Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Wrapping it up

It's hard to decide what exactly to write about on a season-ending posting, especially when you're just another team eliminated in the 1st round. There were so many story lines that played out throughout this season, perhaps a record number of players donning the Warriors jersey (including AP's), and a goaltender injury bug never before seen at the Junior A level.

I could talk about how this season was disappointing and ended to soon, which it did. Every team wants to win their last game of the playoffs but only will get to do that, in Portage la Prairie, MB, on May 17th. Junior Hockey is such a tough sport, there is only one season every year, and the number of teams across the country make the journey just that much harder.

After the last 5 games against the Vees, its hard to even reflect on the regular season because you want to talk about how great the first 4 games of the series were, essentially all in OT, as the 4th game won in the final 3 minutes. It had that feeling that eventually the Warriors were bound to get a bounce and tie the series up, or even could have lead 2-0 or 2-1 in the series as well. It just wasn't meant to be.

Each and every guy that pulled on the Warriors sweater this year played his heart out when they were in the lineup. Every player had a role to play and didn't give up, especially in that final stretch to make the playoffs. Did West Kelowna have any business playing for the playoffs into the final weekend after Affiliate goaltenders made 11 starts? Absolutely they did because the way that Stephen Heslop played in the playoffs was typical to the way he played in the regular season. He gave the Warriors a chance to win every single night, going 2-2-0-2 in the regular season, and 0-2-0-1 in the playoffs. Those don't look like fabulous numbers, but getting the Warriors to overtime in some of those games was an accomplishment in itself. If anyone said to me that the Warriors would need to win their last 5 games, and 4 of them without 3 of their 20 year old players including the starting goalie and captain, and your leading scorer, I'd say there was no chance. The difference is these kids believed there was. Scott Patton played solid and everyone stepped up offensively to get into the post-season, even if we needed a little help from our rivals.

When looking back at the regular season as a whole, it's tough to single out any specific moments. There was an 11-game streak of getting at least a single point from late October - Mid November, then there was a streak of games where the Warriors used 5 different AP goaltenders in games, which ended up netting them 5 wins and 7 losses, including the first BCHL Shutouts for 2 of them in Stephen Heslop and Jordan Reynolds.

The final record of 29-21-0-8 for 66 points is the 7th best point total for the club since they came into the league in 2006/2007. There were other milestones though, and personal/franchise bests achieved this season.

Jason Cotton: 

  • Fastest Player to 100 points as a Warrior, he did it in 87 Games.
  • Moved into #8 All-Time in Warriors scoring.
  • Scored his 50th BCHL goal for the Warriors, 7th player to score 50 in WK jersey.

Liam Blackburn: 

  • Warriors Single Season leader in assists with 51
  • 4th Best Single Season with 73 Points
  • Moved into #9 All-time in Warriors scoring

Jordan Masters:

  • Moved into #24 All-time in Warriors scoring, 71 points in 72 games.
Andrew Johnson
  • Played his 300th Junior Hockey game, finished with 309 Career games between WHL and WK.
There is more to this game than winning, especially where we fit in at the Junior hockey level, and the Warriors once again were successful on the schooling front, having multiple players commit to NCAA hockey.

NCAA Commitments:
Liam Blackburn - University of New Hampshire
Jordan Masters - Arizona State University
Jonathan Desbiens - Bentley University
Brett Mennear - Bentley University

Jason Cotton will begin his NCAA career at Northeastern next season.

Final Words:
The players on this team were always fun to be around, the jokes on the bus, shutting down Tiggs on his countless requests for Gran Torino are definite memories. You'll never have the same group ever again, that's kind of weird, but its junior hockey. To the 20's - Andy, Jordan, Andrew, Tyler, Braeden, and Bennett; good luck with your future, and never hesitate to stay in contact. I'll always have room for an intermission interview.

There are so many people in this organization to thank and I really hope that I will have an opportunity to be back next year and improve on the broadcasts, increase the player interviews, and give more insights on the blog.
From the top I need to thank Mark Cheyne for giving me this opportunity, and thank him for his love of Junior Hockey as he continues as the owner of the West Kelowna Warriors.

Thank you to Rylan Ferster, Brent Gough, and Mike Bois for making road trips fun. It never felt like work and I immediately felt like I fit in.

To the office and game day staff you are what makes it easy to come to the rink knowing that everything outside of the broadcast will be taken care of. Sure it wasn't my job to worry about the events/game day ops side of things, but I was told for 4 years at school to always care. Kim Potter, Alex Draper, Steve Francis, Wayne Moore, Kris Patzer. The ones you see doing everything all the time. AND Nicole Ellis, she'd do anything for this hockey club and always made sure I got some more water if I asked. 

Sheldon and Cheryl Bank were always fun to have up in the booth, doing the boxscores and the stats as well. Sheldon always made sure I had good things to say about the officiating.  Jason Woodford and your team, you guys were excellent. I was told that you guys do fabulous work and you proved it every single night. Thank you Crosswood Productions.

Thanks to WDCR for hosting all of our games on the internet and 95.1 FM. It was good to have an alternative listening method for fans who didn't wish to pay to watch the games on Fast Hockey.

To the volunteers, you are the glue that holds everything together. Every one of you that I had the opportunity of meeting with and talking to, it was a pleasure. Thanks for being there, see you next season.

Finally the fans. You were amazing in the playoffs and great throughout the season. I don't know if its the way the building is built, or how my microphone picked up the sound, but that is one of the loudest buildings in the BCHL when you all get going. I'm going to miss that all summer, and hope i'm back to hear it again. Who knows, maybe we'll fill it up one day.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Preview - Game 5 - Vees Warriors

The West Kelowna Warriors will take on the Penticton Vees tonight in Game 5 of their 1st round series, which the Vees lead by a 3-1 margin.

Each game in this series has been intense and gone down to the last shot. In fact, each winning team has scored on their last shot of the game. Even Penticton in their 3-2 win in Game 4 was on the final shot they registered with 2:14 remaining.

With the Warriors playoff lives on the line, look for their best effort tonight at the SOEC. They say the 4th game is the hardest to win because of the way the opposition plays in those elimination games, and the Warriors will need to play like a desperate team in order to extend their season another night.

Goaltending has been the story in this series so far. Hunter Miska has been as advertised based on his stats from the regular season. He has a 3-1 record with a 2.07 GAA and a .939 SV% through the first 4 games. He has done a good job of finding pucks after they hit him, and was particularly strong late in the 3rd of Game 4.

For the Warriors, they got a pair of excellent efforts from Scott Patton to start the series, then Stephen Heslop steps up and his performances are nothing short of amazing either. Heslop, the 19-year old AP from the Princeton Posse is yes, 0-2, but has a 2.51 GAA and a .922 SV%. Not bad for a kid who hadn't played in 2 weeks since his team was eliminated in the KIJHL playoffs.

The Warriors will be needing to continue their physical play tonight and discipline will be a main factor in that. On the Special Teams side of things, Penticton has enjoyed 18 power-play opportunities and 29:58 on time on the man advantage. The Warriors 10 power-plays have lasted only 14:42. The Vees have scored once, and West Kelowna twice in the series.

The talk all season long was how tight the Interior division was, and all 8 games so far of these playoffs have been decided by 1-goal. With the Vernon sweep, expect their staff in attendance as they have 5 more days of waiting before Round 2 begins on Friday. Whoever they play, they're going to be hoping for a 7-game series, and from a Warriors perspective, that's their hope as well.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Game 3 Recap/Game 4 Preview

After the longest game in West Kelowna Warriors history ended it was tough to summarize the emotions of the coaching staff. A poor start in the game had the 1188 fans (or the percentage of Warriors fans) felt like they might be getting run out of the arena. To tie it up and play two and a half overtime periods just shows how tight this series really is. To read all about what happened last night, click here.

You have to give everyone in the Warriors room credit for their effort after getting down 3-0 just 5:44 into the 1st. It looked like this one was over, but the Warriors settled in and closed the gap on the shot clock through the remainder of the period.

The Warriors physical play was paramount in starting to wear the Vees down in the middle frame, as they finished every single check that they had the opportunity to finish. There were also numerous scrums that showed just how much these two teams really don't like each other.

Tanner Campbell's goal probably flicked a switch in the Warriors mind that turned it from "wear them down" to "we can come back in this one." That was pretty true as the 3rd period started, West Kelowna threw everything they had at Hunter Miska.

Kylar Hope made it 3-2 and got the Warriors crowd alive and well again, then it was Rylan Yaremko who made a great power move off the rush and cut to the net tucking it around Miska to tie the game. West Kelowna kept coming all period long, out-shooting the Vees 22-6 in that final frame. That doubled the Warriors shot total that they had after 2.

Heading into the overtime frame for the 3rd time I'm not sure anyone expected it to go as long as it did. This is where you credit both goaltenders who held their teams in it. Miska robbed Jason Cotton early in the 1st overtime, and made big saves on Hope, Liam Blackburn, and Brett Mennear in the extra frame.

Stephen Heslop, who started in place of Scott Patton who is day-to-day, bounced back after the first 5:44 of the game and was a wall as well. He robbed Cody Depourcq in the 2nd overtime in tight when it looked like the Vees were about to end it on the scramble.

Special teams were also key in the game as the Warriors killed off a pair of overtime penalties, and the Vees killed off one in the 3rd OT. Yaremko had the best opportunity on the power-play for the Warriors, but that was at the end of the 3rd period when a pass deflected off his stick.

Any way you slice it, it's a 2-1 series lead for the Vees and last night was the best game of the series. Hopefully the fans return for what has been the closest series in the entire BCHL playoffs so far.

Game 4 Keys:
Fatigue - Both teams should be exhausted with the length of last night's game, but the Vees rolled their four lines throughout, while Hunter Zandee and Bennett Huber didn't see a shift after the 3rd period I'm pretty sure. Mac Ferner also didn't play too much in overtime, and his partner Braeden Jones played sporadically. The key for Rylan Ferster is going to be seeing how much he can get out of those 4 players early on in tonight's game and lighten the work-load of the other 10 forwards and 4 defensemen.

Physicality - The Warriors increased their physical play in Game 3 and will need to do that once again in order to be successful. You never like to see a player get hurt and leave the game like Mike Lee did last night for the Vees, but the Warriors must have hit him 15 times in a 3 shift stretch. It got to the point where he didn't want to go back and get the puck, and would pin whichever Warrior got their first to the boards. The physical play by West Kelowna was well received by the crowd and they'll need more of that in Game 4.

The Start - 3 goals in the first 5:44 of the game was just what the Penticton Vees wanted. Credit the Warriors fans who seemed to get energized a little more with each hit, when they could have sat on their hands (clappers) all night. The Warriors need to make sure that whichever goalie is in net tonight feels the puck early. Having a 3 on 2 against you with 16 seconds gone in the first and Jack Ramsey will all the time in the world didn't help Heslop last night. I expect that West Kelowna's coaching staff will have their team ready go from the second the puck drops.

Expect tight checking hockey all night, and a close game as it has been all series. This has been extremely entertaining so come on down and watch the Warriors and the Vees in Game 4 at RLP.

Friday, 6 March 2015

Game 3 Preview - Vees @ Warriors

The West Kelowna Warriors got themselves a split on the road to open up the BCHL playoffs this week with a Double Overtime victory in Game 1 where Jason Cotton played the hero and Scott Patton made 52 saves. The 2nd game would go to the Vees once again in Overtime, but it was Patton again that was the story as he made 44 more saves in the Warriors net.

The outcome of game two really was ultimately a toss up heading into the 2nd period when it remained scoreless, but Nick Rutigliano and Andrew Johnson pushed the Warriors to a 2-0 lead after 40 minutes. The Vees though responded early in the 3rd cutting the lead in half and then tying the game on a power-play marker from Demico Hannoun to tie it up.

In overtime, it ended in the first 4 minutes as Matt Serratore spun and fired the puck through Patton on a bit of a scrambled and surprising play that didn't really look like a shot attempt was going to come out of it. It did, and ended up in the back of the West Kelowna net.

What had been a great game to that point looked as if it was destined for another long night almost ended too abruptly, and I'm not just saying that because the Warriors lost. The game was entertaining throughout with some great opportunities and even better saves. Hoping for more of the same now that the Warriors have returned home.

Game 3 Preview:

Crowd: The Warriors will have the home crowd on their side for the first time in this series, although it was great to see a bunch of fans at the SOEC for the opening two games. The Warriors got to salute them at the end of Game 1, and hope that they can push them through everything here in Game 3. The key for West Kelowna will stay the same as it was in Penticton. Get physical early. When you have 1000+ people backing you up and a big hit is laid, the energy will be alive and well in the building.

Miska vs Patton: Nobody would have said at the beginning of the season or even the series that this would be an even match-up between the pipes. In this series though, both goaltenders are matching each other save for save, with Patton making the extra ones the Vees create. The Warriors will need to continue to get into the face of Miska and take away his eyes, and Patton will need to continue to step up. This is the best battle happening on the ice.

Discipline: Each team has scored only once on the power-play in the series as the Warriors have gone 1-5, and the Vees 1-8. In the first game there was a lot of stuff let go by the officials and good on them, allowing the players to play and calling the penalties that truly needed to be called. In game 2 it changed. The Warriors would get 4 power-plays in that game, but for only 4:20 out of a possible 8 minutes. Each power-play was shortened either due to a preceding penalty, or a penalty taken during the man-advantage, except for one in the last 5 minutes of the opening period.
Kyle Marino and Tyson Jost each took a 10 minute misconduct in that 1st period as well, and while the casual fan thinks that the Warriors win that trade-off, with the effectiveness that Marino has had, I think it was closer to an even trade-off.
Both teams will need to try and harness the emotions as this series is starting to heat up after the whistles. It's going to come down to what happens between the whistles and the team that can stop when the whistle blows will be successful.

Pre-game show goes at 6:45 on Fast Hockey and at Join us at the rink at 5 for a courtyard party as we get revved up for Game 3. It's going to be fun!

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Game 1 Recap- Warriors @ Vees

The West Kelowna Warriors got their first playoff win of the 2014/2015 season by defeating the Penticton Vees 4-3 in double overtime on Tuesday night at the SOEC.

West Kelowna looked to set the tone early with some heavy contact by Kyle Marino, and also big hits by Hunter Zandee, Josh Bly, and Rylan Yaremko. Tyler Kunz would also throw his weight around during the opening five minutes.

An evenly matched game throughout saw the first period end tied at 2. The Vees opened up the scoring with a goal from Tyson Jost on a slick backhand play, as he was given a breakaway from the blueline in. The Warriors responded with a goal from Josh Bly off a faceoff play, deking out Hunter Miska. That goal was in quick response just 2:19 after the Vees opened the scoring.

West Kelowna would take the 2-1 lead when Brayden Gelsinger worked out of the corner and backhanded one towards the net which directed into the Penticton goal. Then in the final minute of the period, Demico Hannoun would put a rebound past Scott Patton to tie it up again.

Tyler Kunz would drive the net after the goal with Jonathan Desbiens and after colliding with the defender knocked Miska down and the net off. That brought in Patrick Sexton who grabbed Kunz, with the two wrestling as the linesmen intervened. Kunz would receive two for slashing and two for unsportsmanlike conduct while Sexton took two for roughing after the whistle. The Vees would not score on the advantage that spanned across the intermission.

The lone goal of the 2nd period would belong to the Vees when Lewis Zerter-Gossage slammed a rebound home and made it 3-2. There wasn't much happening overall in the period, with the majority of shots coming from the outside. Patton did make a pair of nice glove saves in the frame to keep it tied before the Zerter-Gossage goal.

The Warriors would tie the game up at 6:07 of the 3rd period when his seeing eye shot eluded Miska from the point. Both teams looked like they wanted to go to overtime from then on as nobody had any glorious chances.

In the first overtime Hannoun would get a pair of breakaways in the first 10 minutes, but both times Patton was there to bail his teammates out. Kunz would take another penalty in this overtime as he drove to the net yet again, trying to stuff the puck past Miska, but would get called for goaltender interference. The Warriors killed off the minor thanks to two great blocks by Mac Ferner, and tireless work from Brett Mennear and Andrew Johnson. Late in the OT period there would be a scramble in front of Patton, but the Warriors would sink down and clear the rebounds before it could go into the goal.

The 2nd overtime would see the Warriors come out flying, peppering Miska and getting rewarded with a power-play when Hannoun went knee on knee with Jason Cotton. It would be Cotton who would play hero after that, as Kyle Marino's shot was picked up by Cotton, and he buried the winner at 5:39.

Game Thoughts:

  • Both teams looked to feel each other out in the opening 10 minutes of the game, but after both of them scored, it settled everybody in. The Vees out-shot the Warriors in every period but West Kelowna stuck with the Vees throughout the game.
  • Scott Patton was real good in this hockey game, making 52 saves including 4 or 5 HUGE saves. He made a pair of big glove saves in the 2nd and 3rd periods, then the two breakaway saves off of Hannoun in the first OT were obviously big.
  • Special Teams always seems to be a key in the playoffs, and the Warriors off to a good start after game one. Their power-play goes 1-1 on the night, and the penalty kill goes 2-2. Continue on that path (including not taking penalties) and the Warriors will be in a good position for success.
Game 2 Preview:
Rylan Ferster talked before the game on Tuesday about not getting too high or too low throughout the series. If you win, you have to get back to the regular level and play the next night. If you were unfortunate to lose, you need to forget it and get back at it the following night. Expect the Vees to come out with a little more jump in their step early on as they try to set the tone in Game 2.

West Kelowna played 3 lines throughout the overtime periods last night, and while the Vees played 4, the top unit of Tyson Jost, Patrick Newell, and Demico Hannoun saw the majority of ice time. Jack Ramsey was also a factor in last nights game using his big body to create space. 

The Warriors must continue to get traffic in front of Hunter Miska and not allow him to get to the top of his crease. Creating rebounds will also be a key in tonight's game, and although Miska struggled grabbing a couple pucks early in the game, his rebound control was overall pretty good. He had a sub 2.00 GAA during the regular season and I expect he will not be pleased with the loss and will step up his game tonight.

I thought that the Warriors did the little things right last night and will need to continue that in order to be successful. I don't have the scoring chances yet from last nights game from the Warriors staff, but I didn't think the Warriors were badly out-chanced. The shots were 55-38 Penticton, but it still seemed very even throughout. 

Game 2 should be as fun as Game 1, and I hope the fans come out as they missed a good one last night. Come down to the SOEC and watch, or listen live at 

Monday, 2 March 2015

Series Preview - Warriors vs Vees

The West Kelowna Warriors will enter the BCHL Interior Division Playoffs as the #4 seed and take on the #1 Penticton Vees in a Best of 7 series starting Tuesday March 3rd in Penticton.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

PLAYOFF BOUND - Game Recap - Warriors vs. Surrey

The West Kelowna Warriors knocked off the Surrey Eagles 6-2 on Saturday at RLP and found out that the Salmon Arm Silverbacks had fallen in overtime 2-1 to the Penticton Vees when they were in the locker room for the 2nd intermission.

The fans behind the Warriors bench knew of the score and were vocal in spreading it around moments after Jack Ramsey won it for Penticton, but the Warriors kept pushing with their 3-0 lead at that point.

In the end it was a 4 for 4 power-play night for the Warriors, Brayden Gelsinger and Tanner Campbell each had a pair of goals, Jason Cotton and Kristian Blumenschein had the others, and Jonathan Desbiens had 4 assists.

The Salmon Arm Silverbacks need to be given a lot of credit for their efforts over the latter half of the season. At one point the Silverbacks were 11 points behind West Kelowna, and in the end they were 1 point away from taking a playoff spot. Credit to everyone on that team and in that organization, as they were one of the hottest teams down the stretch, going 18-8-0-1 since December 13th. In comparison, the Warriors went 13-11-0-3, and the Penticton Vees went 16-5-2-1.

Looking at just those numbers, the Silverbacks gained 8 points on West Kelowna during that stretch, and picked up 1 more than Penticton, although the Vees played 3 less games. Still a huge accomplishment, and as Rylan Ferster has said for 6 weeks "A real good team is going to miss the playoffs"

Tonight's Game Thoughts:

  • West Kelowna came out sort of like they wanted to with pressure, but once that first power-play goal went in, you could see some relief on the faces of Warriors players. The power-play would be lethal from then on.
  • Tanner Campbell was the one that scored that 1st goal of the night, and I talked on the broadcast about him being "Mr. 1st Goal of the Game" guy. Now that I've had a chance to look back...of his 8 goals this season for the Warriors, 3 of those have been the first goal of the hockey game.
  • Scott Patton was very good for West Kelowna tonight. He probably wants the Cole Plotnikoff goal back from the sharp angle, but with the Eagles out-shooting the Warriors in the game, Patton had to be sharp. He also stopped a Darius Davidson penalty shot, and made a couple fantastic saves with his toe and glove. Oh, and kind of ON HIS BIRTHDAY TOO (Leap year baby, February 29th)
  • The Eagles played a solid hockey game tonight and I thought generated a lot offensively with only 9 forwards. They rolled through their 3 lines and kept getting shots onto Scott Patton throughout the night. The killer was the lack of a penalty kill tonight, as the Warriors go 100% on the man advantage.
Playoffs Start Tuesday:
  • Warriors will play in Penticton Tuesday and Wednesday for Games 1 and 2, before returning to Royal Lepage Place Friday and Saturday for Games 3 and 4.
  • This will be the 4th time West Kelowna and Penticton have met in the playoffs in the last 9 seasons. Penticton has won all 3 series, but these two teams have not met in the 1st round ever.
The in-depth playoff preview will be on the blog Monday afternoon.