Warriors come back in 3rd

The West Kelowna Warriors fired 26 shots at the Victoria net in the third period, and were rewarded with five unanswered goals in a thrilling 6-3 come-from-behind win over the Grizzlies Saturday at Royal LePage Place.

The Warrior played the Grizzlies even for 40 minutes, but trailed 3-1, thanks in large part to some outstanding goaltending from Zachary Rose.

Rose stoned Chase Stevenson, Jared Marino and Lucas Cullen early in the first, then made a spectacular stop off Stevenson from the low slot early in the second.

While Rose was doing his thing at one end, the Grizzlies were taking advantage of their opportunities at the other.

Ethan Norther on a breakaway and Shawn O'Malley put the Grizzlies up a pair in the first. Parm Dhaliwal got one back with a deft deflection off a centering pass on a late period power play.

Marty Westhaver made it 3-1 13 minutes into the middle frame, and it looked as if if would be one of those nights where the Warriors had chances, but couldn't convert.

They dominated the third, and were eventually rewarded when Chase Dubois' backhand from a sharp angle appeared to glance off a sprawled Rose and into the net. Four minutes later, Rose mishandled the puck behind his own net and the Warriors capitalized, as RJ Murphy jammed home his 20th to tie it.

Murphy bagged the eventual game winner with less than four minutes left in regulation time, beating Rose from the right circle off the rush.

Chase Stevenson converted a two-on-one 69 seconds later and Ryan Steele sealed it into an empty net.

Head coach Rylan Ferster said the team played well all night, and dug deep in the third against the number one team in the Island Division.

"You really have to give our guys credit for digging in in the third period. To score five in the third against a team like that is impressive," said Ferster.

"And, hopefully it gives a bit of confidence moving forward. Hopefully we can channel some of that."

Despite the lack of finish over the first 40 minutes, Ferster said, for whatever reason, the team wasn't frustrated.

"It was one of those things where I didn't look at the outcome to that point but the process.

"After 40 it was like, well, let's see what we can do."

With just a week left in the regular season, it was a big win for the Warriors, who are in a dog fight with Salmon Arm and Merritt.

"It was huge. If you look at the standings, we can finish anywhere from fifth to seventh, so getting a win like this is big."

The Warriors are now six points clear of sixth place Salmon Arm and seven up on Merritt. West Kelowna have three games to play, the other two have five remaining.

They host the Wenatchee Wild in their final regular season home game Wednesday before finishing on the road in Merritt Friday and Salmon Arm Saturday.

Rivermen sink Vees

Despite reeling in recent weeks, the Langley Rivermen had their way once again with the Penticton Vees when the teams met on Saturday night in the Lower Mainland.

Entering play with five losses in their past six games, the Rivermen built up a 4-0 lead halfway through the game, which proved to be just enough as they added an empty-netter late and held on for a 5-3 win against the Vees.

Shortly after the Rivermen killed off a five-minute major penalty in the first period — which ended early when the Vees took a minor penalty — the home team opened the scoring with a goal at four-on-four.

Langley doubled its lead while on the powerplay just 1:01 later.

The Vees thought Owen Sillinger had scored a few minutes after that while on a powerplay of their own, however the goal was waved off due to goalie interference. The Rivermen added another tally with 26 seconds left in the period to go up by three.

Another powerplay goal at 12:26 of the second put the home team Langley up by four. The Vees finally cracked open the scoring on their side when Nicky Leivermann buried his second goal in as many nights late in the period.

Jordan Henderson pulled the Vees one goal closer at 7:10 of the third, before Taylor Ward scored at 14:44 to bring Penticton within one.

That was as close as they got to knotting things up, as Langley would add an empty net goal with 1:14 to go.

Despite the loss, Penticton led 45-23 in shots and led in that department in all three periods. They went 0-7 on the powerplay and 5-7 on the penalty kill.

Langley (23-19-10-2) has now beat Penticton (37-12-2-3) in both of their meetings this season. The Rivermen handed the Vees their first loss of the year back on Oct. 18, earning a tight 2-1 win.

With both Vernon and Wenatchee winning on Saturday, the Vees, with 79 points, have a two-point lead atop the BCHL standings. Penticton has four games remaining in the regular season while Vernon and Wenatchee each have three.

The Vees close out a three-in-three weekend when they visit the Surrey Eagles on Sunday, which will also be Penticton's fourth game in five nights.

Vees derail Express, again

The Penticton Vees built up a big lead on Friday and crushed the Coquitlam Express for the second time in three nights.

Penticton built up a five-goal lead after two periods en route to a 5-1 win in Coquitlam. The Vees had earned a 7-1 win over the Express on Valentine's Day at the SOEC.

Nick Leivermann, who returned from injury on Wednesday after a 14-game absence, scored his first goal since Nov. 24 to open the scoring in the first.

Dakota Boutin, who returned to the lineup on Friday after missing 10 games, drew in an assist on the opening goal as well.

About eight minutes later, at 16:13 of the first, rookie Lukas Sillinger doubled the Vees lead by scoring his first goal in 23 games.

Penticton outshot Coquitlam 15-10 in the first, but the second was almost a no-contest; the Vees scored three more times and outshot the Express 12-1 in the middle frame.

Cassidy Bowes scored to make it 3-0 at 5:04 of the second, before captain Owen Sillinger scored his 30th and 31st goals of the season in the second half of the period. 

Sillinger, who leads the Vees with 59 points, became the fourth BCHL player to hit the 30-goal plateau this season.

Coquitlam finally struck on the scoreboard with 1:12 to go in the game, ending the chance at a shutout for Vees goalie Adam Scheel.

Final shots were 35-17 for Penticton. The visitors went 2-2 on the powerplay, 3-3 on the penalty kill and scored a shorthanded goal to boot.

With 79 points, the Vees (37-11-2-3) suddenly have a four-point cushion atop the BCHL standings. Both Vernon and Wenatchee have 75 points and both have played one more game than Penticton to date.

It hasn't been a pretty month for the Express (14-37-1-3), who have dropped seven-straight games. 

Despite Friday's loss, Coquitlam clinched the 16th and final BCHL playoff spot. The last-place Cowichan Valley Capitals no longer have a chance of catching the Express for 16th.

The Vees and Express began their regular season series on Wednesday and it ended on Friday. While brief, there's a growing chance those two teams will be first round playoff opponents. There are eight days remaining in the regular season.

Penticton's weekend in the Lower Mainland continues when they visit the Langley Rivermen on Saturday night, and it will wrap up with a game in Surrey against the Eagles on Sunday afternoon.


Vees beat up on Express

Powered by five third-period goals, 42 shots and four points from captain Owen Sillinger, the Penticton Vees trounced the visiting Coquitlam Express 7-1 on Wednesday night.

Penticton scored all seven of their goals at even-strength in a game that pitted first versus nearly-worst in the B.C. Hockey League standings.

Ryan Sandelin broke out of a 23-game goalless drought in a big way. The Vees forward scored at 8:45 of the first to open the scoring, his first of two goals on the night.

Sillinger doubled Penticton's lead with his first of two at 10:11 of the second period. The Vees led 28-14 in shots after 40 minutes but just 2-1 on the scoreboard.

That until a third period when the flood gates opened.

Coquitlam scored less than a minute into the third to spoil any chance at a shutout for Vees goalie Adam Scheel, but Penticton buried a barrage of goals after that.

Sandelin scored his second at 4:35 of the third. Just under four minutes later, defenseman Kenny Johnson ended an 83-game goalless drought to put the Vees up 4-1.

Goals from three veterans — Sillinger, Taylor Ward and Wyatt Sloboshan — solidified a 7-1 win for Penticton.

Sillinger, Sandelin, Sloboshan, Jonny Tychonick, Marcus Mitchell and Chris Klack all had multi-point nights for Penticton.

Final shots were 42-21 for the Vees (36-11-2-3), who now improve to 5-1 in February.

The same can't be said for the Express (14-36-1-3), who are now 1-6 this month and have been outscored handily, 33-17.

These two teams meet again in Coquitlam on Friday night, when the Vees begin a three-game weekend in the Lower Mainland. They will then visit Langley on Saturday and Surrey on Sunday.

Last leg of regular season

Colton Davies

Don't blink or you might miss the last stretch of the Penticton Vees regular season.

The Vees play seven games in 12 nights, beginning on Valentine's Day when they host the Coquitlam Express. 

Wednesday's game will be the first of a home-and-home with the Express. The two teams haven't yet played this season but could be in each other's faces a lot in the coming weeks, as there's a good chance they will be first-round opponents in the BCHL playoffs.

"You might see them in the playoffs, you might not. So you have to take advantage and make sure you play the right way," Vees head coach, general manager and president Fred Harbinson said.

Both Dakota Boutin and Nick Leivermann will return to the Vees lineup on Wednesday. Leivermann missed the past 14 games and was second in team scoring before getting hurt. Boutin, meanwhile, sat out for nine games, and remains fourth in team scoring despite his absence.

The Vees will hope their home-and-home with Coquitlam is to the tune of their home-and-home series they had with the Trail Smoke Eaters last week.

Penticton started with a 5-1 win in Trail on Wednesday before a 3-0 shutout win on Friday at home.

"I thought we strung six real strong periods together, starting in their building and carrying over to ours," Harbinson said, adding he thought both of his goalies, Nolan Hildebrand on Wednesday and Adam Scheel on Friday, "played real well."

The weekend ended on a sour note, however, as the Vees dropped a 5-2 decision at home to the Vernon Vipers — a battle of the BCHL's top-two teams.

Those two teams won't see each other again in the regular season, but will likely be watching each other as they jockey for the league's top spot. The Wenatchee Wild, who had the best regular season record last year, are also in the mix for first place with 73 points, two back of Vernon and Penticton.

After two games against Coquitlam this week, the Vees will wrap up a stretch of four games in five nights when they play in Langley on Saturday and Surrey on Sunday.

"We have to play our best hockey now going into playoffs," Harbinson said.

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