West Kelowna Warriors got past Vernon in hockey's return to play

Warriors, BCHL return

The fans were missing, and only a skeleton crew of off-ice officials were in the building, but, during these uncertain times, hockey was back at Royal LePage Place.

The West Kelowna Warriors and Vernon Vipers tangled Friday night in the first game of the Okanagan Challenge Cup.

The exhibition season series pits these two teams, along with Penticton and Salmon Arm in a four-team tournament leading up to the start of the regular season at the beginning of December.

In a game that was at times sloppy and others fast paced, typical for an opener to a pre season, the Warriors got a pair of goals from newcomer Felix Trudeau in a 4-1 victory over the vising Vipers.

But the real story, as coaches and scant others looked on clad in masks, was the return of the sport at the junior level.

"It was awesome. There were some strange rules happening out there that we're not used to, so we'll adjust as we have all summer...but, getting on the ice, getting back in competition against a good team, and finishing the way we wanted to was good," said Warriors head coach Simon Ferguson.

"It was strange (without fans), I kept hearing noise, I think they were playing fan music.

"I think it adds to it when our fans are going, but I think the competitive juices in each guy is going regardless of the building."

On the ice, the Warriors jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead just 10 seconds in when former Viper Elan Bar Lev Wise was credited a goal after a clearing attempt bounced off him and behind Vernon netminder Kobe Grant.

The Warriors controlled much of the opening 10 minutes, aided in part by a pair of Vernon penalties and nearly a minute of five-on-three power play time, but were unable to lengthen the lead.

"The first 10 minutes I thought we pressured hard, then we thought we were pretty good, and they pressured hard," said Ferguson.

"We kind of dialed it in in the second and third a little bit better, and saw some guys do some really good things. We'll evaluate as we go, so it was good."

Johnny Derrick, back after a spectacular rookie season with the Warriors, made several key stops, including a spectacular save off Nicholas Remissong on a two-man breakaway in close.

The only puck to beat him came later in the first as the Vipers capitalized on a two-man advantage when Ryan Shostak tapped home a cross-crease pass.

Trudeau one-timed a beautiful backdoor pass from from Marcus Joughin midway through the second to put the Warriors up for good.

Deegan Mofford banged home a rebound to extend the lead later in the second before Trudeau iced it with an empty net tally in the final minute.

The Vipers lost the services of forward Cameron MacDonald in the second period after he was hit hard into the boards by Warriors defenceman Kyle Pow. Pow received a charging penalty for the hit.

MacDonald didn't return.

The two teams will play again Saturday night in Vernon.

In the other Okanagan Challenge Cup opener Friday, Yaniv Perets turned away 20 shots as the Vees pummeled Salmon Arm 7-0.

Tristan Amonte and Quinn Hutson each scored twice for the Vees, while Devlin O'Brien, Jackson Niedermayer and Drew Elser added singles.

Those same two teams will face off Saturday in Salmon Arm.

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