Warriors dump Smokies, clinch 2nd
The West Kelowna Warriors have clinched at least second place and home ice advantage in round one of the Interior Division playoffs.
The Warriors won their 33rd game of the season and second in as many nights Saturday with an 'efficient' 5-2 victory over the visiting Trail Smoke Eaters.
David Pope scored twice to pace the Warriors attack. Carl Hesler, Adam Osczevski and Reid Simmonds also scored for the Warriors.
Braden Pears, playing with a cage to protect a broken nose, and Liam Blackburn each chipped in with a pair of helpers.
Warriors head coach Rylan Ferster was pleased with the effort Saturday against a team with nothing to play for except pride.
"I thought we had a pretty good 60 minute effort. We got some traction on our power-play and I thought for the most part we had some pretty good structure."
Ferster says teams like the Smoke Eaters with nothing to play for can be very dangerous as evidenced by how tough they played the Penticton Vees a night earlier.
The Warriors led 2-1 after one on a pair of power-play goals from Pope his 23rd and 24th of the season.
They stretched the lead to 5-1 after 40 minutes and spent much of a lacklustre final 20 minutes trying to get Mac Ferner his first goal of the season.
Ferner, normally a defenceman, took a regular shift up front looking for that elusive first goal of the season.
"He's such a good kid and he's such a good teammate. He 's going to be a real good defenceman in this league and he's a guy everyone likes," says Ferster.
"He plays the game the right way, he plays hard, he sticks up for his teammates. It would have been nice to get a good and our guys were rooting for him. He came close a couple of times."
The Warriors also didn't go out in the third period looking to run up the score.
"I've never been accused of that and I would never ever do that," says Ferster.
"I think that's disrespectful when you do that to other teams because if you're in this game long enough you'll be on the other side of those and I've been on the other side of some very lopsided scores and it's not fun."
The Warriors also close out the regular season with two more games with the same Smoke Eaters.
Pears, who broke his nose after taking a high hit in Vernon a week ago seems to have stepped up his game since the picking up a goal and four assists over that span.
"Just the way things are going, we've had a lot of injuries on the back end and I've had to tough through the broken nose," says Pears.
"But there's lots of ice time and I have to seize the opportunity. I've been playing good and getting lots of ice."
He says it's tough to breath with the broken nose but admits everyone is banged up this time of the year.
Pears says the goal Saturday was to win and clinch home ice in round one of the playoffs.
"We wanted home ice advantage obviously to get the fans here in the home arena. That's awesome - that's what we were looking for."
Saturday's win coupled with Vernon's 4-3 win over the Penticton Vees moves the Warriors back into a first place tie with the Vees atop the Interior Division, however, the Vees do hold the tie-breakers over West Kelowna.
It's the latest in the season the Warriors have ever had a piece of top spot in the division.
Both the Warriors and Vees have two games remaining in the regular season.
The Warriors face Trail in a home-and-home set next Friday in Trail and Saturday at Royal LePage Place while the Vees and Salmon Arm also meet in a home-and-home set Friday in Salmon Arm and Saturday in Penticton.
Regardless of what the Warriors do the Vees can clinch the division with a sweep of the Silverbacks.
In order for the Warriors to claim the division they will have to finish with more points than the Vees.
The Warriors will host round one of the playoffs beginning Tuesday, March 4 against Vernon, Merritt or Salmon Arm.
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