Courtesy of Jon Zacks
“I’ve never played a more tiring game in my life” stammered Matt Anholt after a 3-2 double overtime loss in Vernon on Saturday.
The Warriors captain knows his team was within a heartbeat of a rare victory in Vernon. Leading the Vipers by five points heading into the evening, Anholt also knows how invaluable a regulation win would have been.
Given the circumstances, however, Anholt insists that he’s proud of the character shown by his team, and also happy with a key single point.
With just 10 forwards and five defencemen to start the evening, the Warriors earned a 2-0 lead after a dominant opening period.
Braden Pears opened the scoring with a power-play marker seven minutes in. Seb Lloyd soon doubled the lead when he converted a David Pope rebound.
Up 2-0, the Warriors had a chance to extend the lead when Liam Coughlin was assessed a major penalty (and a game misconduct) for hitting Pears from behind late in the first.
Pears would return later in the game sporting seven stitches and a broken nose, while the Warriors power-play failed to make the Vipers pay.
A Tyler Povelofskie breakaway strike would get Vernon back within one in the second period, setting up a nailbiting third.
With six-and-a-half minutes remaining in regulation time, the Vipers got in further trouble when Colton Sparrow was ejected for hitting Taki Pantziris from behind.
However, a second major penalty kill kept Vernon alive, while West Kelowna’s bench continued to thin.
Already missing Jordan Masters, Nathan Craft, Brett Mennear, Ryan Ivey, and Ryan Fraser-Lee heading in, the Warriors faced further adversity with Pantziris knocked out of action by Sparrow’s hit, while Ben Tegtmeyer was also knocked out of the game.
Down to three regular defencemen, the Warriors were within 12 seconds of victory when Viper Dexter Dancs converted a goal-mouth scramble on a late power-play.
Vernon then took the extra point when Dancs set up a Riley Guenther one-timer 3:34 into 3-on-3 double overtime.
“You’ve gotta give credit to both teams” Warriors goalie Andy Desautels uttered afterwards. “It was a tough-played game”
Returning from a lower-body injury that had kept him out of the past five games, Desautels echoed Matt Anholt’s gratification in the valour shown by his teammates.
“I think we’re stepping back here and realizing what kind of an effort we put forth tonight” Desautels says. “I don’t think we can be anything but proud.”
“Looking around the room you can tell that we put it all on the line tonight and just came up a little bit short” Desautels continued.
Special teams were again a factor Saturday. The Warriors converted on just one of nine chances including two full five minutes power-play and three minutes of five-on-three.
The Vipers were 1-6.
With the single point earned in Vernon, the Warriors move into a tie with Penticton for first in the Interior Division. Both clubs have five games remaining.
The Vipers, meanwhile claw to within four points of the Warriors and Vees with four games remaining in their campaign.