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BREMERTON — The West Sound Warriors not only won their first Western States Hockey League playoff game, a 6-4 victory over the Seattle Totems on Thursday, it was the team’s first win since January 25.

“That was really big for our team, big confidence booster definitely,” said Warriors captain Connor Wherrett, who netted an empty-net goal in the waning seconds while getting a bloody nose for his effort at the Bremerton Ice Center. “It was at the perfect time. (Playoffs) is when you want to start winning games.”

The Warriors were more than happy to forget the last month of the season, a stretch that saw the once second-place team in the Northwest Division drop to fourth amidst an 11-game losing skid. The losses took a toll on the players’ confidence but they never lost sight of the goal to make the playoffs.

“I think we kind of all had the mindset of a fresh start,” Wherrett said. “I think everybody was ready to go tonight.”

West Sound coach Ty Smith said while the effort might not have shown in the final box scores, the players have been playing hard the last two weeks of the regular season.

The breakthrough win could be a gamechanger. Game two is set for Saturday at 8:30 p.m. at the ice center.

“Finally we’re able to put it all together for 60 minutes and find a way to win,” Smith said.

Smith said the players were too caught up in making mistakes that could cost them the game instead of just playing.

That wasn’t the case against Seattle.

West Sound opened the scoring 57 seconds into the first period on a goal by Lauri Hakanen as Dmitri Munirov and Yevhenii Govorushko were credited with the assists. Julius Airikainen put the Warriors up 2-0 when he converted his shot at the 15:56 mark off an assist from Tyler Perry.

With less then five minutes to go in the period Seattle’s Bogdan Klochkov scored past sprawled Warriors goalie Robbie Brennan who made the initial save. The defense was unable to clear the puck before Klochkov slipped the puck past Brennan. Seattle tied the game at 2-2 at the 15:59 mark of the second on a goal by Michael Shippee.

But Munirov scored at 11:03 to put West Sound back on top, 3-2. Hakanen had the assist. The Warriors went up 4-2 with 19 seconds left on a goal by Harri Koll. Ethan Cooney was credited with an assist.

Seattle kept the game interesting in the third as the Totems scored twice with the game-tying goal coming from Cam Gross at 9:07.

Smith said the Warriors played stronger in the third, taking shots and getting back on defense.

“That adds a lot, adds a little energy, a little oompf to the team,” he said. “I’m really proud of them.”

Munirov, who has come on strong the last few weeks, tallied his second goal and what turned out to be the game-winning goal at 4:08. Wherrett had the assist and added the empty-netter with 7.5 seconds left to clinch the win. West Sound’s Brennan had 40 saves and earned the win.

Wherrett said Munirov’s game has improved as he has learned to play a more American, physical-style of hockey as opposed to the European style.

“He’s been huge for us lately,” he said. “It’s nice to have him step up like that.”

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