The West Kelowna Warriors snapped a three game losing streak with a tense 5-3 win in Merritt Friday.
With West Kelowna leading 2-1 after 40 minutes, things exploded in the final period.
The teams exchanged four goals – two each – in a span of 2 ½ minutes early in the third. Tempers also boiled over, as another year of bad blood combined with a desperate push for a key late-season victory.
However, the Warriors maintained their lead and held on for a 5-3 victory.
David Pope opened the scoring midway through the first period when he walked off the right half-wall and beat Merritt starter Jarrod Schamerhorn with a low snap shot.
Tyson Dallman doubled the lead when he finished a pretty passing play early in the second. The Warriors had a chance to extend the lead with a powerplay late in the frame, but a short-handed strike from Merritt’s Tyler Martin cut the lead to 2-1 heading to the third.
“We played good defensively, capitalized on a couple of opportunities, and [Andy Desautels] made a few good saves for us” Brett Mennear says of the first two periods of play, adding “we worked really well on the forecheck too.”
West Kelowna surged early in the third. Seb Lloyd tipped home a Braden Pears shot to make it 3-1, and Brett Mennear added his 5th of the year just 41 seconds later.
“I just thought it was going to be an insurance goal for us” Mennear laughed after the game. As it turned out, his goal would prove crucial.
Just 35 seconds after Mennear made it 4-1, the Centennials began their comeback bid with a marker from Adam Tracey. 1:26 later, Sam Johnson tipped a Dane Birks shot through the legs of Desautels.
The offensive outburst livened up the game, just as the physical play was boiling over. However, an Adam Osczevski marker with 3 ½ minutes remaining sealed West Kelowna’s win and also seemed to calm down the fired-up opponents.
“We let a couple go” Mennear grins. “We bent, we didn’t break though!”
Making 38 saves, Andy Desautels earned his league-leading 25th win of the season. Jarrod Schamerhorn allowed five goals on 26 shots in the defeat.
Mennear also knows his club’s triumph was more important, given Penticton’s come-from-behind win over Trail and Vernon’s OT win over Salmon Arm.
West Kelowna remains two points back of Penticton and four points up on Vernon with three games remaining for all three squads.
The Centennials lead Salmon Arm by four points in the race for the final playoff spot in the Interior Division.
The Warriors wrap-up the regular season with three-straight contests against Trail, starting Saturday evening at Royal LePage Place.