The decision to play in OMAHA’s bantam Tier 1 division this year has been a boon for the Westside Warriors top bantam team as it gets set to begin the playoffs.
The bantam Warriors are coming off a silver medal showing at last weekend’s International Children’s Winter Games in Kelowna, where they lost just twice, both times to the Pursuit of Excellence, en route to the second place showing.
“It was good for our kids,” said head coach Larry Keating.
“We had five games and they were all highly competitive games. We saw great competition and we had great discipline.”
During the tournament, the Warriors also played Innsbruck, Austria, who along with the other European team from Germany, were weaker than the rest of the teams from Kelowna, Windsor, Penticton, and Coquitlam.
During that game the Warriors dominated but also showed class when they gave the team a set of jerseys as a gift.
“You have to show class and appreciation to those kids who were trying their hardest,” said Keating, whose team received Austrian jerseys in exchange, then wore them out of their dressing room at the end of the game.
“It was great,” said Keating. “The whole tournament was fantastic. It was great for the Okanagan.”
The Warriors are now getting set for the second round of the playoffs in OMAHA’s bantam Tier 1 division.
The dates have not been finalized but the team will face Kelowna’s Tier 1 team, a familiar foe who they have split the season series with each team winning once as well as tying once.
“They’re strong,” said Keating. “We’re going to have to be on our A game. Kelowna has a good team and we’re not taking anything for granted. We ended up below them in the standings so we’re the underdog.”
The two teams are fairly evenly matched with the Warriors finishing at 7-7-1 and Kelowna a point ahead of Westside at 7-6-2 in league play. Penticton and Vernon are playing this weekend with the winner advancing to meet Kamloops, which was the powerhouse of the division at 13-1-1.
The bantam Warriors opted to play up a level from its Tier 2 association and Keating says it was a good move for the talented team.
“I can’t praise them enough for their attitudes and work ethic to get to where they wanted to this season,” said Keating.
“They really wanted to play competitive hockey and it’s been a great season.”
The Warriors have plenty of hockey still to play even if they don’t advance to the provincials.
They will play in the Westside Warriors prospect camp tournament and have also been accepted into the Kamloops International Bantam Tournament April 6 to 11.