The West Kelowna Warriors came all the way back from a 4-0 3rd period deficit but eventually fell by a 5-4 score to the Merritt Centennials in triple overtime on Saturday night from Royal LePage Place.
The Centennials, just as they did on Friday night, jumped out of the gate early with a goal coming at the 1:40 mark of the first period as Tyler Ward scored his third goal of the series as he flew down the right wing and beat Warriors netminder Cole Demers on a rebound off of his right pad for the 1-0 Centennials advantage.
Merritt opened up a two-goal lead at the 8:35 mark of the 1st period and it came courtesy of a power play, the Centennials second of the game. Right of the face-off, Michael Regush barrelled his way to the front of the West Kelowna goal and outwaited Demers before sliding the puck past on the glove side to give Merritt a 2-0 lead, where that score would hold up after 20 minutes of play.
The 2nd period was played to the tune of no goals for the duration of the frame before the Centennials opened up a three-goal lead at the 18:52 mark of the period as Tyler Ward buried his second goal of the game, off the rush his right-wing face-off circle shot beat Demers on the blocker side to extend the Merritt lead to 3-0 after 40 minutes of play.
The Cents pushed their lead to four at the 2:39 mark of the 3rd period as Brett Jewell was left alone in front on the power play and shoveled a puck past Demers on the glove side to put Merritt ahead by a comfortable score of 4-0, or so at least it seemed.
The Warriors chipped away at the deficit and broke through for their first goal of the game jut 16 seconds after the Jewell marker, at the 2:55 mark, as Parm Dhaliwal rushed down the right wing, firing a shot into Merritt netminder Jacob Berger’s pads before collecting the rebound and burying the puck past him and in for his first goal of the series and now a 4-1 Merritt lead.
West Kelowna would keep their foot on the gas pedal and come back with a second goal at the 10:04 mark of the 3rd period as Quin Foreman continued his hot start to the series with his 3rd goal of the playoffs on a slot shot that beat Berger to the glove side and suddenly pushing the score to 4-2.
Just 1:21 after the Foreman tally, at the 11:25 mark of the 3rd frame, Jake Harrison added his 2nd goal of the playoffs off of a goal line rush that saw him fire the puck over the glove side of Berger in 4-on-4 play and cutting the deficit to just one as Merritt’s lead was at 4-3.
The Warriors completed their massive third period comeback with their third goal in a 3:01 span as at the 13:05 mark of the period, Chase Dubois turned and banked the puck in from the left corner off of a Merritt defender in front of the goal and tying the game at 4-4 before the overtime(s) were calling.
Chances were there to be had by both clubs but through 100 minutes of hockey at RLP, no one could find the back of the net for a fifth time as the game settled into triple overtime where the Warriors got their best chances. First it was a Chase Dubois knock down that sent him in behind the defense but firing a shot over the glove side just moments before Chase Stevenson was left alone in front of the goal with a backhand shot being flung into the corner.
The Centennials ended the marathon affair at the 3:07 mark of the 3rd overtime period as a Chase Bell shot was handled from a long way out from Demers but he kicked the rebound to an open Stephan Seeger who found the back of the goal and giving Merritt a 5-4 triple overtime win and more importantly a 2-0 series lead as the scene shifts to Merritt.
Cole Demers started in goal for the Warriors while making 41 saves on 46 shots in the losing effort while Jacob Berger turned aside 63 of the 67 shots he faced for his 2nd win of the playoffs. Each goaltender played for a total of 103:07 in the marathon triple overtime contest.
FINAL SCORE: 5-4 (3OT) Centennials
SHOTS ON GOAL: 67-46 Warriors
PP: Warriors (1/6) Centennials (2/8)
1) Stephen Kleysen (0-3-3)
2) Tyler Ward (2-1-3)
3) Stephan Seeger (1-1-2)
The Warriors will have to climb a steep mountain down 2-0 in the series as the scene shifts to Merritt for Games #3 and 4 with Game #3 getting underway on Monday night from the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena at 7:00 PM