Warriors edge Cents in vicious OT win

If the West Kelowna Warriors and Merritt Centennials meet in the opening round of the BCHL playoffs as it appears they will - button up your chinstraps, it will be one intense, vicious affair.

The two teams went at it tooth and nail until the bitter end Tuesday night before Brett Zarazun ended it with a wrist shot from the right faceoff circle 3:23 into the second overtime period before more than 800 delirious fans at Royal LePage Place.

Zarazun's first career BC Hockey League goal couldn't have come at a better time for a Warriors team that was just 1-3-8 in overtime games prior to Tuesday.

"It's a good feeling and a good win. Words can't really describe it. We're just happy in the room," says Zarazun of the win.

"It definitely felt good. I think "Monker (Josh Monk) got the last one in Merritt. We have a good overtime record against these guys."

Zarazun's winner came after Shawn Hochhausen won a battle for a loose puck at the Warriors blueline.

"It squirted out the red line, I picked it up, gave it to Hawk and then he gave it right back," says Zarazun.

"I went down wide and went low blocker."

The Warriors jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead on first period goals from David Pope (11th) and Brennan Clark with a deft deflection of Ben Tegtmeyer's point shot on a power-play.

Just seconds after the 2-0 goal, the game turned ugly.

Warriors forward Daniel Gayle was being penalized for boarding when he was jumped from behind by Merritt defenceman Charlie Donlin who began throwing punches into the face of a defenceless Gayle.

The fight opened a nasty gash around Gayle's right eye. He would return to the game after being patched up.

Donlin picked up 17 minutes in penalties in the fracas, however, the Warriors were unable to capitalize, managing just four shots on goal during the five minute power-play.

"No matter what happened we got a five minute power-play out of it and we don't capitalize. Sometimes you get those five minute power-plays and you relax a little bit," says Warriors coach Rylan Ferster.

"For some reason you want to look for the pretty play and against a team like Merritt it's not the pretty goals. You have to get goals like them, ugly goals."

The Centennials took over the game after that penalty kill.

"I don't think we had a lot of push back. When Merritt starting coming hard and said we're going to start pushing you guys around and taking some liberties I don't think we did a lot of push back," says Ferster.

"Full marks to Merritt. They are a very good team, they skate well, they're physical and they ramped it up a bit and we didn't have the push back."

Richard Sabourin made it 2-1 seven minutes into the second and Derek Huisman equalized two minutes into the third.

Huisman had a chance to end it 46 seconds into the second overtime when he was awarded an automatic penalty shot on a hooking penalty taken by captain Max French.

He missed the net setting up Zarazun's heroics.

The Warriors, already without four players due to injury again dressed just 19 Tuesday night and look like they may be minus defenceman Josh Monk for some time.

Monk was the victim of a high, hard hit into the end board by Centennials captain Brent Fletcher that went undetected by the officials.

"I've watched it on tape and it's as vicious a hit as I've ever seen. He clearly leaves his feet, it's a direct hit to the head on obviously one of the best defencemen in our league," says Ferster.

"I asked the referee twice and he claimed it was a clean hit. It's something we'll certainly send in and have our league look at."

The win allowed the Warriors to move a single point up on the Centennials as those two teams wage their own personal battle for second place in the Interior Division.

The Centennials hold three games in hand.

The Warriors, unbeaten in regulation time in January (6-0-1-1) face their toughest test this month when they head into Penticton to face the Vees Saturday night.

West Kelowna were 5-2 winners the last time the two teams hooked up at the South Okanagan Events Centre.

It's the last meeting between the two teams before the playoffs.

The Warriors don't return home until Feb. 2 when the Chilliwack Chiefs make their only visit to Royal LePage Place.

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