The Penticton Vees put the Teddy Bear Toss to bed in a hurry and Tyler Ho and Tristan Amonte stole the show from there.
Ho scored twice and added a helper and linemate Amonte racked up three assists as the Vees defeated the West Kelowna Warriors 5-1 in front of 3,084 fans Friday night at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
Jackson Niedermayer scored 47 seconds into the game to send hundreds of toys raining down on the ice surface, and Jack Barnes also scored in the first period as the Vees (24-9-1) beat the reeling Warriors for the third time in as many meetings this season.
The teams finish up the weekend home-and-home set tonight at 6 p.m. at Royal LePage Place in West Kelowna.
Carter Wilkie scored for the Warriors (5-20-4-2), who are last in the Interior Division and last overall in the BCHL.
Yaniv Perets made 17 stops for the Vees and Brock Baier had 40 saves for the Warriors.
The Vees brought down the stuffed animals before many fans had even got to their seats.
Niedermayer took a pass from Nico Somerville and rifled the puck over Baier’s glove before the game was a minute old.
After a brief delay to round up hundreds of stuffed animals, the Vees kept coming and David Silye fired a shot off the inside of the post at the two-minute mark.
Barnes did put the Vees up 2-0 at 7:27. Amonte played a perfect pass from behind the net to Barnes who one-timed a low shot past Baier.
The Warriors got back in the game off a turnover at 12:18. Evan McIntyre’s clearing attempt glanced off a skate to Wilkie, who walked unmolested down the slot and sizzled a slapshot past Perets.
Less than a minute later, Warriors’ Max Bulawka nearly tied it but his hard shot from 15 feet out hit the post and bounced out.
The Vees regained the two-goal lead with 6:06 to go on in the second. Amonte made another slick pass to Ho, who whirled around and beat Baier with a quick shot from the left circle.
Ho – who has eight goals in 18 games since joining the Vees – got his second of the night at 17:31. The speedy forward took a pass in full flight down the left side from Conner Hutchison and zipped a quick wrist shot past Baier.
Kosobud upped the Vees lead to 5-1 seconds after a power play expired at 3:51 of the third period.
With the win, the Vees opened up a seven-point lead atop the Interior Division over Trail Smoke Eaters, who lost 4-1 to the league-leading Express in Coquitlam.
The Vees played with only 16 skaters after leading scorer Jay O’Brien (lower-body) and defenceman Steve Holtz were ruled out before the game with injuries. Defenceman Ethan Martini returned after missing 18 games with an upper-body injury.
Ho, Amonte and Kalezic were the three stars.
Vipers 8, Centennials 3 — Matt Kowalski completed a hat trick with 43 seconds to play and added two assists, and Vernon erupted for four second-period goals to beat Merritt at Kal Tire Place.
Ben Helgeson, Landon Fuller, Dawson Holt, Logan Cash and Jojo Tanaka-Campbell also scored for the Vipers (16-12-1-1).
Christian Buono, Tyson Galloway and Thomas Manty scored for Merritt (8-20-1-1).
Reilly Herbst made 27 saves for the win and Tanner Marshall blocked 35 shots for the Cents. Kowalski, Tanaka-Campbell and Fuller were the three stars in front of 1,689 fans in Vernon.
The Vipers and Cents battle again Sunday at 2 p.m. in Merritt, but before that Vernon hosts the Wenatchee Wild tonight at 6 p.m.