West Kelowna Warriors goalie Tyler Briggs wasn’t going to be denied on Wednesday night in Merritt.
The 20-year-old veteran netminder stopped 44 of the 46 pucks sent his way, as he earned first star honours and helped the Warriors earn a narrow 3-2 win over Merritt, climbing to within a point of the second place Centennials.
Marcus Basara scored his 23rd and 24th goals of the season to pace the West Kelowna offence while Shawn Hochhausen also scored for the Warriors with his marker holding up as the eventual game-winner.
The win was the Warriors third straight and improved its record to 17-11-2-8, now just a single point behind Merritt for second spot and seven points clear of fourth place Salmon Arm.
“I personally think could have been one of the most important games of the season,” Briggs said after the game.
The result in Merritt didn’t come easily, with the Centennials more than doubling West Kelowna in shots (46-22) and controlling the puck for extended periods in the Warriors’ zone.
“They did a really good job cycling that puck down low,” added Briggs who said his team did an excellent job of keeping Merritt’s shots to the outside, allowing him to stop all but two.
“We’ve been practicing that all week, just collapsing back to the net – we’d rather push them down the boards into the corners.”
West Kelowna earned the win with six regulars out of the lineup due to injury and illness.
The next action for the Tribe is a home-and-home series against Surrey on the weekend. The Warriors head to the Lower Mainland on Friday night, before hosting the Eagles on Saturday.