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Warriors escape with 4-3 shootout victory over the Silverbacks

Salmon Arm, BC – For the fifth and final time in the regular season, it was the Salmon Arm Silverbacks (27-19-4-3) and the West Kelowna Warriors (28-20-6-0) renewing their Okanagan Rivalry with a meeting at the Shaw Centre. the teams had split the first four games on the season series, with Salmon Arm taking the most recent meeting back on February 10th. The game had massive playoff implications on the line as both teams were still vying for the third spot in the Interior Conference standings.

Matthew Tovell (27-13-3-0, 2.63 GAA, .919 S%, 4SO) got his 16th straight start for the Silverbacks, while Cayden Hamming (8-4-3-0, 3.16 GAA, .885 S%, 1SO ) got the nod for the Warriors.

The game started off with a quick bang for West Kelowna as Rylee Hlusiak (22) was able to open the scoring just 31 seconds into the contest after a slick feed from Christopher Duclair. The early goal took the momentum away from the large crowd at the Shaw Centre, but Salmon Arm quickly got back into the game. Just under four minutes after the Warriors opening goal, it was Reid Varkonyi (4) following up on a rebound before chipping one over the pad of Hamming to even things of one a piece. Following the early goals in the period, the penalties followed suit as both teams started a trail towards the box. Both teams had two powerplay opportunities in the opening frame, but were unable to capitalize. Shots in the opening frame were 9-8 in favour of West Kelowna.

West Kelowna were able to carbon copy their start from the first period of play as they got another early marker in the period. it was a high-slot deflection from Michael Salandra (17) following a shot from the blue line from Isiah Norlin just 23 seconds into the period. That was just the start for the good start for the Warriors as they added another one in quick successions as Jaiden Moriello (25) was able to beat Matthew Tovell with a wrist shot to extend their lead to two goals. Salmon Arm was able to fight back in the same quick order to which they did in the opening frame, but were unable to get one by Hamming. Included in that momentum was a two-minute sequence of offensive zone time for the Silverbacks, but were left off the board. Neither team went to the box in the period, and shots in the middle frame were 16-12 in favour of the Warriors.

The Silverbacks got a boost in the early goings of the third period as they went to the early powerplay and had a chance to make it a one goal game. On the ensuing powerplay it was Isaac Lambert (17) burying one through the five-hole of Hamming to pull Salmon Arm within one goal. They continued to apply the pressure as the period progressed, and used the home crowd advantage to carry them towards a late period push. It was a brilliant effort from Brandon Santa Juana (15) as he made his way towards the blue-paint after receiving a pass from Owen Beckner before tucking one by Hamming to even things up midway through the period. Both teams had opporunties to win the game late with powerplay chances but were unable to capitalize. Shots in the final frame were 13-8 in favour of Salmon Arm.

The game of the season candidate needed extra time as both teams were vying for the extra point. Neither team was able to nab a goal in overtime as both teams focussed on holding possession in overtime. The game moved to a shootout and the game was decided in the skills competition. The Warriors got the advantage early as Michael Salandra scored a nifty shootout goal. Ethan Ullrick was able to score and force extra rounds in the final round of the three, but West Kelowna grabbed the winner on the stick of Christopher Duclair.

Next up for the Silverbacks will be the final game of the regular season as they head into Penticton to take on the Vees for the second time this week. Puck drops at 4:00PM from the South Okanagan Events Centre!

Photo by CHRIS FOWLER – Recap Courtesy of TONY TROZZO