West Kelowna Warriors edged Vernon 3-2 Friday

Warriors hang on, nip Vipers

Levi Stauber was undoubtedly the happiest person in the West Kelowna Warriors dressing room Friday night.

The Hermantown, MN native, scored his first goal since Sept. 24, a span of 32 games, leading the Warriors past division-rival Vernon 3-2.

Stauber scored six goals in his first eight games, then missed a half dozen games with an illness.

He seemed to struggle to find his game then, like the rest of the team, struggled to find the net at all.

But, he's shown signs of coming out of it the last couple of weeks.

"He played well. I've kind of been challenging him for the last week that this is the time he needs to step up and get going," said head coach Simon Ferguson.

"He gets that first one...the puck goes to the net, and he's in the right spot and he buries it. He had a couple of chances later where he probably wants to hit the net and maybe it goes in too, but I thought he played well."

Stauber got the Warriors rolling on the power play 16 minutes in, banging home a rebound from the edge of the crease as two or three players were crashing the crease.

Carter Wilkie doubled the lead exactly a minute later. A Vernon clearing attempt hit Deegan Mofford and went right to Wilkie, who beat a stunned Keegan Karki from the right circle.

They built the lead to 3-0 against the run of the play in the second.

The Vipers registered the first nine shots of the period but, after an unsuccessful power play, the Warriors kept pressuring the Vipers, and were rewarded when Jacob Brockman's one-timer from the left point beat Karki cleanly.

But, as the saying goes, a 3-0 lead can be the worst lead in hockey.

Trey Taylor showed why he is likely to be drafted by an NHL team in June. He muscled his way to the front of the Warriors net Johnny Derrick made a superb save of the initial shot, but Taylor somehow managed to pot the rebound from a sharp angle.

The Vipers climbed to within a goal on Connor Sleeth's shorthanded goal, but the Warriors hung on for an agonizing 15 minutes to secure the win.

The Vipers appeared to tie it late in regulation time. With a late power play, and playing six-on-four, Cam MacDonald took a perfectly executed backdoor pass at the edge of the crease.

However, his one-timer somehow sailed just wide. A similar opportunity moments later got hung up in his skates and again missed the target.

"Down to the wire, bend don't break.

"It was a good effort by the boys today."

Derrick turned away 25 shots to earn the victory.

It was a key two points for the Warriors, who are not only trying to distance themselves from Merritt, but are also trying to close the gap on Victoria and Prince George after the league altered the playoff format earlier in the week.

With 16 of the 17 teams making the playoffs, two of the three last place get slotted into the Interior Division for playoff purposes.

According to the prior format, those teams would be seeded at the bottom of the division.

On Thursday, governors changed that, deciding instead to slot the teams based on points. That means the Warriors, if the season ended today, would be eighth instead of sixth.

With 31 points, the lead last place Merritt by eight, and trail Victoria by four and Prince George by six.

The Warriors will face both of those teams within the next eight days.

Next up for the Warriors, a return engagement with the Vipers Saturday in Vernon before hitting the road for games in Victoria, Nanaimo and Port Alberni beginning next Tuesday.



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