Max French picked up a pair of assists in his return to the line-up, leading the West Kelowna Warriors to a 4-2 victory over the visiting Vernon Vipers Friday.
The Warriors captain, who missed 17 games with a knee injury, made his presence felt on the opening shift.
French took out a Vernon defender in the offensive corner, crated a turnover and a good scoring chance.
"He wanted to get a hit early on. He said I got to get that first hit," says Warriors head coach Rylan Ferster of French.
"He works hard and he makes guys around him better and he makes guys around him accountable. I think that's the best thing Max does. His work ethic makes guys accountable - he doesn't have to get in guys face."
French picked up assists on third period goals from Braxton Bilous and Ambrose Firkus who netted the eventual game winner.
Shawn Hochhausen and Matt Anholt both had a goal and an assist to round out the Warriors scoring.
Aaron Hadley and Adam Tambellini replied for the Vipers.
With the score tied 1-1 midway through the third Bilous's wrist shot deflected in off a Vernon defenseman's stick and past Austin Smith to restore the Warriors one goal lead.
"The forward had it in the corner and got it back to my (defensive) partner and he just sucked the guy in, got it over to me," says Bilous of the winning goal.
"I saw a bunch of sticks in the middle, shot for them and ended up tipping it in."
The goal was Bilous' fifth of the season, many identical to Friday's - a wrist shot from the point.
"It's quick, it's hard for goalies because they expect the big wind up and if you get it off quick and force a rebound or get a tip in, it's always good."
Bilous was a force at both ends of the ice.
"I think he has played some really good games for us. Defensively, him and Brett (Zarazun) have been outstanding, they've been our go-to pair, our shutdown pair," says Ferster.
"I thought tonight offensively he had some real good looks with the puck and made some real good decisions.
Neither team was able to do much offensively over the first 40 minutes as both teams limited chances in the defensive zone.
While the Vipers are noted as a defence first team, Ferster says sometimes his Warriors don't get enough credit for their defensive side of the game.
"I believe we are a very good defensive club - we work hard at it and our guys take pride in it. I don't think we give up a lot," says Ferster.
"We gave up 30 shots tonight and a lot of those were from a team pressing in the third period. I like the way we play in our own end and, if we continue that way hopefully we'll have a lot of success."
While the Warriors welcomed back French Friday night they still played a man short with injuries to Matthew Berry, Brett McKinnon and David Pope.
Those three will remain out of the line-up Sunday when the Warriors look to win back-to-back games for the first time in almost two months against the visiting Alberni Valley Bulldogs.
Face-off Sunday is 2:30.
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