Warriors season done

At full strength, the West Kelowna Warriors knew they were in tough against a very good Trail Smoke Eaters squad.

But, banged up with illness running through the dressing room, it was a different task altogether.

The Warriors left everything on the ice Tuesday night, but, in the end, it wasn't enough, as they fell 6-3 to the Smoke Eaters at Royal LePage Place.

And, for the second straight year, bowed out of the post season in four straight.

"It'll sink in probably tomorrow...the pain of the immediate loss is the one that stings the most, but when you wake up tomorrow and you don;t get to prepare and get ready for another game, that's where it really sucks," said head coach Rylan Ferster immediately following the loss.

"Playoffs are such a fun time of the year...but as each year comes and goes, and I don't know how much longer I'll be doing this, so it's tough."

The Warriors were in the game for 40 minutes, taking one goal leads during each of the first two periods, but the Smoke Eaters were too much for an undermanned Warriors team playing without defencemen Stephen Kleyson, Jake Harrison and Tyler Jutting and suspended forwards Ryan Steele and Willie Reim.

On top of that, they lost Matt Kowalski early in the game when he was assessed a major penalty for a blow to the head and a game misconduct.

After Trail opened the scoring, the Warriors battled back with two goals less than three minutes apart. Michael Ryan converted a two-on-one to tie it then Michael Lombardi's shot directly off a faceoff glanced off a Trail player and in.

It was the Warriors lead in the series since the early stages of the second period of game one.

Trail tied it on a power play just seconds after Kowalski was sent off as Tyler Ghirardosi poked a puck which Nik Amundrud appeared to have smothered in the crease between his pads.

The referee said the puck was lose and, despite protests from the Warriors bench, the goal stood.

Chase Stevenson converted a pretty feed from Chase Dubois who streaked down the slot and, instead of shooting, found Stevenson for an easy tap in and a 3-2 lead.

Levi Glasman tied it on a similar play moments later, then scored what proved to be the winner on another power play late in the second.

Ghirardosi iced it, scoring on a partial breakaway five minutes into the third, then completed the hat trick into the empty net with four minutes to go.

Ferster said he believed the turning point in the series was a minor penalty handed to Jake Harrison late in the first period of game one with the Warriors up 3-1.

He says the referee apologized later for the call, but it stood, and Trail scored second into the second on the power play, then knocked in three more in succession to take a two-goal lead.

Ferster says it could have been a different game and a different series had they been able to kill off the penalty.

For the Warriors, it's all about getting ready for a new season with a large nucleus of players coming back in the fall for another shot at a title.

It's also about saying goodbye to six players who ended their junior hockey careers Tuesday and won't be back.

Ferster says that's one of the toughest parts of the game.

"Hockey is a great game but a shitty business. It's not always fun to come to the rink every day...people think junior hockey players have it so easy and live the life of Reilly, but they don't.

"The stuff they have to go through and persevere with is a lot. Hockey players are touch, tough people mentally and physically. It's tough to be a player and it's tough to see them lose."

The Smoke Eaters will now get a chance to rest before moving on to the next round, likely against the Penticton Vees.

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