WEST KELOWNA – Alex Grieve fired a pair of goals to lead the Westside Warriors to a 4-2 win over the Vernon Vipers in Game 3 of their best-of-seven B.C. Hockey League Interior Conference semifinal Friday night at Royal LePage Place in West Kelowna.
In what was easily the most physical game of the series so far, the Warriors opened the scoring before 1,200 raucous fans when Tyler Brickler beat netminder Kirby Halcrow with a shot from the top of the faceoff circle at 2:42.
The Vipers had plenty of opportunity to equalize later in the first, including a full two-minute 5-on-3 advantage, but couldn’t solve netminder Kevin Boyle, who made 39 saves.
The game turned ugly in the final minute of the first period as Westside’s Shawn Hochhausen drove Kyle Murphy into the sidewall from behind, earning a major for a blow to the head and, barring a successful appeal, an automatic two-game suspension.
Murphy appeared disoriented as he left the ice, but returned later in the second period.
With the Warriors still killing off the major to Hochhausen to start the second period, Grieve deftly corralled teammate Kyle Singleton’s clearing attempt and broke in alone on Halcrow. The Warrior captain stickhandled past the Vernon netminder’s poke check before tucking the puck five-hole at 1:24.
Vernon peppered Boyle with 20 shots in the second period and were finally rewarded when Trevor Fitzgerald wheeled up the right wing and centred a pass that either went in off a Westside defender or linemate Aaron Hadley at 8:19. The scoresheet credited Colton Sparrow for the goal.
The scorekeepers then credited defenceman Adam Thompson for another Fitzgerald goal at 16:06. After taking a gorgeous heads-up pass from Sparrow, Fitzgerald burst into the Warriors’ zone on a partial breakaway, snapping a shot past Boyle’s blocker to even the score 2-2.
The Warriors’ Quinn Gould pocketed the winner on the powerplay just as the Vipers appeared to be gaining momentum in the third period. Grieve sealed the win with an empty-netter in the final minute to help Westside take a 2-1 series lead.
Game 4 goes Saturday night at Royal LePage Place, with Game 5 returning to Wesbild Centre Monday night.
In the other Interior semi Friday night, the Salmon Arm SilverBacks bounced the Penticton Vees 2-1 to take a 3-0 stranglehold on their best-of-seven.
On the coast, the host Victoria Grizzlies earned their second straight overtime win over the league-champion Powell River Kings, a 2-1 result in Game 3 of their semi. The Grizz lead that series 2-1.
The Surrey Eagles clipped the host Langley Chiefs 3-2 in OT in Game 3 of the other Coastal semifinal Friday night at the Langley Events Centre. After losing the series opener, the Eagles now have a 3-1 series lead.
For a full recap of the Vernon-Westside series and other BCHL action, check out the sport section in the Sunday edition of The Morning Star.