Having been stretched to seven games in the first round of the B.C. Hockey League playoffs, the Westside Warriors succumbed to the Vernon Vipers in six games in the second round.
The Warriors lost the final two games of the series, including 2-1 at home on Tuesday night, as the Vipers advanced to the BCHL Interior Conference final against Salmon Arm.
“We’re a pretty deep team but seven games against Trail and then we had some injuries and a suspension,” said Warriors coach Darren Yopyk. “Our conference is very strong, the strongest in Canada I believe, and some good teams have to lose. Unfortunately we grabbed the losing stick but I’m proud of our guys.”
Five Warriors will graduate from junior hockey including captain Alex Grieve and forwards Kyle Singleton and Quinn Gould, a trio that has been together for most of three years. Local product Tyler French and Matt Maher are also finished as 20-year-olds.
“Those five guys are going to be missed,” said Yopyk. “I told them that West Kelowna and the Warriors organization are better for what they have done for this team and this community.”
A total of 13 Warriors players have NCAA scholarship commitments but, along with the 20-year-olds, just three of the players will be gone next year for sure, said Yopyk as Grayson Downing, Tyler Brickler and Tom Kroshus will begin college hockey careers. That leaves 15 players eligible to return next year.
“The loss still hurts but a program is about a lot of things,” said Yopyk. “I thought we played pretty good all year, battled hard and provided entertainment. When you have 13 guys with scholarships, that’s what our league is about. I think all of our guys got better as players and as people.”
Salmon Arm and Vernon begin their best of seven Interior Conference final on Friday night while Surrey and Powell River will meet in the Coastal Conference final, also beginning Friday.