By Jon Zacks
February 3, 2013, West Kelowna, BC – David Pope was the hero for the West Kelowna Warriors on their annual ‘Faith Night’ scoring three times leading the Tribe to a thrilling 7-5 victory over the visiting Chilliwack Chiefs.
The Warriors clawed their way back from a 3-0 second period deficit to win what turned into a wild, seesaw affair.
Warriors head coach Rylan Ferster prefers a more defensive game to the one on display Saturday but, when you’re battling for a playoff spot, a win is a win.
“It’s not a game that I would like but I’ll take it. I almost felt like I was coaching back in the old days when it was run and gun – you score six and we’ll score seven,” says Ferster.
“Credit to our guys to stick with it. We were down 3-0 and could easily have folded the tent but we clawed and scratched our way back in. It was one of those nights where it looked like last shot was going to win and thankfully we were on the right end of that.”
Brett Zarazun, Brent Lashuk, Max French (with the eventual game-winner) and Seb Lloyd also scored for the Warriors while Marcus Basara chipped in with four assists.
The Chiefs jumped out to a 2-0 lead on a pair of power-play goals from Austin Plevy. Chilliwack increased the lead to three seven minutes into the second before the Warriors started to battle their way back.
Pope got one back midway through the period on a Warriors power-play then Zarazun with a laser beam from the blueline and Pope with his second less than two minutes apart brought the Warriors back to even terms.
Just 28 seconds after Pope’s equalizer the Chiefs regained the lead they would hold going into a roller coaster of a third period.
Pope would tie it again on another Warriors power-play three minutes into the third and again the Chiefs regained the lead near the midway mark of the frame.
The Warriors didn’t give up, exploding for two goals in a span of 62 seconds to take their first lead of the night, one they wouldn’t relinquish. Lloyd’s goal three minutes later sealed it.
With the Warriors down three bodies due to suspensions and injuries, Pope and Basara elevated their game a notch against the Chiefs.
“They are two very skilled guys and Marcus is so skilled when he has the puck and Pope is very good without the puck, knowing when to jump into holes,” says Ferster.
“Like you saw tonight he jumped into a couple of holes and scored some goals.”
Brennan Clark also played a key role hitting, digging and forechecking hard every time he was on the ice.
“I thought he was outstanding. He really did step up. He’s been really playing well for us the whole year,” says Ferster.
“When we’re healthy we’re relatively deep up front so maybe he doesn’t get the minutes all the time he deserves. He’s one guy lately who’s not only killing penalties for us but he’s on our power-play as well.”
The Warriors were without Shawn Hochhausen, Matthew Berry and Braxton Bilous due to suspension as well as Brett McKinnon, Ambrose Firkus and Josh Monk to injury.
Pope, who picked up his first BCHL hat-trick, says everyone chipped in Saturday.
“I think everybody stepped their game up. I think that’s really important when you have a lot of key guys sitting out,” says Pope. “We just played hard and battled hard tonight.”
Pope says the team was down after going down 3-0. “But, we just kept battling hard and creating chances down low,” says Pope.
“We got a couple and the momentum swung and we just kept going.”
The Warriors dressed just 19 players Saturday and quickly went down to 18 after Mitch Nardi was ejected four minutes into the game when he was assessed a checking from behind penalty and an automatic game misconduct.
Chiefs forward Trevor Hills was also tossed for a hit to the head of Max French late in the game. French remained on the ice for several moments before heading off to the bench.
Saturday’s win allowed the Warriors to remain third in the tight Interior Division, three points in back of Merritt and three better than fourth place Salmon Arm.
The Warriors are off until next weekend when they hit the road for games in Salmon Arm Friday and Vernon Saturday.
They return home to host the Trail Smoke Eaters Tuesday, February 12.