The Warriors will have home ice in the first round of the playoffs after a wild come-from-behind victory in Cowichan Valley on Saturday.
Captain Max French delivered the winner when he fired into the top right corner of the net early in the second overtime frame.
David Pope earned an assist on French’s winner, but also played hero himself. Pope (a former Capital) converted a mad scramble with 23 seconds remaining to send the game to overtime.
The equalizer was only awarded after a long conference among the officials.
“It kind of trickled over the line, and at first the refs weren’t sure” French says of Pope’s goal. “We all went to the line and celebrated. We knew it was in, so we were pretty confident.”
The Warriors had generated quality chances and scrambles throughout the game, but were largely held at bay thanks to strong goaltending from Cowichan’s Patrick Spano.
Spano made 36 saves in the game, including 25 in the second and third periods combined, to keep the hosts in front until the dying seconds. Spano was named the game’s first star, as the sun set on the Capitals season.
Steven Myland struggled in the game and allowed one goal from the neutral zone, but got some late help from his forwards to earn the win.
Ambrose Firkus and Marcus Basara also scored for West Kelowna, while Truman Gonzales, Tyler Mueller, and Mitch Ball replied for the Capitals.
The Warriors will conclude the season on Sunday in Nanaimo. However, the Centennials lost their final game of the year in overtime in Vernon on Saturday, meaning Merritt can no longer catch West Kelowna.
“It’s a really good feeling finishing second” Max French grinned afterwards. We’ve got one more game to play, and we’re feeling good heading into the playoffs.”
Meantime, the Warriors invite fans and sponsors to attend the annual awards banquet Monday, March 11 at 19 Okanagan Bar and Grill.