The Vernon Vipers scored two shorthanded goals, but it wasn’t enough to get past John Evans and the West Kelowna Warriors Friday night.
The teams played in front of a crowd of more than 2,500 for the first of a home-and-home to end the regular season. The Warriors took Friday’s meeting by a score of 6-4, thanks in large part to a hat trick from Evans, the Warriors’ leader in goals (22) and points (50).
The Vipers jumped out to an early lead as Ben Helgeson was sprung free for a shorthanded breakaway. Helgeson deked out Warriors goalie Johnny Derrick for his 10th goal of the season.
The Warriors tied things up when the puck took a fortunate bounce from behind the Vipers net onto the stick of Ryan Upson who made it 1-1. Ryan Shostack restored the Vipers’ lead roughly six minutes later, scoring his eighth of the season.
The home team managed 14 shots in the second period, but it was the Warriors’ Evans who added to the score sheet a pair of goals less than three minutes apart – the second on the powerplay with 35 seconds left in the period.
With the score 3-2 for the Warriors heading into the third, the Vipers wasted no time drawing even once again. Max Bulawka grabbed a loose puck and tucked it home 36 seconds into the final frame.
Past the halfway mark of the period the Warriors offence came up big. Goals from Levi Stauber and Elan Bar Lev Wise put the visitors up 5-3.
Dawson Holt got the Vipers within a goal with just over two minutes of game time left, but Evans sealed the deal with an empty netter to complete his hat trick. With that, the Warriors scored three goals on just four shots in the third period.
The two teams are back at it Saturday at 6 p.m., this time at Royal LePage Place in Kelowna to finish off the regular season. The Vipers can clinch home ice advantage in the first round of the BCHL playoffs with a victory.
The Warriors ended a six-game skid with the win and are already set to face the Interior-leading Penticton Vees in the playoffs.