West Kelowna ends regular season with thrilling 6-5 shootout win

Warriors end on high note

The West Kelowna Warriors gave their fans something to be excited about Saturday.

They closed out the regular season in style with a thrilling 6-5 shootout victory over the Vernon Vipers before nearly 1,000 supporters at Royal LePage Place.

The win completed a home-and-home weekend sweep, and will send the Warriors into the post season feeling good about themselves.

"Structurally we have a lot to work on...but we've some changes to hopefully help us move forward," said head coach Simon Ferguson.

"The compete is something you look for, and when you see guys laying out and blocking shots, that's the kind of thing that makes a team win."

The game was tight all the through 65 minutes - neither team was able to enjoy more than a one-goal lead.

The Warriors held the lead on four occasions, but had to battle back in the dying moments after the Vipers took their only lead of the game on a late third period power play.

Deegan Mofford netted the equalizer with less than two minutes to play. Skyler Cameron broke up a play a centre ice and sent Mofford away on an odd-man rush.

He faked a pass, then beat Keegan Karki short-side to send the game to overtime.

Neither team could end it during the five-minute overtime period, setting the stage for a shootout.

Ryan Upson scored what proved to be the winner with a backhand in the fifth round of the shootout.

Goaltender Riley Morgan clinched the victory, knocking the puck off former Warrior Max Bulawka's stick.

Colby Elmer scored twice to pace the Warriors offensively. Levi Stauber and Elan Bar Lev Wise also scored in regulation for the Warriors, who scored five despite missing their top offensive threats, John Evans and Tyler Cristall.

Ferguson said the guys stepped up right from the opening faceoff.

Ben Helgeson scored three times to lead the Vipers.

With his parents in the crowd, Riley Morgan put on quite a show, especially during the first 40 minutes.

He made an incredible stop off Hunter Donahoe from in close, then denied the Vipers on two Grade A chances from the top of the crease during a wild scramble.

He stopped 32 shots over the first 40 minutes alone.

In all, Morgan stopped 42 shots over 65 minutes.

Injured defenceman Jake Harrison took the pre-game skate, but Ferguson said not to read anything into that. He wanted to give the graduating 21-year-old a chance to skate with his teammates during the season finale.

As for Evans and Cristall, Ferguson expects both to be ready for the playoffs.

The Warriors and Penticton kick off the post season later this week at the SOEC.

The Vees host West Kelowna Thursday and Friday before the best-of-seven shifts to Royal LePage Place for games three and four Sunday, March 1 and Tuesday, March 3.

Following the game, the Warriors handed out their season ending awards.

John Evans, the team's top scorer, was also named top rookie, best forward and MVP.

Fellow rookie Nick Ardenaz was named the team's top defenceman and academic award winner.

Fan favourite went to Brendan Pigeon, most improved, Skyler Cameron, best all-round player, Carter Wilkie and heart and soul award Tyler Cristall.

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