The West Kelowna Warriors reluctantly watched their BCHL season come to an end Thursday night in Penticton.
James De Haas scored at 1:44 of overtime to lead the Vees past the Warriors 2-1 to take the Interior Conference final in five games.
The Warriors held the edge in play for much of the game and held a 1-0 lead after a second period goal by Reid Simmons.
But in the third period, the puck bounced off Kelowna native Josh Blanchard past Tyler Briggs at the 3:09 mark, setting the stage for De Haas’ game and series winner.
“We did as much as we could,” said a dejected Josh Monk. “We played hard.”
West Kelowna’s disappointment was augmented by another slim lead that got away.
The Warriors had several chances to increase their 1-0 lead, but couldn’t beat Penticton goalie Chad Katunar, who earned first-star honours for keeping his team in the game.
“I thought we might have deserved a little better a fate tonight,” Warriors associate coach Brent Gough said. “Their goaltender made some big saves in the second period, and we just didn’t capitalize.
“I thought we played a really good hockey game today.”
The Warriors boarded the players bus and returned home, only to find a crowd of roughly 50 fans cheering their arrival back at Royal LePage Place.
“It’s pretty humbling,” Josh Monk said after shaking hands with the fans.
With the exception of a 5-1 loss in Game 2, the Warriors pushed the Vees in every game, including going to overtime three times in the series.
West Kelowna stayed alive with a gutsy come-from-behind 5-4 win in Game 4 on Tuesday,
As for the deciding game, Monk is happy with his club’s showing. “I thought we dominated them for portions of the game today” he says. “They just got a bounce at the end.”
“We’re real proud of our guys in there” Gough added. “There was absolutely no quit in our team.”
Penticton will now advance to play Surrey in the Fred Page Cup finals starting Friday, April 12.