The West Kelowna Warriors opened the BCHL season with a 4-3 victory over the Trail Smoke Eaters on Friday night at Cominco Arena in Trail, behind Matt Kowalski’s first career BCHL hat-trick.
The two teams will meet again Saturday night at Royal LePage Place in the Warriors’ home opener, a First Responders Night with pre game festivities beginning at 4 p.m.
Friday night, the Warriors opened the scoring in front of a large crowd at Cominco with Parm Dhaliwal tallying the first goal of the Warriors season. The 18-year-old forward pounced on a rebound of a Wyatt Head point shot and slid the puck past the sprawling Smoke Eaters netminder Brandon Wells to give the Warriors the 1-0 lead at the 6:24 mark.
West Kelowna jumped ahead by a pair in a penalty-filled opening period in the most peculiar of ways as a clearing attempt from Wells ended up in the back of his own goal. The 20-year-old Trail goaltender played a puck to his glove side when his clearing effort banked off of Matt Kowalski and into the Trail goal for the power play marker and a 2-0 Warriors advantage at the 17:28 mark of the 1st period.
Kowalski was at it again in the 2nd period, just 3:06 into the frame as he gave the Warriors a 3-0 lead with a shot from the left face-off circle that beat Wells to the blocker side for his second goal of the game.
The Smoke Eaters got themselves back in the game just one minute later, at the 4:06 mark of the 2nd period, as Blaine Caton tipped the puck by Warriors goaltender Nik Amundrud to get the Smokies on the board and cut the Warriors lead to 3-1.
Trail would get within a goal at the 8:19 mark of 2nd period as Levi Glasman tallied his first career BCHL goal with a wrist shot from the right face-off circle and beating Amundrud on the glove side and the power play marker cut the Warriors lead to just 3-2.
The Warriors had an answer, however, in the form of the eventual game winning goal coming at the 12:27 mark of the 2nd period. Kowalski finished off his hat-trick with a shot from the right circle, getting past Wells on the right side to extend the Warriors advantage to 4-2.
Trail added the lone goal of the game that came at the 8:33 mark of the 3rd period with Ross Armour tucking a centering pass from Kale Howarth through the legs of Amundrud but it would prove not to be enough for the Smokies as the Warriors opened the season with a 4-3 victory.
Nik Amundrud started in goal for West Kelowna, making 27 saves on 30 shots for his first victory of the season while Brandon Wells started his first game for the Smoke Eaters, turning aside 24 of the 28 shots he faced in the defeat.
The Warriors are hosting a First Responders Appreciation Night to be held at their home opener tonight against the Trail Smoke Eaters. There will be a courtyard party outside of Royal LePage Place that kicks off at 4 p.m. with street hockey, beverage tents, music and much more. Fans are encouraged to buy their tickets early and can do so by visiting the Warriors office or by calling Office Administrator Kim Potter at (250) 769-7051.