Warriors' imports produce for BCHL team

Forward Jason Cotton is one of six American-born players on the BCHL
Forward Jason Cotton is one of six American-born players on the BCHL's West Kelowna Warriors.
— image credit: GreyStoke Photography

For someone who grew up in Plano, Texas, it's no surprise that Jason Cotton possessed little knowledge of a place called West Kelowna, B.C., Canada.

Still, once he arrived in the Okanagan, it didn't take the 6-foot-2 forward long to adapt to his new surroundings.

Cotton, one of six American-born players on the Warriors' roster, not only leads the BCHL team in scoring, but was also quick to find his comfort zone off the ice.

"Obviously it's a different environment than what I've been used to, but it's been a pretty good transition," said Cotton, 19, who has 15 goals and 32 points in 25 games, "(West Kelowna) is a gorgeous place, scenery-wise, and that's not too hard to take. On the ice, the hockey part is pretty much the same everywhere you go, so I've just gone out and played my game and it's turned out pretty well. I'm really enjoying it."

Warriors' head coach Rylan Ferster watched Cotton perform last summer at a showcase tournament in Boston and liked a lot of what he saw.

When the 2013-14 campaign began, Cotton had intended on playing his second season with the USHL's Tri City Storm (Nebraska). But when things didn't work out as planned with the Storm, Cotton accepted an offer from the Warriors to move his skills north.

"I heard the BCHL was a very skilled league, I thought it fit my style, so I thought to make the jump here would be a good step," said Cotton, who is committed to Northeastern University. "I also had an advisor who knows Brent Gough (associate coach), and said a lot of good things about the coaching here. I feel like I'm gaining some confidence here, and (the BCHL) is helping me get ready for the next level."

Like Cotton, Jordan Masters has been quick to feel at home with his new teammates, both at and away from the rink.

Born and raised in Rochester, New York, the 5-foot-11 forward played two years of minor hockey in Detroit, followed by the USHL in Michigan, and last season with the New Jersey Hitmen of the Eastern Junior Hockey League.

Partly due to the urging of the University of New Hampshire hockey program—who Masters had initially signed with—the skilled forward decided a move to the junior A game in B.C. made the most sense for his career.

"(Rochester native) Mark Zengerle played for Rylan (in Salmon Arm) and he said enjoyed it, so he was also a key person in me coming to B.C.," said Masters, who is second in scoring for West Kelowna with 14 goals and 30 points. "I didn't even know where (West Kelowna) was, I had to pull a google to find it," he added with a laugh.

"So far it's been unbelievable, the best move of my whole career.  The guys have been great and I feel like I'm fitting in pretty well. It's known as the best junior A league in Canada, a really good stepping stone to the next level."

Along with Cotton and Masters, Boston product Carl Hesler (30 points), rounds out the Warriors' top three point-getters this season.

The American-born threesome has combined for 41 goals and 92 points, accounting for well over one-third of the club's total output.

Factor in the contributions so far from U.S.-born defencemen Ryan Ivey, Ben Tegtmeyer and Zane Schartz, and Ferster says all Warriors' players from south of the border have had a hand in the club's fortunes this season.

"It's not by design that we've got that many American kids, it's just worked out that way this season," Ferster said. "They've all been key for us, they're all really big parts of our team. You could say we've really hit home runs with all these guys."

Ferster's Warriors (16-11-1-2) return to action Friday when they host the Merritt Centennials, 7 p.m. at Royal LePage Place.


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