(ISN) – Pucks and teddy bears – both seemingly by the hundreds, were flying at Royal LePage Place Saturday.
On a night when hundreds of stuffed animals were raised for the West Kelowna Food Bank, the Warriors played their most complete game on home ice in weeks in a convincing 5-1 win over the visiting Coquitlam Express.
The final score flattered the visitors as the Warriors buzzed around the Express net from the opening whistle and, if not for the play of netminder Chris Tai, the Warriors may have hit double digits.
Jason Cotton scored twice and added an assist for the Warriors. Liam Blackburn, Andrew Johnson and Jordon Masters added singles.
Brett Mennear chipped in with a pair of assists.
“I felt we played a really good hockey game. I think there was maybe a lapse there in the third period where they kind of brought it to us but that is going to happen sometimes in those kind of games,” says Warriors assistant coach Brent Gough.
“It’s good to get a good home win here. We’re going to have two of the next three at home so we’re going to have to be better and this is a step in the right direction.”
After Masters, Mennear and Brayden Gelsinger had glorious chances to open the scoring it was Blackburn who finally got the Warriors on the board.
Blackburn snapped a short side wrist shot from the right circle on the Warriors third power-play opportunity of the first.
The teddy bear toss goal was special for Blackburn.
“Yea, everybody before the game was asking who wanted to get the teddy bear toss goal. I was sort of hoping I could get one – not trying to make it too obvious,” says Blackburn.
“Getting that goal was pretty special because you only get one opportunity in a year to get that.”
Johnson doubled the lead five minutes into the second. Michael Buonincontri did most of the work driving the net with the puck but was unable to get a good shot away.
He stayed with the puck, gathered it up behind the net and fed it in front where Johnson one timed a shot from the low slot.
Coquitlam had a couple of chances to get on the board after Johnson’s goal but rang a pair of shots off the goalpost.
Masters gave the Warriors some breathing room eight minutes into the third with his eighth of the season off a faceoff in the Express end.
Coquitlam ended Scott Patton’s shutout bid 14 seconds later and gave the Express some jump.
Jason Cotton ended any thought of a Coquitlam comeback with a pair of late goals.
The Warriors, who won the night before in double overtime in Trail, had been challenged by the coaching staff to be more involved physically, especially early in the game.
Gough says the Warriors were able to do that again Saturday.
“With our team I don’t think it means you have to run guys into the fifth row but I think guys are getting harder on pucks and not cheating on the offensive side of pucks and being responsible that way,” says Gough.
“I thought it was a good effort by all and it’s good to get that win.”
The coaches also challenged the veteran players to step up and Blackburn says players are starting to follow the lead of veterans like Masters and Cotton who have played really well the past number of games.
The Warriors came into Saturday’s game without the services of starting netminder Andy Desautels who will be out a couple of weeks after he underwent an emergency appendectomy Saturday.
Gough says the procedure went well.
“They caught it before it actually got really bad. It looks positive.”
He’ll probably spend the night in the hospital and hopefully be out tomorrow. I thought Pats (Scott Patton) came in – and he hasn’t played in a while because Andy has been playing great hockey for us – and he shuts the door and allows one goal…and made the saves he had to.”
The Warriors, winners of two in a row and three of their last four play host to Trail Tuesday before closing out the pre-Christmas portion of the schedule with a home and home set with the Vees Friday in Penticton and Saturday back at Royal LePage Place