Vipers outshine Warriors

The West Kelowna Warriors seemed to be a step behind the Vernon Vipers all night long.

It showed on the scoreboard as the Interior Division leaders rolled to a 5-0 victory over the Warriors in their first home game of 2018.

The Warriors seemed to have some jump off the opening faceoff, but the ended up on the wrong end of a skirmish between Warrior Cavin Tilsley and Vernon's Jagger Williamson half a minute into the game.

The two tussled in the centre ice faceoff circle to start the game, then came together moments later at the Vernon blueline. Tilsley dropped his gloves and went after Williamson.

Only one punch was thrown, but it was enough to give Tilsley seven minutes in penalties and a game misconduct. The Vipers scored on the lengthy power play, and the Warriors seemed to play catch up all night.

"I agree. Absolutely 100 per cent agree," said Warriors head coach Rylan Ferster.

"When something like that happens in the first 30 seconds...maybe it zaps the energy. Not good."

A pair of goals two-and-a-half minutes apart midway through the first from Brett Stapley and Connor Marritt made it 3-0 Vernon. At the time, they also owned an 11-1 shot advantage.

That one Warrior shot came in the opening seconds of the game.

Williamson in the second and Alex Swetlikoff in the third rounded out the scoring.

Ty Taylor turned aside 26 shots for his league-leading 18th win and seventh shutout. Taylor also leads all goaltenders in goals against average and save percentage.

His biggest test came in the opening period when Michael Lombardi steamrolled his way to the front of the net, but was cross checked into Taylor as he tried to muscle the puck into the net.

"They have a great hockey team over there, they play hard and they play the right way," said Ferster of the Vipers.

"You see what happens when we don't (play a good game). Our details weren't very good.

"I guess that's my fault again. I seem to come out and say it's always my fault."

Tuesday's game marked the return of forward Parm Dhaliwall, who played just one game since late November with a concussion.

Forwards Chase Stevenson and Matt Kowalski remain out of the lineup with injuries. Ferster said they are not close to returning.

They were joined on the injury list by defenceman Cody Paivarinta, who was a late scratch Tuesday.

The Warriors look to return to the win column Friday when they travel to Trail.

Following that game, they play six of their next seven at Royal LePage Place, beginning Saturday when the Salmon Arm Silverbacks come to town.


Vees head north this week

Colton Davies

With four wins and a tie to begin 2018, the Penticton Vees will look to remain hot this weekend when they play three games in three nights during one of the more unusual stints in their schedule.

Penticton will travel to Prince George on Wednesday in advance of a road game against the Spruce Kings on Thursday. They will then return home for games on Friday against the Merritt Centennials and on Saturday against the Trail Smoke Eaters.

The Vees have played all three of those teams in their past five games, recording wins against the Spruce Kings and the Cents and posting a tie against the Smokies.

Assistant coach Jason Becker said the team will likely only dress five defensemen in Prince George on Thursday, as injuries continue to take a toll. 

Blueliner Michael Campoli was hurt on Friday against Trail, a game where he scored his first goal as a Vee.

Campoli's injury follows news last week that defender Nick Leivermann will be out for at least a month due to injury. Another player on the back end, Ryan O'Connell, was lost for the season in December due to a broken arm.

"It's nothing new for our group... It just means that the forwards have to be a little bit more aware of defensive play in our end," Becker said.

On the ice, it's been mostly all good news for the Vees in recent games.

The team's last game was a convincing 6-2 road win against the Chilliwack Chiefs, one that started off slow but ended very strong for Penticton.

The rematch of last year's B.C. Hockey League finals has been lopsided this year despite the Chiefs being the RBC Cup host this spring. The Vees are now 3-0 this year against the Chiefs and have outscored them 14-5. 

Prior to Saturday's win, the Vees drew even with the Smokies 2-2 on Friday and downed the Cents 4-3 on Wednesday. In both those games, Penticton led 43-21 in shots. 

There was added hype in the lineup for Wednesday's game against Merritt with both Wyatt Sloboshan and James Miller being acquired and both Chris Klack and Owen Sillinger returning to the lineup, as Becker pointed out.

"The unfortunate situation is we gain two and lose one during the weekend," Becker said, referring to Campoli's injury.

"But it's real exciting hockey for the fans to watch, real exciting for us to be a part of and coach. And seeing the guys compete as hard as they did and come out with the results they did last week."

Ahead of Tuesday's games, Penticton sat second in the BCHL standings with a record of 26-9-2-3 through 40 games. 

With 18 games still to go, the Vees clinched a playoff spot following their win on Saturday. The league's new playoff format will see only one team not make the playoffs this season.

Warriors streak ends

The West Kelowna Warriors winning streak came to an end at three.

The Wenatchee Wild salvaged the back end of a pair of games in the Washington State city with a 6-0 win over the Warriors Saturday.

Sam Morton and Cooper Zech gave the Wild a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes. Morton's goal came on the third of three consecutive power plays the Wild received to open the game.

Sam Hesler scored the lone goal of a rugged second period. His late period marker came moments after Warriors defenceman Cody Paivarinta and Nathan Iannone of the Wild dropped the gloves in a spirited tilt.

Wenatchee rounded out the scoring with three more in the final period.

Cole Demers turned away 26 of the 32 shots he faced as the Wild outshot West Kelowna 32-15 on the night.

The Warriors now head home to prepare for a Tuesday night date with the Vernon Vipers.

It's the first home date for the Warriors of 2018 and a night in which the Warriors will honour Duncan Wray, the Vipers owner who passed away suddenly last week.


Vees, Smokies play to draw

The 3,108 fans at the South Okanagan Events Centre didn't see a winner on Friday night, but they got their money's worth in a 2-2 tie between the Penticton Vees and Trail Smoke Eaters.

Both teams entered play red hot and jostling for top spots in the B.C. Hockey League standings.

The second-place Vees are now undefeated in four games to begin 2018, while the Smokies have just one loss in their past seven games, and have points in all of those games. 

Penticton out shot Trail 15-4 in the opening period but found themselves down a goal. Blaine Caton batted a puck in from mid-air just over seven minutes into the game on the powerplay, standing directly in front of Vees goalie Adam Scheel.

It took nearly 47 minutes before the Vees snuck one by Smokies goalie Adam Marcoux, the reigning BCHL player of the week, who was named the first star on Friday with 41 saves.

Defender Kenny Johnson circled the net and threw a pass in the crease that deflected off Dakota Boutin's skate and into the net. That was the Vees' 33rd shot of the night. 

Trail restored its lead just over four minutes later, when Carter Jones ripped a shot past Scheel on the powerplay — the Smokies second powerplay tally on the night.

With a lively crowd chanting for much of the third period, the Vees found fuel to tie the game in the final five minutes of regulation.

Recently-acquired blueliner Michael Campoli scored his first goal as a Vee and his first goal in more than four years, when a shot from the left point hit a Smokies player and deflected past Marcoux. 

That would be the final goal of the night, as two entertaining five-minute overtime periods solved nothing. 

Penticton outshot Trail 4-1 in overtime, but the best chance came on Trail's lone shot.

Scheel was knocked over by a Vees player as the puck came through the crease to Smokies forward Blaine Caton. Standing in the crease with an open net in front of him, Caton hit the post and on his own rebound he was robbed by Scheel who sprawled to make a save.

"I'm still in awe of the play, I can't believe it even happened," Vees assistant coach Matt Fraser said postgame on EZ Rock 800, about 10 minutes after Scheel's larcenous stop.

Penticton ended the night with a 43-21 edge in shots, the same shot margin they had in a 4-3 win against Merritt two nights ago.

Trail won the special-teams battle, going 2-3 on the powerplay and 4-4 on the penalty kill.

Fraser said after the game he thought his team played the right way.

"If we play like that we're going to win more often than not, there's a lot to be proud of. We'd like the extra point but we'll take the one that we earned."

Through three meetings this season, the Vees and Smokies each have a win, a regulation loss and a tie. They meet next on Jan. 20, once again at the SOEC.

Penticton makes a short road trip on Saturday to the Fraser Valley to visit the Chilliwack Chiefs, who will host the RBC Cup in the spring. The Vees are 2-0 so far this season against the team they beat in the BCHL finals last season. 

"We like playing in their building, we've had a lot of good memories there," Fraser said. 

"We played real well against them when we played in the (BCHL) showcase there this year... I'm sure they're going to be hungry to clean up that mess from the last time they played us and to give us a good game on their home ice."

Warriors take Wild affair

RJ Murphy certainly has a flair for the dramatic.

The rookie West Kelowna Warriors forward scored his third overtime winner in five weeks Friday in a come-from-behind 5-4 victory in Wenatchee.

In fact, three of Murphy's last four goals have been overtime winners, including those in wins last month at home against both Wenatchee and Penticton.

Newly acquired Ryan Steele picked up the lone assist on the game-winner, scored 40 seconds into the four-on-four overtime period.

Friday's win was the Warriors third straight, all on the road, guaranteeing they will finish a season high six straight on the road with no worse than a .500 record.

The Warriors spotted Wenatchee an early 2-0 lead before roaring back with two of their own from defencemen Stephen Kleyson and Michael Ryan.

Jasper Weatherby restored Wenatchee's one-goal lead with a power play marker 13 minutes into the first.

Jared Marino got that one back with the lone goal of the second, his 18th of the season.

Kleyson with his second, and Sam Morton traded third period goals, tying the game at four and setting the stage for Murphy's overtime heroics.

Nik Amundrud turned away 40 of 44 shots to earn the victory.

The same two teams will meet again Saturday in Wenatchee.

The Warriors head home following Saturday's game before hosting the Vernon Vipers Tuesday in their first home game of 2018.

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