Penticton struck first in the battle for the Interior Conference crown.
Wade Murphy scored twice, as the Vees beat West Kelowna 6-4 in game one of the Interior Conference final on Friday.
After a strong start from the Warriors, Penticton took the game over with a surge late in the first and then three unanswered tallies in the second.
“They obviously won it there” defenceman Braxton Bilous admitted afterwards.
Bilous did like the way his team pushed back in the third as Warriors did make a game of it. Goals from David Pope and Max French (his second of the game) saw the visitors claw back to within one.
The Warriors continued to press, but couldn’t find the equalizer. Brad McClure’s empty-netter would then seal Penticton’s victory with 30 seconds remaining.
Wade Murphy was named the evening’s first star, on the strength of two pivotal goals. His blast on a first period powerplay got the Vees on the board and also swung momentum back to the hosts, after markers from Danny Gayle and Max French gave the Warriors a dream start.
Murphy also gave the Vees their first lead early in the second, on a clever setup from former Warrior Travis Blanleil.
Louie Nanne, Jedd Soloway, and Ryan Gropp also scored for the Vees. Penticton’s win came mostly thanks to a strong second period. The Vees scored on their first three shots of the frame, as the hosts took their first lead and never looked back.
West Kelowna would outshoot Penticton 29-27 in the game, with the Vees scoring the lone powerplay marker of the night (Murphy).
Warriors netminder Tyler Briggs suffered the loss, allowing five goals on 28 shots. Briggs also let in the first three shots he faced in the second period. Bilous, however, isn’t concerned.
“He’s been our rock back there the whole season” Bilous insists. “Every goalie has a game like that, so we just need to battle back” he says, adding “We did a pretty good job … we just couldn’t get the last one.”
West Kelowna’s Associate Coach also admitted that Briggs had a bit of an off-night, while also keeping his support firmly behind the number one. “Briggsy’s our guy” Brent Gough said on the post-game show.
“He made some big saves for us at times” Gough points out, while admitting “He knows letting five in you’re not going to have a chance to win.
“Maybe this is the game he’s got to get all those out” Gough speculates, “And now he’s going to be lights out.”
The Warriors will head back to Penticton for game two on Saturday night. The series will shift back to West Kelowna on Monday and Tuesday.