Warriors snap losing streak, build on back-to-back wins
Westsiders erase 3-goal deficit to defeat the Alberni Valley Bulldogs
Willie Reim scored twice as the West Kelowna Warriors stormed back to defeat the Alberni Valley Bulldogs 6-5 on Saturday night at Royal LePage Place in BCHL play.
Wyatt Head, Mike Hardman, Bennett Norlin and Lucas Cullen also scored for the Warriors, who trailed by three midway through the game.
Brock Baier started in goal, but was replaced when the Bulldogs made it 5-2 midway through the game after making 30 saves on 35 shots.
Connor Hopkins came on in relief and stopped all 16 shots he faced.
Alberni Valley outshot the Warriors 51-45. It was a second straight Warriors win after West Kelowna defeated the Merritt Centennials 4-3 in overtime on Friday, snapping a five-game losing skid.
On Saturday, the Warriors got off to a fantastic start with Reim going to work early.
It was a pass by captain Cavin Tilsley through the legs of a Bulldogs defender to Reim, who beat former Warriors goaltender Cole Demers to make it 1-0.
Less than a minute later, the Bulldogs answered when Jackson Doucet tied it 1-1.
The Bulldogs would continue to pressure the Warriors in their own zone and it was Baier’s childhood best friend from rural Ontario, Mitch Deelstra, who made a nifty move to beat his former Listowel Cyclones teammate to make it 2-1. The Warriors needed a push, so Geoff Grimwood elected to send out Quinton Waitzner, Tilsley and Reim, and once again it was Reim who scored to tie the game up at two heading into the first intermission.
The wheels came off for the Warriors in the second period. They gave up numerous scoring chances leading to a trio of goals from the Alberni Valley Bulldogs. First it was Mitch Deelstra who crashed the net. Baier made the save, but the puck sat in the crease uncovered allowing the young defenseman Aaron Bohlinger to stuff it in and make it 3-2. The Warriors got caught in their own zone again with former Trail Smoke Eaters forward Michael Hodge extending the Bulldogs lead.
Hodge wasn’t done for the Bulldogs. Less than 4 minutes later, Hodge fed a wide open Dawson Tritt for his ninth of the season. That would be the end of Baier’s night and the Warriors would have a steep hill to climb down by three goals late in the second.
The Warriors would provide some pressure in the Bulldog zone late and it was Head who fired a knuckle puck from the point scoring his fifth of the year. Three minutes later, Head was at it again throwing the puck towards the net allowing Hardman to score his 29th of the season and, just like that, the Warriors were only down by one goal going into the second intermission.
The Warriors started the third period with pressure in the attacking zone but couldn’t get any quality scoring chances on Cole Demers.
West Kelowna would later be caught with too many men on the ice putting the Bulldogs on the power play. Hopkins was sensational between the pipes making massive stops with traffic in front of him keeping it a one goal game. Five minutes later, the Warriors would pounce with a heads-up lead pass from Cullen, springing Bennett Norlin on a breakaway who beat Demers to tie the game 5-5. The 994 fans inside Royal LePage Place erupted at that point and all momentum was on the Warriors side.
Bulldogs leading scorer Ryan Miotto would take a penalty of his own in the final five minutes of the game sending the Warriors on the man advantage, and it was Cullen who was fed a tic tac toe pass from Hardman and Parm Dhaliwal to give the Warriors the lead for the first time since the first five minutes of the hockey game. With the help of a couple key stops late by Hopkins, the Warriors would hold on to win 6-5.
The game was low on defence, but clean; the Bulldogs were 0-for-2 on the power play, and the Warriors were 1-for-2.
WARRIORS 4, CENTS 3 (OT)
The West Kelowna Warriors snapped their five-game losing streak in dramatic fashion with an overtime victory in Merritt on Friday night.
Andrew Viggars, Mike Hardman, Max Bulawka and Lucas Cullen scored for the Warriors while Connor Hopkins made 36 saves on 39 shots.
West Kelowna led 3-2 after the second intermission, but allowed the Centennials to force overtime with less than five minutes to play.
The tying goal came on a Merritt power play that went 3-for-5.
Hardman’s goal was unassisted and came 2:33 into the extra frame. West Kelowna was 1-for4 with an extra attacker and outshot the Cents 44-39.
It was a dramatic win for the Warriors against a Merritt team six points ahead of them in the standings.
West Kelowna (24-19-1) is fourth in the BCHL’s Interior Division.
The Warriors next game is Friday night versus the Vernon Vipers. Puck drop at 7 p.m. at Royal LePage Place in West Kelowna.
West Kelowna Warriors Bennett Norlin, Mike Hardman and Max Bulawka crowd the Alberni Valley net Saturday at Royal LePage Place.