What happened in the first period Friday was something the Warriors hadn't seen often in the postseason, having played scoreless or tied periods in over half of the games to this point. The Chilliwack Chiefs made sure that wouldn't happen, scoring three times on just seven shots, and silencing the crowd at Royal LePage Place.
Kohen Olischefski got the Chiefs on the board with a well placed shot off the right wing as he beat Matthew Greenfield up high for the opening marker halfway through the period. Just after that, the Chiefs once again would enter the West Kelowna zone, this time off a turnover, as Taylor Allan wrapped one around and tucked it in the open cage past Matthew Greenfield just 61 seconds after the first goal.
West Kelowna got a couple of chances on Aidan Pelino, but the Chiefs netminder stood his ground and made the stops he needed to. After a penalty to Jake LeBrun for slashing, Rylan Bechtel's point shot went through the screening maze of bodies and beat Greenfield who didn't stand a chance on the third marker of the period. The buzzer was the only saving grace of West Kelowna, who definitely had to regroup and set for the middle frame.
The Warriors made some changes in the offensive zone and came out for the second with renewed vigour, creating early opportunities and trying to get the transition game working. West Kelowna tried stretching out the Chiefs defense with guys at the far blueline, and activated their defense in a few different scenarios.
Kyle Marino laid out the most thunderous of checks in the Chiefs end in the second period, sending his man flying with a shoulder check in open ice. Marino would be called for interference however, as it was deemed that the Chilliwack player never got a stick on the puck. It's hard to tell on the fast hockey feed as well.
The Warriors would take another penalty after Jonathan Desbiens grabbed Jake Smith after Smith hit Blackburn in the back and drove him into the end boards without Blackburn having touched the puck. While some would call the penalty undisciplined, I liked seeing Desbiens stick up for his teammate, and maybe a regular season game would have seen a fight in that situation. In the NHL or WHL, absolutely it would have.
West Kelowna thought the got on the board late in the first period during that Desbiens penalty kill, as Liam Blackburn got a break away and tucked the forehand through Aidan Pelino and caused the Chiefs goalie to slide back over the line. However, the official in the corner deemed that Blackburn made contact with Pelino that forced the puck over the line. The fans were none to pleased about that call.
Blackburn then drew a penalty with some hard work off the faceoff, and with 21.9 seconds to go in the middle frame, Jake LeBrun made it 3-1 when his shot from the slot beat Pelino.
West Kelowna would have some good pressure in the third period and some great chances to get within one, but couldn't find it. Connor Sodergren hit iron on a solid shot from the middle of the ice, and Desbiens had a great chance to score as well, and ended up taking a penalty after his stick hit Pelino in the groin after a failed shot attempt.
Kylar Hope got the goal to put the Warriors within one as he went wide and behind the net for a wraparound with 11:10 to go in the third period. West Kelowna kept coming, but didn't get one past Pelino, including on a crazy scramble that wasn't blown dead until everyone started a scrum in front thinking the play was over.
With the goaltender out and the extra attacker on, the Warriors desperately tried to find a way to the front of the goal with the puck. At times, seven players were stacked in front, all trying to gain position, but it was a cross ice pass from the right circle to the left circle from Blackburn to Hope that tied the game with 12.9 seconds remaining, burying the equalizer on a one-timer.
Overtime was over quick, in just 59 seconds, as Jonathan Desbiens had a rush up ice and a solid shot stopped by the left pad of the goaltender Pelino, and cleared by a defender immediately. Jordan Kawaguchi was coming off the bench from a change, and was able to pick up the cleared puck and go in on a breakaway, and scoring on the blocker side with a wrist shot to end it, giving the Chiefs their second win of the third round.
- An odd start to the game, and one that Warriors fans aren't accustomed to as the Chiefs scored three times on seven shots for the early lead. Can't fault Matthew Greenfield on two of them for sure (great shot Olischefski, screened PP goal Bechtel), and its tough to criticize the wrap around as well as it sure looked like Taylor Allan was going to shoot it throughout his rush.
- I referenced January 30th on the broadcast, as the Warriors were down 3-0 after one to Powell River in that game, then scored five in the second, gave up two in the third, and won it in overtime in a game that featured a pair of goalie changes. That wasn't the same script tonight, but the Warriors battled their way back, made adjustments and I felt had the majority of the opportunities after the opening frame. The OT goal is tough to swallow, given the great chance at one end, and how everything else aligned for the clearing of the rebound to end up on the stick of the Chiefs leading goal scorer. Some may say the Warriors didn't deserve to lose that hockey game, while others would say that because of the first period, maybe they didn't deserve to win.
- No matter what side you're on, that was a fun hockey game to watch, and one of the reasons that the BCHL and Junior A Hockey is so fun in general. Players make mistakes, they're still kids, and they play for the passion of the game, and their future in the sport. This game had drama down to the wire, a heart-pumping tying goal, and a devastating finish for the home team. As much as losing hurts when you battled back so hard, as a fan you have to feel you got your monies worth tonight.
What has become a popular question and thought throughout the office and stands, needs to be answered here. "What happens if we win tonight?", "How does this round work?", "isn't Chilliwack out if they lose?" and all that stuff based on this Round 3 format. I'll try and keep it simple.
- The goal of this round is to win 3 games. You must win your 3 games before the other two teams win 3 games. So far, it is Nanaimo 2, Chilliwack 2, West Kelowna 1.
- The Warriors will visit Nanaimo Friday at 7 PM. A Nanaimo win would give them the first spot in the Fred Page Cup Finals, as it would be Win 3 for the Clippers
- IF Nanaimo wins:
- Clippers advance to Finals
- Warriors play Chilliwack IN Chilliwack Sunday at 5 PM. Warriors would be in a MUST WIN against the Chiefs, as Chilliwack would be just 1 win away from 3.
- IF West Kelowna wins Friday:
- All teams would be tied 2-2
- A "Page Playoff" would be used, like in curling, meaning Seed 1 would play Seed 2 for a spot in the final, while the loser of the game between Seed 1 and Seed 2 would play Seed 3 for the second spot. In other words, the top two teams have earned the right to get two chances to advance.
- West Kelowna would play Chilliwack IN Chilliwack Sunday at 5 PM, with the winner advancing to the Finals.
- The loser would then face Nanaimo Tuesday for the second spot.
It's all confusing, and we understand the frustration with not being able to follow it as close as you like, but the Warriors need your support as they head out on the road and try to make sure there's another game at Royal LePage Place this season.
You can catch all the action from Friday night's game on the big screen at Kelly O's in West Kelowna, as the Fast Hockey broadcast will be played at the new Official Headquarters of Warriors Playoff Hockey. Don't miss out. If you can't make it down to Kelly O's in West Kelowna to watch, listen live at www.mixlr.com/bchlwarriors.