The West Kelowna Warriors fought hard in a see-saw affair on Friday night but ultimately fell to the Merritt Centennials at Royal LePage Place by a 6-5 score and trail in the series 1-0.
The Centennials jumped out of the gate fast in the early going and got on the board at the 5:57 mark of the first period as Zach Risteau beat Warriors goaltender Cole Demers by the glove side off the rush to open the scoring and give the Cents a 1-0 advantage.
Merritt jumped ahead by two goals at the 7:22 mark of the 1st period with Tyler Ward finished off a tic-tac-toe passing play and beating Demers through the five hole and extending the Centennials advantage to 2-0.
The Warriors were able to regroup a bit at the media minute timeout midway through the opening frame and picked up their first goal of the game coming on a power play as Quin Foreman passed the puck from the left-wing face-off circle to an open Jake Harrison and his one timer fired past the glove side of Merritt netminder Jacob Berger and cut the deficit to one giving the Centennials a 2-1 lead, where that score would stand after 20 minutes of play.
Merritt opened the 2nd period with another early charge as Zach Risteau scored his second goal of the game, this time with a shot from the bottom of the face-off circle on the power play to regain the Cents’ two-goal advantage at 3-1 at the 2:40 mark of the 2nd period.
That two-goal advantage didn’t last very long as at the 3:35 mark of the 2nd period, just 55 seconds after Risteau’s goal, Chase Stevenson got the Warriors 2nd goal of the night as a Michael Ryan point shot hit Stevenson in the skates before he swept the puck past Berger on the blocker side to cut the deficit to one again and a 3-2 Merritt lead.
The Warriors got the game to even at the 6:58 mark of the 2nd period as Connor Sodergren spotted an open Quin Foreman on the goal line at the blocker side and fed him a pass before Foreman snapped the puck into the open goal and tied the game at 3 with no more scoring to come in the second period.
West Kelowna took a brief lead, their only one of the game, early in the 3rd period as at the 1:46 mark of the frame Michael Ryan beat Berger through the five hole with a shot from the right circle off of a Foreman feed and gave the Warriors a 4-3 advantage.
That lead would not last long as just 29 seconds after the Ryan go-ahead marker, at the 2:17 mark of the 3rd period, Tyler Ward beat Cole Demers through the five hole off the rush for his second goal of the game and another tie as the game was knotted at 4-4.
Merritt regained their lead at the 10:07 mark of the 3rd period on a nice passing play that saw Tyler Ward find Mike Faulkner in front and after an initial save from Demers with his right pad, Faulkner got his own rebound and potted it for the Centennials lead at 5-4.
The Cents scored their third goal of the final period of play at the 11:06 mark as a Brett Jewell shot deflected off of a Warriors stick in front of the goal and past Demers for the power play marker and another two-goal lead at 6-4.
West Kelowna made things interesting until the bitter end as at the 17:26 mark of the 3rd period, Quin Foreman tallied his second goal of the game, driving to the net and burying the loose puck on a Chase Stevenson rebound to put the Warriors within a goal at 6-5 but that would be as close as the Warriors would come, despite some late pressure, with Merritt winning the opening game of the series by a 6-5 score.
Cole Demers made his 1st career BCHL playoff start for the Warriors and made 33 saves on 39 shots in the losing effort while Jacob Berger, also making his first career BCHL playoff start, picked up the win with 20 saves on 25 shots.
FINAL SCORE: 6-5 Centennials
SHOTS ON GOAL: 39-25 Centennials
PP: Warriors (1/1) Centennials (2/5)
1) Zach Risteau (2-1-3)
2) Quin Foreman (2-2-4)
3) Tyler Ward (2-1-3)