West Kelowna take opening game of BCHL Interior Conference quarter-final

Warriors take series opener

The West Kelowna Warriors have drawn first blood in their opening round BCHL Interior Conference quarter-final series with the Vernon Vipers.

And, wouldn't you know it, they won by a 4-3 score, the same score as four of the five games played between the two teams in the regular season.

After trailing 2-1 early in the second, the Warriors rattled off three straight then withstood a late flurry for the one goal win and a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.

Assistant coach Josh Gorges says the late push, with included a power play, is to be expected in the playoffs.

"You get into the playoffs and you're up one goal late in the game, you know they are going to throw everything they have at you," said Gorges.

"That's a good team that plays hard and they are not going to quit.

"I thought our guys did a great job of blocking shots, getting in lanes, sacrificing their bodies and doing what they needed to do to find a way."

This was a classic playoff hockey game, tough, physical, tight checking with not a lot of shots and few real good scoring opportunities. When those came, both goaltenders were equal to the task on most occasions.

The Vipers brought their heavy hard forechecking game early keeping the Warriors off balance and hemmed into their own end for much of the opening period.

Gorges says it took the guys a little longer than he would have like to settle into the game but, when they did midway through the first, the capitalized.

Against the run of play, Brennan Nelson got the Warriors on the board first. Chris Duclair brought the puck into the Vernon end but his pass deflected toward Isaiah Norlin at the point.

His one-timer hit a leg in front and caromed right to Nelson who made no mistake with the open half of the net to shoot at.

Lee Parks, easily the best Viper on the night evened the score a few minutes later, beating Cayden Hamming from the right circle off the rush.

Parks set up the go ahead goal 2:22 into the second on the first power play of the night, feeding Griffen Barr for a one-timer from the bottom of the left circle.

The Warriors got rolling from there. Jaiden Moriello tied it on a Warriors power play at 6:38, sliding a backhand that somehow alluded Roan Clarke from a sharp angle.

Nic Porchetta re-established the one-goal lead 11 minutes into the period after being set up by Nelson on a two-on-one.

Duclair with a hard one-timer from out near the blueline gave the Warriors their first two-goal lead of the night with what stood up to be the game winner.

The Vipers got one back with six minutes to play then applied pressure for much of the rest of the night to no avail.

Nelson had two assists to go along with his goal and did yeoman work on the penalty kill while Norlin picked up a pair of assists and likewise was stellar in key situations, especially down the stretch when the Warriors did everything to keep the puck out of their net.

"Those are the two guys that, as soon as the game was over we all said...those two guys kind of carried us tonight.

"We had some other guys that did a lot of good things, but I think you see that they understand what this type of year is all about and how you have to play.

"Hopefully that trickles down to some of our new faces and, now that they have one game in they can just relax and play hockey."

The Vipers outshot the Warriors 28-23 on the evening.

Game two in the series is set for Saturday night at Royal LePage Place. Games three and four are set for Kal Tire Place next Tuesday and Wednesday.

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