Rookie backstops Warriors Win

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(ISN) – One Start, One Win.

Mike Lenko, pressed into backup duties with the West Kelowna Warriors after starting goaltender Andy Desautels underwent emergency appendectomy surgery last weekend started his first BCHL game Tuesday when normal backup Scott Patton was injured.

Lenko, the number one netminder with the KIJHL’s Revelstoke Grizzlies, turned aside 27 shots Tuesday earning his first BCHL win in a 5-3 triumph over the Trail Smoke Eaters before more than 700 fans at Royal LePage Place.

“All of those emotions (nerves, excitement),” says Lenko of the emotions he was feeling during his first BCHL start.

“The first few minutes was a bit nerve wracking but the guys helped me through it. It was really fun out here, I really enjoyed it.”

The Warriors staked Lenko to a 3-0 first period lead but some sloppy defensive zone coverage and he Warriors re-took the lead on Andrew Johnson’s deflection from directly in front of the net.

Then Johnson sealed it with a wrist shot from the high slot on a power-play at 6:54 of the third.

Kyler Hope on a deflection from the corner of the crease, Kristian Blumenschein on a rebound and Josh Bly off a pretty feed from Blumenschein gave the Warriors that 3-0 lead.

The Smokies, mainly on the strength of the number one line of Jake Lucchini, Charlie Zuccarini and Cooper Leitch tied it.

Lucchini had a pair and an assist while Zuccharini had the other along with an assist.
Trail carried the play for long stretches, keeping the Warriors hemmed into their own end for minutes on end.

“I didn’t think we were getting the guys down low and I thought they did a good job of pinching their D and we just didn’t get pucks out,” says Warriors coach Rylan Ferster.

Ferster admits it can be hard to keep players focused this time of year but adds a divisional win is important any time of year.

“We got a win and that’s important…obviously I thought they came in and played real good and we let a team back in the game but fortunately we got the win.”

One of the key moments came in the second period. With the Warriors up 3-2 and on the power-play Blumenschein lost the handle on the puck allowing Robert Johnson a clean breakaway from his own side of centre.

He deked Lenko and tried to go backhand but the Warriors netminder stayed with him and made a key glove save.

“I knew that was a key play in the game and I just had to make that save,” recalls Lenko.

“I stayed with him and let him make the first move and then pulled across. I was fortunate, I got my glove in a good position and I ended up saving it.”

Ferster says he was impressed with what he saw from the rookie.

“I don’t fault him on any goal at all. I thought he played well and gave us a chance and that’s all you can expect,” says Ferster.

“To come in and play like that. Full marks to him he played well for us.”

Tuesday’s win moves the Warriors to within two point of idle Vernon who sit second in the Interior Division. Vernon does hold a game in hand.

The Warriors will close out the pre-Christmas portion of the schedule this weekend with a home-and-home set with Penticton Friday at the SOEC then back at Royal LePage Place Saturday.

The Warriors have won the last two meetings between the interior rivals, both in Penticton.