By Tyler Krause & Joel Woznikoski
For the West Kelowna Warriors Alumni, it was a year of firsts, finales and everything in between.
The Warriors team had an outstanding 2013-14 regular season in the BCHL, with a number of individuals joining the alumni ranks after exceptional junior hockey careers.
Some players have carried on a tradition established by previous Warriors, earning a scholarship and playing hockey at post-secondary schools across North America.
Others have seen their junior hockey and/or collegiate careers come to an end, sending them into the workforce.
Certain players have gone on to bring home the bacon as professional hockey players, while others are pursuing careers in accounting, coaching, banking, the oil fields and firefighting just to name a few.
The ultimate goal became a reality for a couple more Warriors Alumni this season, as the National Hockey League came calling for Colton Sissons (Nashville) and Nathan Lieuwen (Buffalo).
They battled with the best and joined the ranks alongside NHL defenceman and former Warrior Justin Schultz (Edmonton).
The Warriors Alumni became a reality this past year, with its creation having connected past players, given back to the community of West Kelowna, hosted the inaugural Alumni Weekend with Tim Hortons and supported current and future collegiate players with a new alumni scholarship program.
The world of college and university hockey saw an abundance of former Warriors make an impact this season for their respective teams:
Freshman Max French jumped right into action with the Bentley Falcons (NCAA Div. 1) and became a go-to player in his first year.
“Frenchy” amassed 23 points during the season and was awarded the Atlantic Hockey’s Rookie of the Month for October.
Junior Alex Grieve, also at Bentley University, was nominated for the Hobey Baker award after collecting 25 goals and 47 points with the Falcons.
He was named assistant captain and skated alongside former Warriors French, Matt Maher and Tyler Krause. “Griever” continues to be an offensive threat and leader in the community. He was awarded the Atlantic Hockey’s Player of the Month for November and also made the Second All-Star Team for Atlantic Hockey.
University of Calgary Dinos head coach Mark Howell was recognized for the second time as Canada West’s Coach of the Year for 2014, after leading the Dinos to their best record since 1997 at 21-4-3. “Howey” was also named the Canada West CIS Coach of the Year in 2011 as well as winning the CIS national award.
Tyler French and Jordan Wood, of the NAIT Ooks, looked to win back-to-back ACAC championships but found themselves playing the bridesmaid to the SAIT Trojans, the team they defeated in 2013. NAIT finished the regular season in first place but could not replicate another championship losing a hotly contested playoff series to the archrival SAIT squad.
Grayson Downing, of the University of New Hampshire, was invited to attend the 2013 Chicago Blackhawks Summer Prospect Camp.
Over the past three seasons with the Wildcats, “Downs” has earned 76 points, while continuing to hone his slick skills and dangerous shot. While the Wildcats lost in the finals of the Hockey East championship, the team maintained a ranking high enough to earn themselves a spot in the NCAA tournament.
Marcus Basara and Shaun Hochhausen, with the University of Alaska Fairbanks, made their freshman debuts this season and both became key impact players.
They joined senior Michael Quinn, in his final year with the Nanooks. “Hawk” continued to be a strong defensive presence and added 12 points along the way, while Marcus once again found his way to the net, contributing 26 points.
Other Warriors alumni who posted successful freshmen debuts at the college level included Brett McKinnon (Holy Cross), Brayden Sherbinin (Quinnipiac), Garret Skrbich (Princeton), Josh Monk (Providence) and Mitch Nardi (Lake Superior State).
When it came to the professional ranks over the past season, Warriors Alumni dazzled fans all over the globe:
In his second pro season, Brad Plumton joined the Cardiff Devils of the EIHL (UK) and brought out his fists. After keeping his temper in check during his time with the SAIT Trojans, “Plummer” amassed 22 points and racked up 269 PIM defending his Cardiff teammates during a 59-game season. Brad spent his first pro season last year with Borlänge HF in Division 1 Sweden.
Spencer Humphries also made the jump to the pro ranks with the HC Lev Praha of the KHL (Russia) based out of Prague, Czech Republic. “Humps” brought in his intense defensive efforts to help solidify the Praha’s back-end.
Alex Gellert a graduate of the University of Anchorage/ Alaska, and Marcello Ranallo, from the University of Connecticut, found themselves in their first pro seasons with Milan Rossoblu of the Italy A league. These former Warriors, who never together on a Warriors team, quickly made an impact as a duo in Italy after successful collegiate careers.
Kevin Walrod continued his climb up the professional hockey ladder in North America after four years with the Michigan State Spartans. Starting the season with the Bloomington Thunder of the SPHL, “Wally” had over a point per game average and was called up by the Reading Royals of the ECHL.
Clinton Pettapiece found himself in the Netherlands playing professionally for the Dordrecht Lions. He made the jump after spending two years with the SAIT Trojans, where he reunited with numerous former Warriors including Craig Eisenhut and Joel Woznikoski. “Petter” lead ACAC scoring for the 2011/2012 season and continues to use his natural gift as a go-to player for the lions.
Numerous Warriors Alumni have also found themselves using their acquired skills, work ethic and leadership to move on from hockey and into the workforce.
During his four seasons with the SAIT Trojans, Garrett Watson earned an ACAC Gold Medal and two-second place finishes. The hulking forward earned the Captain’s “C” on his jersey during his final season through his unprecedented leadership. “Watty” who currently resides in Calgary, is now working as an accountant and preparing for his CPA examination.
David Arduin’s experience at SUNY-Geneseo, where he amassed 64 points over three seasons, built a strong bond with both the school and community. “Ardy” was offered the position as an assistant coach after his senior season with the Knights and joined the coaching staff during the 2012-13 season. Meanwhile, Warriors alumni Tyler Brickler is also continuing to be an offensive threat at SUNY-Geneseo.
The Air Force Academy saw Stephen Caple develop into an outstanding starting goaltender for a team that was consistently at the top of its conference. “Capes” spent four seasons, from 2008 to 2012 with the Academy and now serves in the United States Air Force, based in Alaska.
The Warriors first team captain, Marcel Bruinsma, now has a family of four and lives in Abbotsford. Married to Melaine, with a daughter and a son, Madison and Gavin, “Bruiny/Goony” has taken over the family tree business, Bruinsma Tree Service.
Prior to settling in Abbotsford, Marcel spent five years playing professionally in Europe.
Trevor Bailey has continued to shine on the ice while pursuing a career on the oil patch. “Bails” joined the St. Walburg Eagles, a senior men’s team in 2012, following his time with the SAIT Trojans. This past season Trevor accumulated 26 goals and 55 points in 24 games played.
Off the ice Trevor brings his work ethic to the oil fields outside of Lloydminster, Alberta.
Four years ago, they walked onto their respective campuses as young freshmen and in what they would describe as “a blink of an eye,” these former Warriors will be graduating university/college.
Some will choose to continue their pursuit by joining the professional ranks, while others will take the other path and put their diploma to use in the workforce.
Two-way defensemen Brendan Ellis, with the Merrimack Warriors, graduated this season. Upon the ending of his collegiate career, “Elly” supplied his services to both the South Carolina Stingrays of the ECHL and the Manchester Monarchs of the AHL.
During that time, he played alongside other past Warriors Kyle Singleton, Quinn Gould and Matt Cronin. After four years at Merrimack, where Brendan amassed 58 points, he has officially moved on to the professional ranks.
Michael Quinn totalled 58 points during his time with Alaska-Fairbanks over four seasons. “Quinner” attended the Washington Capitals Prospect Camp after his sophomore season and the Vancouver Canucks Prospects Camp after his junior year. Michael enters this summer, after his senior year, as a free agent exploring pro hockey opportunities.
Cory Pritz spent five years at the University of Calgary under former Warriors head coach Mark Howell. In 2011, “Pritzy” led all Canada West defencemen in scoring, earning the First Team Canada West All Star Award. Continuing to improve his offensive output, Cory scored 21 points in 27 games with the University of Calgary Dinos during the 2013-14 season.
We think it’s safe to say that every young hockey player growing up has the dream of one day playing in the NHL, and for a few special Warriors Alumni, this dream became a reality during the 2013-14 season.
As we mentioned earlier, Colton Sissons and Nathan Lieuwen found themselves both living out this childhood dream with the Nashville Predators and Buffalo Sabers respectively.
Both players moved on from the Warriors to have solid careers in the WHL, where they were drafted to the NHL in the 2nd and 6th rounds. “Sissor” assisted on a goal during his NHL debut, while “Lieuwy” made 23 saves in his debut.
Justin Schultz, with the Edmonton Oilers, recorded 32 points in 72 games during his second season and has developed into one of the anchors on the Oilers blueline.
Justin continues to play a massive part in the West Kelowna community, by giving back to the Warriors and minor hockey association on a consistent basis.
Former Warrior Ben Betker also joined the Edmonton Oilers after being drafted by the club in the 6th round of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.
Teaming up with Tim Hortons and numerous other sponsors, the Warriors and the alumni hosted inaugural Warriors Alumni Weekend from June 1 to 3, 2013. The weekend was a great success.
Many familiar Warriors Alumni faces found themselves lacing up the blades once again at Royal LePage Place for the Alumni Hockey Game, then moving over to Two Eagles Golf Club for the Texas Scramble Golf Tournament.
The Warriors team and the Alumni raised more than $6,000 for local causes from the weekend, assisting the West Kelowna Community Food Bank, West Kelowna Minor Hockey, West Kelowna Kid Sport and the Warriors Alumni Fund.
From the Alumni Fund, two $500 scholarships were awarded, one to a graduating West Kelowna Warrior and one to a graduated Warrior attending post-secondary education.
The 2014 Warriors Alumni & Tim Hortons Scholarship winner’s were junior Alex Grieve from the Bentley Falcons (NCAA Division 1) and graduating Warrior Adam Plant set to play for the Harvard Crimson (NCAA Division 1).
As members of the Warriors Alumni continue to travel on different paths of life, one thing will always remain among them, the Warriors bond.
All Warriors Alumni members remain grateful for what the organization, community and inherent friendships have taught them, helping them to blossom from boys to men.
Welcome to the Warriors Alumni this year: Tyson Dallman, Reid Simmonds, Taki Pantziris, Ryan Fraser-Lee, Braden Pears, Brennan Clark, Carl Hesler, Seb Lloyd, Adam Plant, David Pope and Ben Tegtmeyer.
Tyler Krause and Joel Woznikoski are both former West Kelowna Warriors.