The West Kelowna Warriors have chosen a terrible time to go into a slump.
With the playoff just around the corner and the standings tightening around them, the Warriors dropped their third in a row, 7-4 to the Prince George Spruce Kings in a crucial four-point game in the Interior Conference.
As has been the case during this latest slump, the Warriors fell behind early and were unable to fight their way back.
"You want to go into the playoffs hot and for me, the biggest thing has been our starts...they've been really bad," said head coach Simon Ferguson.
"We've been lacking a lot of leadership with guys out who would normally be leading some of this stuff. At the end of the day I thought we played well enough to win, we showed some grit to come back, but I thought our goalies, the last nine games need to be better."
The Spruce Kings jumped all over the Warriors early, taking advantage of some bad defensive zone giveaways to build a 3-0 lead five minutes into the game.
John Harrington was the beneficiary of the first two giveaways, beating Cayden Hamming short side top shelf from the right circle 2:21 in then, just 30 seconds later beating Hamming with a deke to the backhand after the Spruce Kings had forced a turnover at the blue line.
A goal from Hunter Price at 5:02 on a rebound made it 3-0.
The Warriors got one back late in the first when Jaiden Moriello's shot deflected off a Spruce King defender then off Brennan Nelson and past Aidan Fedemma. The goal came against the run of the play in a period in which PG outshot the Warriors 18-5
The Warriors controlled the early part of the second and were rewarded when Rylee Hlusiak buried his first of two from the blue line with Fedemma screened on a power play.
Jaske Bernadet tied it with a wrist shot along the ice on a breakaway 6:08 into the period. But, goals 49 seconds apart shortly thereafter by Colton Cameron and Harrington with his third restored the two goal lead.
Harrington's fourth at on a power play at 12:14 made it 6-3 and spelled the end of the night for Harrington who allowed six goals on 27 shots. Angelo Zol went the rest of the way.
"We've got to make saves, we've got to block shots," said Ferguson.
"It's like oh, we're good we've tied it up now. Whatever it is I don't know but for me, we've got to have saves there."
Hlusiak got one back on a late power play and appeared to get the Warriors to within one early in the third when he thought a shot from a sharp angle in tight had gone in just inside the cross bar.
The officials huddled and determined the puck hit the cross bar and did not cross the lien. Video replay appeared to bear that out.
Brennan Nelson had a great chance to get the Warriors close but Fedemma got the better of him on a shorthanded breakaway. A goal on that same power play put the game away.
Both teams scored twice on five chances with the man advantage.
The loss leaves the Warriors third in the Interior Conference. They remain a point up on fourth place Salmon Arm after the Silverbacks lost 5-2 in Vernon while PG moved to with two of the Warriors.
West Kelowna look to rebound Saturday when they entertain the Coquitlam Express.
The Warriors will get spark plug Riley Sharun back in the lineup Saturday. Sharun has missed the last two games after being suspended for his part in a fight last week against Cranbrook.