West Kelowna's comeback from a 3-0 deficit fell short in playoff loss to Vernon

Bad start hampers Warriors

It's game on in the BCHL's Interior Conference quarter-final between the West Kelowna Warriors and Vernon Vipers.

The Vipers took advantage of a quick start Saturday, building a 3-0 first period lead then hanging on for a 5-4 victory at Royal LePage Place to even the best-of-seven series at a game apiece and wrestle home ice advantage away from the Warriors.

Much like the opening game Friday the Vipers took charge from the opening faceoff, controlling much of the play in the Warriors end of the rink. But, unlike Friday, they were able to take advantage, building a 3-0 lead and a decided edge in shots and puck possession.

It looked as if the Warriors might be able to feed off the partisan crowd when they were able to kill off a lengthy two man advantage early thanks to a pair of spectacular saves off a backdoor one-timer then the rebound.

But, a deflection off a point shot by Thomas Tien that the Warriors thought may have been directed in with a high stick got the Vipers on the board at 4:48.

Then, two quick goals late in the period from Connor Welsh on a power play and Tien just 15 seconds later put the Vipers up three.

Brennan Nelson got one of those back on a Warriors power play with six seconds left on a backdoor one timer to give the team, and the building some life going into the second.

"That's something we're really going to have to look at going into game three, our starts. We;ve got to be better, we can't start a game the way we did tonight," said assistant coach Josh Gorges.

"Get behind like that and think we are going to climb back every game."

The Warriors were better in the early going of the second but it was the Vipers power play that went two-for-seven on the night that re-established a three goal lead.

It was also the Warriors power play, which clicked on three of five chances in the hard hitting, penalty that let them stay within striking distance.

Chris Duclair with his second of the series with a wrist shot from the left circle that went post and in and Isaiah Norlin with a shot glove side that beat a screened Ethan David brought the Warriors to within a goal after 40.

But, they were unable to get any closer.

Lee Parks again gave the Vipers a two goal cushion early in the third before Jaiden Moriello cut the deficit to one as he circled to the high slot and sent a shot that again alluded a screened Ethan David.

That was as close as they would get.

Despite allowing five goals, Hamming was spectacular, keeping the Warriors in it. He made a sensational toe save off a backdoor one-timer late in the second, stoned them on a two-on-one early in the third then denied Julian Facchinelli on a two-man breakaway with the Warriors down just a goal.

"The goals against...I don't think he saw any of them. They were all shots out wide from screens.

"But the saves he did make when we needed them...OH...he was big tonight. We'll need him to keep doing that but we need to do a better job in front of him."

Gorges says moving forward in the series, the Warriors need to dictate the play, something they didn't do enough of Saturday, especially early.

"You have to push the pace, you have to be the ones taking charge of the game and try to make them react to you.

"I thought early we were just waiting to see what would happen and reacting to them. You can't play hockey that way."

The series now shifts to Vernon for games three and four next Tuesday and Wednesday.

Gorges says the team will take the next two days to work on some things and make some adjustments but adds heading on the road may not be a bad thing right now.

"And, sometimes playing on the road is a good thing. You don't have anyone you have to impress, you just go out there and play hockey.

"Their fans will be into it, they'll be emotional, they'll come out flying, but we just go out and play hockey."

A fifth game in the series will be back at Royal LePage Place next Friday.

Penticton Vees dominate in their first playoff game against the Trail Smoke Eaters

Vees win first playoff game

The Penticton Vees opened the 2023 BCHL Playoffs with a big victory over the Trail Smoke Eaters on Friday night at the SOEC.

The Vees' first best-of-seven Interior Conference Quarterfinal game started off with Dovar Tinling scoring the first goal of the playoffs two minutes into the game and shorthanded. Tinling raced down the puck and scored on a partial breakaway to put the Vees up.

Bradly Nadeau followed with two more goals in the opening frame, getting Penticton to a 3-1 lead heading into the second.

Trail’s Ethan Mann made it 3-2 48 seconds into the second period on a Smoke Eaters’ power play, but the Vees responded with two goals in the back half of the period.

Nadeau scored his hat-trick goal nine minutes into the middle frame, followed by Moravec scoring his first of the game with 65 seconds left in the second to put the home team up 5-2.

Earning his fourth goal of the game in the third period, Nadeau scored on Trail two minutes into the frame on a great pass from his older brother that made it 6-2.

Moravec and Spencer Smith scored in the final two and a half minutes of the third to put the Vees lead way ahead, with a final score of 8-2.

This win pushes the Vees' home-ice win streak to 35 games dating back to the 2022 playoffs.

Game two against Trails in on Saturday night, with the puck drop at 7 p.m.

West Kelowna take opening game of BCHL Interior Conference quarter-final

Warriors take series opener

The West Kelowna Warriors have drawn first blood in their opening round BCHL Interior Conference quarter-final series with the Vernon Vipers.

And, wouldn't you know it, they won by a 4-3 score, the same score as four of the five games played between the two teams in the regular season.

After trailing 2-1 early in the second, the Warriors rattled off three straight then withstood a late flurry for the one goal win and a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.

Assistant coach Josh Gorges says the late push, with included a power play, is to be expected in the playoffs.

"You get into the playoffs and you're up one goal late in the game, you know they are going to throw everything they have at you," said Gorges.

"That's a good team that plays hard and they are not going to quit.

"I thought our guys did a great job of blocking shots, getting in lanes, sacrificing their bodies and doing what they needed to do to find a way."

This was a classic playoff hockey game, tough, physical, tight checking with not a lot of shots and few real good scoring opportunities. When those came, both goaltenders were equal to the task on most occasions.

The Vipers brought their heavy hard forechecking game early keeping the Warriors off balance and hemmed into their own end for much of the opening period.

Gorges says it took the guys a little longer than he would have like to settle into the game but, when they did midway through the first, the capitalized.

Against the run of play, Brennan Nelson got the Warriors on the board first. Chris Duclair brought the puck into the Vernon end but his pass deflected toward Isaiah Norlin at the point.

His one-timer hit a leg in front and caromed right to Nelson who made no mistake with the open half of the net to shoot at.

Lee Parks, easily the best Viper on the night evened the score a few minutes later, beating Cayden Hamming from the right circle off the rush.

Parks set up the go ahead goal 2:22 into the second on the first power play of the night, feeding Griffen Barr for a one-timer from the bottom of the left circle.

The Warriors got rolling from there. Jaiden Moriello tied it on a Warriors power play at 6:38, sliding a backhand that somehow alluded Roan Clarke from a sharp angle.

Nic Porchetta re-established the one-goal lead 11 minutes into the period after being set up by Nelson on a two-on-one.

Duclair with a hard one-timer from out near the blueline gave the Warriors their first two-goal lead of the night with what stood up to be the game winner.

The Vipers got one back with six minutes to play then applied pressure for much of the rest of the night to no avail.

Nelson had two assists to go along with his goal and did yeoman work on the penalty kill while Norlin picked up a pair of assists and likewise was stellar in key situations, especially down the stretch when the Warriors did everything to keep the puck out of their net.

"Those are the two guys that, as soon as the game was over we all said...those two guys kind of carried us tonight.

"We had some other guys that did a lot of good things, but I think you see that they understand what this type of year is all about and how you have to play.

"Hopefully that trickles down to some of our new faces and, now that they have one game in they can just relax and play hockey."

The Vipers outshot the Warriors 28-23 on the evening.

Game two in the series is set for Saturday night at Royal LePage Place. Games three and four are set for Kal Tire Place next Tuesday and Wednesday.

NHL players who were former Vees send Penticton good luck messages before BCHL playoffs

NHLers wish Vees luck

A couple of former Penticton Vees players who now play on NHL ice wanted to make sure their former team knew they were rooting for them on Friday.

Troy Stecher, a defenceman for the Calgary Flames, wanted to wish the Vees luck heading into their square-off against the Trail Smoke Eaters in their best-of-seven Interior Conference Quarterfinal series.

"It's been a ton of fun following you guys from afar this year, winning all the games that you have, making the SOEC a really tough place to play for visiting teams," he said in his video posted to Twitter. "And even breaking some of the records that my team previously set so proud of you guys but works not done. Go get that championship!"

Stecher played for the Vees from 2010 to 2013. He went on to play for NHL, first joining the Vancouver Canucks, then the Detroit Red Wings, Los Angeles Kings and Arizona Coyotes.

On March 3, the Arizona Coyotes traded Stecher to the Calgary Flames alongside Nick Ritchie just before the deadline Friday for Brett Ritchie and minor-leaguer Connor Mackey.

Joining Stecher in wishing the Vees luck was also former player Tyson Jost, who was on the team from 2013 to 2016.

"Super excited for you guys, you've had an amazing regular season. It's been pretty fun to watch from afar and as a fan and super proud of everything you guys have accomplished but the real work starts now," he said in his video posted to Twitter.

"Keep that City of Penticton just rallying behind you guys. It's pretty cool to see all the support that you guys got right now and I'm really excited for your playoff run."

He added that the team should "put the regular season behind" them but use it as fuel as they head into the playoff games.

Jost is a forward with the Buffalo Sabres and has previously been on the Colorado Avalanche and Minnesota Wild teams.

The Vees face off against the Trail Smoke Eaters Friday night, with puck drop at 7 p.m.

- With files from The Canadian Press

Warriors and Vipers set to battle in the post season again

Warriors ready for Vipers

The West Kelowna Warriors hope lightning will strike twice during their opening round BC Hockey League series with the Vernon Vipers.

A year ago, for the first time in franchise history, the Warriors dispatched the Vipers in a playoff series, winning their opening round matchup in six games.

But, as coaches will tell you, that was then and this is now.

Warriors head coach Simon Ferguson will tell you that the series means just as much as the five games the teams played during this past regular season.

Not very much.

The Warriors took four of those five regular season meetings, however three of those wins were by identical 4-3 scores, two decided in a shootout.

"They are a team that hangs around. They hang around right to the very end," said Ferguson.

"They wait for opportunities so we'll have to outwork them."

The Vipers are a far different team from the one the Warriors took out in the playoffs a year ago and also made some significant changes in season, one of the most significant the addition of former Western Hockey League forward Thomas Tien.

The 18-year-old has eight goals and 12 assists in 32 games with the Vipers.

"They are a team that's played very well. They are a physical team, they play hard and they stick to a structure. We'll have to be ready to play.

"They are a chip and chase team, they like to get pucks deep, they like to hit. They are going to try and run us out of the building so we need to use our speed, use our energy and manage the puck properly."

The Vipers have been hot down the stretch, making a push up the standings winning seven of their last 10. They allowed just one goal in four of their last five games.

The Warriors on the other hand have been hot and cold, losing four straight, winning four, and losing six straight before closing the season with back-to-back wins to secure third place.

Injuries have hampered the Warriors over the second half of the season, losing forward Felix Caron as well as top-four defencemen Nolan Hayes and over the second half as well as captain Aiden Reeves and Dylan Brooks for stretches.

Reeves, who has missed the last seven games could be ready to go when the series opens.

"We'll find out at game time," said Ferguson.

"He's been working hard to get back at it. You can tell on his face he's been wanting to play the whole time but we have to take the right approach with him and we'll see what happens."

The opening two games of the series are set for Royal LePage Place Friday and Saturday before shifting to Vernon for games three and four next Tuesday and Wednesday.

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