Warriors dismantle division rival Merritt
Files Courtesy of Jon Zacks
The West Kelowna Warriors got some semblance of revenge over the Merritt Centennials Friday.
A week after dropping a 2-1 double overtime thriller in Merritt, the Warriors re-established their dominance over their divisional rivals with a 6-2 road triumph.
Liam Blackburn scored twice to pace the Warriors to their second win in a row.
West Kelowna had a 3-2 lead after a back-and-forth opening period, with Blackburn, Brett Mennear, and Tyson Dallman scoring for the visitors and Payton Schaefer contributing both goals for the hosts.
However, the Warriors slowly pulled away in the final two periods, with Blackburn’s second as well as goals from Matt Anholt and Reid Simmonds providing all the insurance the Warriors would need.
Nathan Craft provided the assist on Mennear’s goal, and admits earning his first point as a Warrior was a relief. “Playing on the 4th line you just have to make sure you do things right” Craft says, adding “I thought our whole line did well and made the most of our opportunities on the ice.”
Craft also thinks his team did a good job responding to Merritt’s physicality, particularly during a feisty second period. “We didn’t back down and we didn’t get our heads twisted by the game they were trying to play.”
Craft pointed to Reid Simmonds’ showing in a fight vs. Centennial Payton Schaefer as a good lift for the team. “We did a good job being disciplined” Craft insists, while adding that Simmonds “made the guys pretty pumped” with his decisive win.
Schaefer (who took exception to a Ryan Fraser-Lee hit on Scott Patterson on the previous shift) returned in the third period wearing a full cage, while Patterson did not return to play.
The Centennials outshot the Warriors 35-27 in the game, with the bulk of their shots counting in the third period with the team trying to come from behind. However, the Warriors likely created more scoring chances and proved more efficient during 5-on-5 play.
“We’ve got such good offensive guys that if we play smart and disciplined then we’re going to get our chances” Craft says.
Both teams finished the game at 0-3 on the power-play, while Cody Porter made 33 saves for his 6th win of the year. Merritt’s Devin Kero allowed all six West K. goals in the defeat.
Porter is expected to get the start again on Saturday, when the Warriors visit Prince George. The Warriors headed into the weekend road trip without #1 goalie Andy Desautels, as well as defenceman Ryan Ivey and forward Jordan Masters.
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