Vipers down Warriors 7-5

All the calls and all the breaks seemed to go against the West Kelowna Warriors Saturday night.

Admittedly you create your own breaks and good fortune through hard work and attention to detail, and they did work hard enough to deserve what they did get. But, they also gave away far too many chances that ended up in the back of their net.

In the end, it was a 7-5 defeat at the hands of the Vernon Vipers in a game they desperately needed, and maybe deserved a better fate.

The entire game turned during a bizarre sequence with a little more than five minutes left and the Warriors nursing a 5-4 lead.

With Lucas Cullen in the box for hooking, defenceman Anthony Bishop had his helmet pop off while battling for the puck along the boards.

Instead of retreating to the bench, he put the helmet back on and joined the play, which had moved to the front of the net.

It was mass confusion in front of the net until Jagger Williamson banged home the game-tying goal.

The officials huddled, allowed the goal, and also penalized Bishop for being an ineligible player.

The Warriors were obviously upset. Bishop had replaced the helmet but, even if he hadn't, they appeared to have touched the puck at least once which should have negated the goal for a delayed penalty.

"We watched it on video and video doesn't lie. I'll leave it at that," a disappointed Warriors head coach Brandon West said after the game.

"I saw what we thought we saw, and I'm disappointed."

He refused to go any further.

Jesse Lansdell, a thorn in the Warriors side all night long, banged in another rebound seconds after the Bishop penalty with what proved to be the game winner.

In the Warriors eyes, and that of the 1,130 at Royal LePage Place, those events put a negative spin on what was otherwise a very good hockey game.

"We were a scrappy group tonight, and I thought they were too," said West.

"I thought it was a good game from both teams. We're still an inch away from making things happen out there. I thought offensively we generated a lot of chances...but we have to bring the chances and the goals against down."

It was a game the Warriors desperately needed if they entertain any thought of grabbing home ice advantage in the opening round of the playoffs.

And, they got the start they needed, jumping on the Vipers for a pair of goals before the midway point of the period. Max Bulawka deflected home a point shot just as a power play expired, then, 39 seconds later Brandon Dent sent home a wrist shot from the slot to make it 2-0.

The lead didn't last very long.

Connor Marritt with a backhand from in tight and Ben Sanderson in the final minute tied it.

The two teams went back-and-forth after that, trading goals, and Grade A chances at both ends.

Elan Bar lev wise gave the Vipers their first lead early in the second, taking advantage of some sloppy clearing by the Warriors.

Mason Richey got that back when a rebound hit him and tricked past Aiden Porter. But, seconds later, Logan Cash resotred the one-goal lead when his centering pass from behind the net hit Brock Baier and went in.

The Warriors rallied in the third. First Mike Hardman drilled his team-leading 36th from the slot to tie it, then Willie Reim patiently tucked home his 24th with a little more than six minutes to put the Warriors up one.

What looked like it may have been the perfect turned sour minutes later.

The win allowed the Vipers to slide past Salmon Arm into fourth in the Interior Division. They're a point up on the Silverbacks, who lost in Wenatchee Saturday.

The Warriors are four back of Salmon Arm and one up on seventh place Trail, who also lost Saturday.

The Warriors have just three games remaining in the regular season.

They'll host Merritt Tuesday in what could be a first round playoff preview, before facing closing things out with a crucial home-and-home with the Trail Smoke Eaters beginning Friday at Royal LePage Place.

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