With just six points separating the third place West Kelowna Warriors from the last place Vernon Vipers, every game in the B.C. Hockey League’s Interior Conference has taken on added importance with the calendar switching over to 2013 and the final two months of the regular season.
The Warriors (13-11-2-7) currently sit in third place but are just a single point ahead of Salmon Arm, two points ahead of Trail and six ahead of the Vipers as the Warriors get set for a pair of games this weekend.
Only the top four teams in the Interior will make the BCHL playoffs.
West Kelowna will host Cowichan Valley at Royal LePage Place on Friday night before traveling to Vernon on Saturday night.
“Things always tighten up after Christmas,” said Warriors’ head coach Rylan Ferster. “Games are going to be closer than they were and you have to be ready on a nightly basis to battle and compete and try to win games 2-1 or 3-2. Playoff lives are on the line and if you have a bad weekend you can be out of the playoff picture.”
The Warriors closed out 2012 by splitting a pair of games with first place Penticton last weekend, winning 5-2 in Penticton before losing 4-2 back home in West Kelowna.
The win in Penticton was the first victory for the Warriors in 15 games against the Vees and the first win since 2010 at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
“It was a big two points for us,” said Ferster. “We played real well in Penticton. The next night it was a real good game, we just gave up a couple in the third period.”
The Warriors remain banged up and played the weekend without three of its top six forwards as Brett McKinnon, Amrose Firkus and David Pope were all out of the lineup as were fowards Brent Lashuck and Adam Plant.
The only player expected to return from the injured list this weekend is Pope.
Three Warriors secured NCAA college commitments over the holidays as Seb Lloyd and David Pope joined Josh Monk as the most recent Warriors to find a place to play following their junior careers. Lloyd has committed to Harvard while Monk has accepted a scholarship to the University of Nebraska-Omaha. Earlier in December Monk signed with Providence.