Warriors earn key victory

Coaches will tell you over the course of a 58-game season, no win is more important than the rest.

Two points count the same in September as they do in February.

But, even West Kelowna Warriors head coach Geoff Grimwood admits Friday's 6-3 victory over the Merritt Centennials was an important one of his hockey club.

"I think mentally, you want to get that monkey off your back," said Grimwood, whose club had lost all three meetings with the Centennials prior to Friday.

"They're a really good hockey team. I don't think there's any shame in being 0-3 against them, it just shows we have work to do."

Grimwood says the Warriors have shown the last two games they can hang with a team he calls the best in the BCHL.

"We'll build on it."

As important as the win was the way the Warriors won it.

Up 3-0 after two, and seemingly in control, the Centennials battled back to tie it with three goals six minutes apart. One was from the corner boards that hit Connor Hopkins and bounced in, another hit a Warrior defender in front, and the third hit the post and, instead of bouncing back out, stay in the crease and trickled mover the line.

But, moments after the tying goal, Parm Dhaliwal brought the crowd of more than 700 to life when his laser beam of a wrist shot from the right circle off the rush hit the back bar behind Austin Roden and bounced right back out for his eighth of the campaign.

Anthony Bishop added to the lead four minutes later when ripped a wrist shot from the slot off a nice feed from Chase Dubois. Cavin Tilsley iced it with an empty netter in the final minute.

The Warriors were able to build their early lead with some opportunistic goals, and some incredible saves from Hopkins during the first 40 minutes. With the game still scoreless, Hopkins came up big in the early going, flashing his right pad to stone Payton Matsui on a clear breakaway.

Miniutes later, Dubois opened the scoring with a short-side wrist shot on a Warriors power play.

Mike Hardman netted his team-leading 25th two minutes later, roofing a shot from a sharp angle after Roden had robbed Sam Anderson from in close.

Lucas Bahn added to the lead in the second when his wrist shot from the point found its way past a screened Roden on another power play.

With the Warriors shorthanded, Hopkins came up big again late in the period, making two spectacular saves before the Centennials his the cross bar on the second rebound.

"We let them back in in the third. Sometimes those things go against you and it's bang, bang, bang in the back of your net.

"The guys didn't panic, and then that tremendous goal from Parm Dhaliwal. That's as nice of a goal as you're going to see. Once he scored that, we knew we had it."

The win Friday was the Warriors third in a row, moving them within a point of the third place Centennials, and three back of Interior Division leading Wenatchee.

The Warriors hit the ice again Sunday when they entertain the Cowichan Valley Capitals.

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