MERRITT, B.C. – The West Kelowna Warriors surrendered four 3rd period goals and dropped their third straight game as they fell to the Merritt Centennials by a 7-4 score on Friday night at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena.
The game started out with plenty of pace as both teams went up and down the ice with the game not seeing a goal until late in the opening frame. Joey Berkopec fired a shot over the glove side of Warriors goaltender Cole Demers at the 17:17 mark to put the Centennials ahead by a 1-0 score in the 1st period.
Stephen Kleysen pulled the game back to a tie with a 5-on-3 power play goal with 42 seconds remaining in the opening period. After Centennials netminder Austin Roden made a great save on a backdoor pass to Willie Reim, the puck came out to the right face-off circle in a scramble where Kleysen shot in his 5th goal of the season and a 1-1 tie to finish off the 1st period scoring.
The 2nd period saw the Warriors fire 21 shots to the Centennials goal and get their first lead of the night at the 5:37 mark of the middle stanza as Chase Dubois backhanded in a rebound off a Jared Marino shot for his 10th goal of the season and a 2-1 Warriors advantage.
The Centennials drew even with a power play goal at the 9:14 mark of the 2nd period on a nice passing play between Brad Cocca, Zach Court and Nick Wicks. Cocca fed the puck to the slot where Court passed to the right face-off circle for Wicks who beat Demers on the glove side for a 2-2 game.
West Kelowna took the lead once again in a seesaw 2nd period as Chase Stevenson added his 7th goal of the season on the power play. Michael Ryan had his point shot tipped by Stevenson, who had been hauled down to the ice in front of the goal but still tipped the puck through the legs of Roden for a 3-2 Warriors lead at the 12:08 mark of the middle frame.
Once again, it would be the Centennials tying the game at the 14:04 mark of the period with Zach Court picking up a goal with a wrister from the slot that beat Demers and tied the game at 3 heading into the final period.
Just 41 seconds into the period, Rylan Van Unen caught Demers off his blocker side post as he cruised in with a wrist shot from the left face-off circle and regained the lead for Merritt by a 4-3 score.
Zach Zorn gave the Centennials the game’s first two-goal advantage at the 5:15 mark of the 3rd period with Demers coming out of the goal on the blocker side to play the puck while shorthanded but his attempt to clear was knocked down by an rushing Zorn as he wrapped the puck around on the glove side for a 5-3 Merritt lead.
Brendan Schneider wired in a wrist shot at the 10:55 mark of the 3rd period over the glove side of Demers before an empty net goal by Henry Cleghorn made it 7-3 at the 16:21 mark of the 3rd period after the Warriors pulled Demers trying to get back into the game.
Max Bulawka scored his 2nd career goal with a shot from the right face-off circle as he snuck the puck underneath of Roden’s pad at the 17:10 mark of the final frame to make the final score 7-4 in favour of the Centennials.
Cole Demers got the start for West Kelowna, making 27 saves on 33 shots and suffering his 4th loss of the season while Austin Roden was outstanding in the game for the Centennials, turning aside 50 of the 54 shots he faced for his 4th win of the season.