By Wayne Moore
September 21, 2013, West Kelowna, BC (ISN) – The West Kelowna Warriors picked the perfect time to bring in offensively-gifted forward Jason Cotton.
The 18-year-old Plano, TX native arrived in town Wednesday from the US Hockey League, practiced Thursday, and played a key role Friday in the Warriors 5-3 win over the Salmon Arm Silverbacks.
Cotton was slotted onto a line with Carl Hesler and Ambrose Firkus and took a regular turn on the top power-play unit after forwards David Pope and Brennan Clark were last minute scratches.
“It’s definitely been a whirlwind the last few days but it felt great to get out here with the guys for the first time and score some goals,” says Cotton of his debut with the Warriors.
“At the end of the day it was something I was hoping for (trade) but definitely a little surprised to switch leagues and come out here. But it’s worked out for the best and I’m happy to be here.”
Cotton scored twice during a frantic second period which saw the teams score seven times in a span of less than 13 minutes.
Matt Anholt, Helser and Brett Mennear (into an empty net) also scored for the Warriors who built up leads of 2-0 and 3-1 late in the second.
The Silverbacks tied the game at 3-3 with two goals 49 seconds apart before Cotton’s second of the night on a power-play with .6 seconds left on the clock restored the Warriors one-goal lead.
Cotton took a pass in the left circle with two seconds left in the period, fanned on his first attempt but quickly wristed a second attempt into the top corner.
“It was quick and I think that was a real turning point to go up there and no being tied was really good for our team,” says Warriors head coach Rylan Ferster of the late second period goal.
After a scoreless first 27 minutes Anholt finally got the Warriors on the board when he pounced on a rebound in the high slot and beat Salmon Arm goaltender Angus Redmond before he was able to get back to the middle of the cage.
Cotton made it 2-0 with a spectacular individual effort.
“I just remember Hesler dumping it into the corner and I walked out and kind of pushed it through and split these two guys and kind of shot short side,” says Cotton of the goal.
“It was definitely a shocker of a goal. I wasn’t expecting it to go in – just kind of threw it on net and see what happened.”
After the Silverbacks made it 2-1 Hesler restored the two goal lead when Ambrose Firkus threw the puck toward the net and it went off Hesler’s skate past Redmond.
Mennear closed the door with 11 seconds left when he out-hustled a Salmon Arm defender in the defensive zone, dove for the loose puck and banged it into the empty net.
Despite the two goal win Ferster felt it was a sloppy game all around.
“It seemed like a pinball game. I didn’t think we had one of our best nights,” says Ferster.
“It seemed to be a little bit of a sloppy game and fortunately we were able to come out on top.”
As for the pair of two goal leads, Ferster says the team needs to find a way to shut those games down.
“We were trying to do too much in our own end or maybe not doing enough. People say a two-goal lead is the worst lead in hockey but I’ll take it every single night,” says Ferster.
“When it was 3-1 we did hit a post but again we won and that’s the most important thing.”
The Warriors have now won four in a row and are a perfect 3-0 on home ice to start the season. It’ just the second time in franchise history the team has opened the season with three straight wins at home.
West Kelowna goes for five in a row when they travel up Highway 97 for the back half of the home-and-home set with the Silverbacks.
Saturday’s game begins a string of five straight on the road for the Warriors, who don’t return to Royal LePage Place until Oct 11 when they entertain the Merritt Centennials.