What a way to start the season for the West Kelowna Warriors.
The puck dropped on the 2023-24 BCHL season Friday night, Sept. 22, as the Warriors welcomed the defending Fred Page Cup champion Penticton Vees to town.
And in a wild, back-and-forth game, the Warriors started the season in the win column, defeating the Vees 5-3.
Assistant captain Michael Salandra got the party started early, scoring the only first-period goal off a pass from Sweden’s Viggo Nördstrom.
Penticton tied the game in the second period when Simon Meier scored his first goal of the campaign but the Warriors would regain the lead before the end of the frame. At the 12:34 mark, Norway’s Johannes Løkkeberg scored his first BCHL goal on the power play to make it 2-1. Nördstrom collected an assist on the goal.
The third period featured some frantic back-and-forth action, as just 2:44 into the period, Callum Arnott scored a power-play goal for the Vees to tie the game at 2-2.
Less than four minutes later, Løkkeberg found the back of the net for the second time, making it 3-2 for the Warriors.
But Penticton stormed right back, tying the game 3-3 less than two minutes later when Billy Renfrew scored his first goal of the season.
As the dramatics continued, Trent Wilson buried his first goal of the season for the Warriors just over two minutes later to make it 4-3 and West Kelowna wouldn’t look back.
As the Warriors shut the Vees down the rest of the way, Callum Hughes would add an empty-net goal with 15 seconds left to make it 5-3. On the goal, Løkkeberg added an assist to collect his third point of the night.
Rorke Applebee was outstanding in net for the Warriors, making 32 saves on 35 shots. Andrew Ness suffered the loss for Penticton, making 21 saves.
Each team was perfect on the power play, both scoring on their only opportunities.
The attendance for the Warriors’ home opener at Royal LePage Place was 1,268.
Both teams are back in action Saturday night, Sept. 23, as the Warriors travel to Trail to take on the Smoke Eaters while Penticton heads to Nicola Valley Memorial Arena to take on the Merritt Centennials.
Merritt is coming off a 5-3 win over Powell River on Friday night while Trail lost its home opener, 5-4 in overtime.