JASON LA ROSE
LLOYDMINSTER, Alta./Sask. – Jonathan Desbiens and Jake LeBrun had two goals each, and the West Kelowna Warriors scored four times on special teams to beat the host Lloydminster Bobcats 5-2 in the opening game for both Saturday at the 2016 RBC Cup.
West Kelowna converted on its first three power-play opportunities and scored a shorthanded goal for good measure to earn the victory in its debut at Canada’s National Junior A Championship.
Liam Blackburn had the other goal for the Warriors and added three assists to take the very early tournament scoring lead, helping West Kelowna become the first Western Canada Cup champion to win its RBC Cup opener since the Surrey Eagles in 2013.
Austin O’Rourke and Brett Smythe were the goal-scorers for Lloydminster, which fell into a 5-0 hole in the second period and couldn’t recover in its first game in five weeks.
The West Kelowna power play struck twice in the first 13 minutes to give the Warriors an early advantage; Desbiens parked himself in front of the Lloydminster net and redirected a Quin Foreman shot past Bobcats goaltender Alex Leclerc to make it 1-0 at 7:11, and LeBrun picked up a loose puck in the slot and rifled it past Leclerc just over five minutes later to send the Warriors to the dressing room up 2-0.
Both teams ratcheted up the offence in the second period, with the Bobcats holding a 19-15 advantage in shots on goal in the middle frame, but it was West Kelowna that added to its lead.
Desbiens picked up his second of the game – and the lone West Kelowna marker scored at even strength – just 95 seconds into the middle frame, finding room through Leclerc’s five-hole for the eventual game-winner.
LeBrun ripped a one-timer past Leclerc for his second at 12:58, and Blackburn watched his shorthanded shot trickle over the goal-line for the 5-0 goal not even two minutes after that, giving the Warriors all the offence they would need.
O’Rourke finally gave the home crowd at the Centennial Civic Centre something to cheer about late in the second period, burying a rebound behind West Kelowna goaltender Keelan Williams to make it a 5-1 game after 40 minutes.
The Bobcats continued to press in the third period, but only Smythe could find the back of the net, scoring on the power play with 7:35 to go to round out the scoring.
Williams finished with 33 saves to record his fifth playoff win in place of injured starter Matthew Greenfield.
The Warriors are right back to action Sunday, meeting the Brooks Bandits in a rematch of the Western Canada Cup final (7:30 p.m. MT), while the Bobcats see the ice next in the lone game Monday, taking on the Carleton Place Canadians (7:30 p.m. MT).