WEST KELOWNA – Down their starting goalie and trailing the Vernon Vipers 3-1 in a B.C. Hockey League first-round playoff series. Things didn’t look sweet for the West Kelowna Warriors.
Rather than fret, they simply went back to their powerplay which worked five times in a Game 1 victory, getting two more Monday night in a 4-1 win.
Game 6 in the series went Tuesday night in Vernon. A seventh game, if required, would go tonight at Royal LePage Place.
Red Wings’ draft David Pope scored twice and rookie 16-year-old goalie Cody Porter made 26 saves as the Warriors won before 1,025 raucus fans.
The Warriors went 2-for-9 on the powerplay, scoring all their goals in the second period after a tight-checking opening frame.
Kylar Hope and captain Matt Anholt also supplied snipes for the Warriors, who welcomed back second leading pointgetter Jason Cotton up the middle and towering Ryan Ivey on the back end, from injured reserve.
Porter, a Vancouver product who went 8-5-1 in the regular season, stepped in nicely for co-MVP Andy Desautels, hurt in a collision with Vipers’ forward Dexter Danc in Saturday night’s 4-1 Viper win at Kal Tire Place.
Dancs was not penalized on the play, but the league reviewed the play and issued Dancs a three-game suspension. The Vipers appealed the decision Monday.
Anholt said getting semi-healthy bodies back was huge.
“It did a lot. I was telling those guys at the pre-game skate this morning, ‘Even if you guys can play sparingly, it can raise the momentum and morale in the room a lot’ and it obviously did because those guys played great tonight.”
Brendan Persley replied for the Vipers at 1:27 of the third period from in tight on a wild scramble. Vernon went 0-for-3 on the powerplay while outshooting West Kelowna 15-4 in the third.
“They shouldn’t have surprised us,” said Vernon head coach Jason Williamson. “We knew they were gonna be desparate and hungry and they definitely were. It was a pretty evenly-played game. It just got away from us in the second and we win the third. It’s a game that we’d probably like back.
“Going into the series, if we knew we’d be up 3-2 going home, we’d probably take that. They’re a good hockey club, they’ve got pride, they don’t wanna go down without a fight. We just gotta build off what we did in the third period.”
Veteran forward Colton Sparrow said the Vipers weren’t holding a pity-party or getting any post-game lectures from the coaching staff.
“After playoff games, not a whole lot is said. It’s a pretty quick turnaround. You get undressed and get ready for tomorrow. You can’t sulk about it too much. Obviously, it stings a bit, but we’ve gotta get ready for tomorrow.”
Added Sparrow: “We knew they were going to be desperate with the season on the line. We knew they were gonna give us a push and we didn’t have enough push back.”
West Kelowna head coach Rylan Ferster wasn’t going to high-five his players too much Monday night.
“We got a powerplay goal there, we got a couple of lucky bounces and some timely goals, and that’s kind of how the series has gone. We had to come out with some fight here tonight, but we have to wash it off real quick because we’re still down so it doesn’t mean a whole heck of a lot.”
Hope recorded the first powerplay goal, at 6:17 of the middle frame, actually half-fanning on a slap pass from Pope. Sparrow had served just 43 seconds of a roughing minor after a scrum in front of Viper goalie Austin Smith.
Pope went five-hole on a backhander 84 seconds later. He got his second of the night four minutes later with a point shot, blocker side. Viper captain Ryan Renz was off for crosschecking. Anholt nicely converted a bang-bang play with Reid Simmonds, in the low slot. D-man Ben Tegtmeyer earned a pair of helpers.
Braden Pears, obtained at the trading deadline from the last-place Trail Smoke Eaters, was a major minute-muncher for the Warriors, who were without top d-man Adam Plant for the fourth straight game.
“We just brought a better effort tonight,” said Pears, a Duncan product. “I thought the forwards were rolling a bit more and we got another dee back which is good. We’re getting some players healthier again and it showed on the scoreboard.
Pears, who played three years in the Vernon Coca-Cola Pee Wee Classic for Cowichan Valley Capitals, was feeling rather confident heading back to Kal Tire Place.
“It’s a hard building to play in. They’re a big, strong team. I hope we can just ride the high here. If we get the momentum going again, we have a good chance.”
Sparrow scored twice and set up a Liam Coughlin powerplay marker for the Vipers in front of 1,377 fans Saturday night.
Hope gave the Warriors hope with a backhand shot from the slot over Austin Smith’s glove at 15:49 of the third.
The Warriors came within inches of pulling to within a goal just seconds later but Smith was able to dive on a puck that was heading into the open net.
TJ Dumonceaux iced the game with an empty-netter at 19:06.
Missing six regulars, things got worse for the Warriors 14 minutes into the first period when Desautels was injured. Desautels was seen having problems staying on his feet. He left the game with what the team described as an upper-body injury and did not return.
Porter was pressed into duty and could not be faulted on the two goals he gave up. Sparrow’s second was a two-on-one with Brett Mulcahy. Coughlin tapped in a goalmouth pass from Sparrow on a powerplay midway through the second period.
In other playoff action Monday night, the Powell River Kings stopped the Nanaimo Clippers 5-3 to take that series in five games, while the Victoria Grizzles ambushed the Alberni Valley Bulldogs 9-3 to force a Game 6 with the surprising Dawgs up 3-2.
The Langley Rivermen shut out the Surrey Eagles 3-0 to grab a 3-2 series lead, while the Prince George Spruce Kings clipped the Coquitlam Express 3-2 in double overtime. Coquitlam has a 3-2 series lead.
Jeremiah Luedtke scored two goals, including the winner, as the Spruce Kings extended their season. Chad Staley assisted on all three goals and goaltender Alex Murray made 27 saves in the Prince George win. Express goalie Gordie Defiel was peppered with 56 shots.
The Grizzlies broke out of their scoring slump in a big way as forward Gerry Fitzgerald pocketed four assists and brother Leo wasn’t far behind with two goals and an assist.
The Bulldogs started well when Quinton Wunder scored 1:40 into the game but the Grizzlies answered with two late goals by Mitch Meek and Leo Fitzgerald late in the period
Goalie Nic Renyard stopped 28 shots for the fourth-place Bulldogs who barely made the playoffs, finishing 29 points behind the Vancouver Island Division-leading Grizzlies.