West Kelowna Warriors opened the new season on a winning note, beating PG 5-3

Warriors open with victory

The West Kelowna Warriors welcomed in a new season and the return of fans in style Saturday night.

With a COVID-capacity sellout and dozens of honoured fire fighters looking on, the Warriors erased a one-goal deficit with four unanswered goals in a 5-3 victory over the visiting Prince George Spruce Kings Saturday night.

Rookie Felix Trudeau led the way with a pair of goals. Tyler Rubin had a goal and an assist while Chase Defoe and Nick Roukounakis with the game winner, also scoring.

Captain Elan Bar Lev Wise added a pair of assists.

While the building was only half full due to indoor gathering restrictions, those in attendance were loud all night, most seeing their first live hockey in more than 19 months.

Trudeau gave the fans something to cheer about early, deflecting home a Bar Lev Wise shot six minutes in to give the home side a 1-0 lead.

But, the Spruce Kings came to life soon after, thanks in part to some sloppy play inside the Warriors blueline to eventually tie it, then take a brief 2-1 lead with a shorthanded goal early in the second off another giveaway in the neutral zone.

"I thought we had some opening night jitters to start the game," said head coach Simon Ferguson.

"We tried to force a little much...and I thought we got away from our game plan at the beginning of the game based off the nerves.

"But, then we seemed to settle in and played much better after that."

Trudeau tied it with his second, beating Aaron Trotter cleanly directly off a faceoff. A minute later, Dafoe but the Warriors up for good with a wrist shot that squeezed between Trotter's arm and body.

Roukounakis banged home the eventual game winner just 55 seconds into the third before Rubin, jumping into the play, used his speed to tuck the puck behind Trotter on a wraparound.

The Spruce Kings scored a later power play goal, then had a chance on a five minute power play in the final minute, but Johnny Derrick made two key saves to shut the door on any comeback.

The Warriors got contributions up and down the lineup, with three of the four lines contributing to the victory.

After tinkering with a lines a bit in pre season, Ferguson says he was happy with the way the line combinations worked on opening night.

"The guys seemed to be gelling with the groups they're with, so we'll keep rolling with those for now.

"One of our strengths was our four lines, and our fourth line created energy every time they were out there.

"I think they had four or five chances themselves, so when you have that kind of depth, it's nice to see."

The Warriors out shot Prince George 36-23 on the night.

West Kelowna went 0-2 on the power play and surrendered a shorthanded goal, while the Spruce Kings scored once on three opportunities.

The Warriors now hit the road for three games in four nights. They'll play in Trail Wednesday before back-to-back games against the expansion Bucks in Cranbrook Friday and Saturday.

The following weekend is the annual Showcase event in Chilliwack.

The Warriors don't return home until Oct. 29, when they entertain the Powell River Kings.

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