-13-0-2 record. After that, they allowed 34.9 shots/game, but Matthew Greenfield and Keelan Willaims has been back there and it hasn’t mattered. Another first star effort after 32 saves.