After missing the B.C. Hockey League playoffs last year the West Kelowna Warriors will be back in the second season this year after clinching a BCHL Interior Division playoff spot on the weekend.
The Warriors picked up three of a possible six points on a weekend Coastal Division road trip after a loss, a win and an overtime loss in Chilliwack, Powell River and Alberni Valley on the weekend.
The win in Powell River on Saturday clinched a trip into the post-season for the third place Warriors who improved to 24-13-2-9 on the season and clinched a playoff spot with seven games remaining in the regular season.
“It’s huge for us,” said Warriors captain Max French after the team clinched with a win in Powell River. “It’s nice to have a bounce-back year, and to be able to clinch with some games left in the season. Now we have to get the ball rolling and put together some streaks and really get rolling.”
It appears as if the Warriors will play the Merritt Centennials in the first round of the playoffs, although technically the Cents could still pass Penticton for first place in the Interior.
Barring a Penticton collapse however, the Warriors and Centennials will meet in the first round of the playoffs. Merritt is currently five points ahead of West Kelowna and the series would start in Merritt if it were to start today. However the teams will play three more times in the regular season, so anything can still happen. Regardless it should be a good series with two hard working teams.
“I like the match-up,” said Warriors coach Rylan Ferster. “They are an extremely hard working team that is very structured and plays to its strengths. I think our team works hard and has a lot of character and we play a good structured game as well. When we are healthy we have some real depth and a lot of character and that’s what you need to be successful.”
The Warriors next game is Saturday in Merritt before it hosts the Vernon Vipers a week from Tuesday.
West Kelowna appears to be getting healthy as the playoffs approach as well as forward Brett McKinnon (upper body) appears close to returning after a long absence. With the BCHL playoffs now less than a month away, the Warriors will be looking to sharpen its game the rest of the way.
“You’re going to have four really good teams make the playoffs,” said Ferster. “That’s a good and bad thing. The good thing is that the first round is outstanding for the fans. The bad thing is you have have a really good season and be out real quick.”