Warriors, Cents tie in a barnburner

If the West Kelowna Warriors and Merritt Centennials do indeed meet in the opening round of the BCHL playoffs - as they appear certain to do - expect it to be a barnburner from start to finish.

That's what the two teams provided a raucous crowd of nearly 1,400 Friday night in the Warriors final regular season game at Royal LePage Place.

Ambrose Firkus banged home a rebound during a wild scramble in front of the Merritt goal with 2:50 left in regulation time then Tyler Briggs stopped Regan Soquila on a penalty shot in the second overtime period as the Warriors and Centennials finished up in a hard fought, 70 minute 3-3 tie.

Briggs was able to get his stick between Soquila's skates enough to impede him then got his right skate on the shot near the right post.

Matt Anholt on a rebound early in the contest and Max French six minutes into the second also scored for the Warriors.

French's goal came just 12 seconds after the centennials had grabbed a 2-1 lead.

Derek Huisman, Jeff Wight and Soquila scored the goals for the Centennials.

The Warriors came out of the blocks quickly, taking the game to the Centennials during the first half of the opening period, grabbing a 1-0 lead and outshooting the opponents 8-3.

Merritt came back in the latter half of the period and were the better team for much of the second and third period.

The Warriors took over after Firkus' goal and had chances to win it late when Shawn Hochhausen hit the post late in regulation and French did likewise after Soquila was stopped by Briggs on the penalty shot.

Warriors head coach Rylan Ferster thought his club played pretty well over the course of the game but was visibly upset with what happened in overtime.

"We certainly didn't have much special team time but then to have one called like that in overtime. We were being accused of diving twice - twice the referee accused our team of diving - and we just watched that one on tape and, I don't know, he (Soquila) embellishes that one pretty good. I'm kind of lost that's for sure," says Ferster of the call which led to the penalty shot.

The game was physical throughout and, at times a little chippy as both team got in extra pokes during numerous post whistle scrums.

"I think that's the controlling of the game maybe. I don't know why there was so much stuff after the whistle, I really don't," says Ferster who added he didn't think Merritt was trying to send any messages with their physical play.

"We're certainly not scared."

The Warriors and Centennials will conclude their season long seven game series Saturday night in Merritt.

The Warriors own a 5-0-1-0 advantage, however, all six games to date have been decided by one goal or less with three of the six going into overtime.

West Kelowna remains three points back of the second place Centennials while Merritt is just five back of Penticton after the Vees fell 3-2 in overtime to Trail, their third loss in a row.

After Saturday's tilt in Merritt the Warriors wrap up the regular season with three games on Vancouver Island next weekend.

During the first period intermission Jim Williamson had a chance to win the biggest cash prize ever awarded during a single sporting event in the Okanagan.

However, Williamson, a former Kelowna Minor Hockey President, was not able to put the required 20 pucks into the net from the far blueline in the allotted time of 24 seconds.

Instead, he walked away with a pair of 2013-2014 Warriors season tickets plus a year's worth of service from event sponsor Great Canadian Oil Change.

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