Josh Monk's power-play goal at 10:27 of overtime lifted the West Kelowna Warriors to a thrilling 3-2 come-from-behind win over the Merritt Centennials Saturday night at Royal LePage Place.
The win gave the Warriors a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven Interior Division semi-final as the series now shifts to Merritt for games three and four Monday and Tuesday.
"I was pretty tired and I saw Bas (Marcus Basara) have a good rush down the side. He pulled up and luckily he gave it to me," says Monk of the game winner.
"I saw a lot of guys in front and just tried to fire it high and it went in."
Monk's goal, his second overtime winner against the Centennials in nine games over the regular season and playoffs, capped off a wild overtime period.
Prior to the goal the Warriors had to kill off a penalty of their own after Ambrose Firkus was sent to the box for high sticking.
Firkus, the best forward on the ice for the Warriors nearly atoned for his infraction with a highlight reel rush that ended with his rising shot beating Tyler Steel but not the crossbar.
Firkus' high, hard wrist shot from the right circle midway through the third tied the game at 2-2 forcing overtime.
"He's so skilled that young man (Firkus) and he's so talented. When he has the puck on his stick it always ends up in a better place," says Warriors head coach Rylan Ferster.
"His puck touches have to be around 80 per cent plus because when he has it he puts someone in a good position. He's be a fun player to play with. And, you see in overtime, he takes the puck end to end and hits the crossbar. He's a very special young man."
Daniel Gayle tapped home a Firkus pass from the corner after a give-away by Steel for the other Warriors goal early in the second period.
The Warriors twice had to claw their way back from one goal deficits as the Centennials came out with a lot more jump and push than they did in game one of the series, a 6-1 loss Friday night.
Sylvan Harper beat Tyler Briggs on a wrap-around 14 minutes into the first and Regan Soquila bounced one past Briggs on a power-play in the opening minute of the third to twice give the Centennials their one goal lead.
"I thought we got better as the game went on. I thought they came out with some pretty good push and we expected that," says Ferster.
"I don't know if we weathered the storm but we hung in there. Their goal early in the third period was a little unfortunate but they are going to get their hockey bounces. Give them credit, they worked hard and they got those hockey bounces."
Ferster says those bounces had been going the Warriors way the previous three or four meetings between the two teams.
"They're good and they were a shot away from beating us here tonight."
Both goaltenders were spectacular through the three-and-a-half periods as Merritt outshot the Warriors 41-39 on the night.
Neither team had much success with the man advantage. Merritt went 1-5 while the Warriors were 1-7.
The Warriors power-play had a different look Saturday with the absence of David Pope off the first unit and defenceman Ben Tegtmeyer missing from the second unit due to injuries suffered Friday.
"We were trying some different things tonight because they kill a little differently now than they did in the regular season so we looked for a different set-up," says Monk.
"Obviously losing Pope and having Hawk (Shawn Hochhausen) on there you have to get comfortable with each other too. We probably did deserve a power-play goal at some point so luckily it came at the end."
It was that one from Monk in overtime that most will take away from this one.
The Warriors will look to take a stranglehold on the series in game three in Merritt Monday night.
Should a fifth game in the series be necessary it would be played back at Royal LePage Place Thursday.