In his third and final season in West Kelowna, Liam Blackburn is finally getting a chance to play hockey into the month of April.
It’s been well worth the wait for the 19-year-old forward from Prince George who is enjoying the extended playoff journey this spring with his Warriors’ teammates.
Now, Blackburn and the Warriors are trying to break new ground at least one more time by qualifying for the BCHL championship series.
“It’s been great to be part of the growth of the team the last few seasons, to be part of making history,” said Blackburn, one of just three players who is in his third season with the BCHL club. The others are forwards Kylar Hope and Brett Mennear.
“Chances like this don’t come too often and the guys have done a great job so far,” he added. “Winning that first division title was pretty special for the staff and everyone with the team. Hopefully we can keep it going.”
The Warriors entered new territory last weekend by defeating the rival Penticton Vees in six games, earning the organization its first Interior Division banner in 10 seasons since moving to the Okanagan.
Blackburn said team unity, experience and size have all played into the Warriors’ success to date in 2015-16.
“We’re definitely a bigger, older and more experienced team than we’ve had since I’ve been here, and we have great leadership,” said Blackburn, who has 66 goals and 190 points in 160 career games with West Kelowna. “We can outmuscle teams and play physical, so that’s been a real strength.
“We’re a really close group, too, up and down the roster,” added Blackburn, who will attend the University of New Hampshire next season. “I think that shows on the ice.”
Blackburn said some key acquisitions by coach and GM Rylan Ferster have helped transform the Warriors into a more complete team, including the additions of imposing forwards Bryan Basilico and Jake Lebrun, and goaltender Matthew Greenfield.
“Picking up Matty (Greenfield) has been key for us,” Blackburn said. “He’s been stellar in the playoffs.”
Blackburn and the Warriors got off to a good start in the third round of the postseason—a three-team double round robin—with a 5-1 win over Chilliwack on Tuesday night.
Tonight, West Kelowna will host the Nanaimo Clippers. Face off at Royal LePage Place is 7 p.m.
The first two teams to reach three victories will advance to the BCHL final.