Story by Wayne Moore
January 20, 2013, West Kelowna, BC – West Kelowna and Surrey treated the fans to a back-and-forth contest on Saturday. The game featured three lead changes, with the host Warriors prevailing.
Tyler Briggs is starting to show why the West Kelowna Warriors were so high on the reigning Alberta Junior Hockey League goaltender of the year.
Briggs turned aside 32 shots including all 18 he faced during a hectic third period leading the Warriors to a come-from-behind 5-3 victory over the visiting Surrey Eagles Saturday.
The Warriors took three of four points from the top team in the Mainland Division in a home-and-home set between the two clubs.
The Eagles turned up the heat over the last 12 minutes after Josh Monk put the Warriors up by two. However, Briggs closed the door, making several key stops including one on a breakaway and another of a deft deflection by Trevor Cameron in close.
“That’s obviously a big part of this. The boys are starting to put up some goals so I have to do my job and try and keep them out and try to keep us in it,” says Briggs.
The Warriors are now unbeaten in five and have picked up at least one point (5-0-1-1) since the start of the new year.
Briggs says he always knew the team could play the way it is right now.
“At the beginning of the year we had injury troubles and I continuously said we have the team to do this,” says Briggs.
“Right now we’re beginning to show everyone that we have the potential to win this.”
Trailing 3-2 midway through the second, Brennan Clark and Seb Lloyd scored goals 57 seconds apart to put the Warriors ahead for good. Monk’s marker added the insurance in the third.
After the Eagles opened the scoring less than two minutes in, defenceman Ben Tegtmeyer drew the Warriors even on a power-play when his wrist shot from the point eluded Eagles netminder Michael Santaguida.
Max French deked Santaguida with a nifty forehand/backhand move in close to put the Tribe up 2-1 before the Eagles replied with two of their own to take a 3-2 lead.
Despite taking an early lead, Warriors Head Coach Rylan Ferster says he didn’t like the jump his team exhibited early on in the game, especially compared to the previous night in Surrey.
“I thought we could have been a heck of a lot better early on. I didn’t think we had the jump we had last night (Friday),” says Ferster.
“Tonight I don’t know if the word is lethargic, but I didn’t like our game early on. Maybe we’re just on the lucky side in these wins.”
Ferster says the thinks the moves the club made prior to the trade deadline in getting Daniel Gayle and Mitch Nardi have helped to take some of the pressure off some of the other players who have been relied on to contribute a bulk of the scoring for much of the year.
“This is the time of year you like to start gelling and coming together and hopefully this is a good sign for us.”
But, he reiterates, the goal is still to make the playoffs and go from there.
“I don’t think we’re looking too much past that. We have closed the gap (on Merritt) which is nice but we want to make the playoffs,” says Ferster.
“Like I said last year when only four teams make the playoffs you’re going to play someone good in the first round. And, to have success in the playoffs you have to win in the other team’s building.”
The Warriors are tied with Merritt for second spot in the Interior Conference, both teams with 47 points. However, the Centennials do hold three games in hand.
The two teams hook up Tuesday night at Royal LePage Place in a true four-pointer for both clubs.
The Warriors took a crucial two points from the Centennials winning 3-2 in Merritt earlier this week.
Find more Warriors talk and info at The General’s Report.