As always, the ultimate goal for the West Kelowna Warriors—and every other BCHL club—is to make it to the Royal Bank Cup.
And while the Warriors fell short of qualifying for their first ever Canadian junior A championship in 2012-13, it was still a season of many positives for Rylan Ferster’s club.
West Kelowna’s campaign for a B.C. Hockey League title was halted on Thursday with a 2-1 overtime loss to the defending champs, as the Penticton Vees took the Interior Conference final series in five games.
“It still stings, you’re never happy with losing your final game of the season,” said Ferster, in his second year as the BCHL team’s coach and GM.
“But if we look at this season from start to finish, we have to be pretty happy. We moved a lot of kids on to college, and our record after Christmas was very good. To get to the final four was nice, too, it was good for the program.”
At the end of the regular season, the Warriors (31-13-3-9) finished just two points back of Penticton for top spot in the Interior Conference.
Following some key moves at the trade deadline, the Warriors were among BCHL’s best teams down the stretch, posting an eye-popping 18-2-2 record since the start of 2013.
West Kelowna also tied for the fewest regulation losses (13) with Surrey and Victoria.
All of this despite battling injuries from the first drop of the puck this season. Not once in 66 games, regular season and playoffs combined, were the Warriors able to dress their top 20 players.
“Every team goes through key injuries, but I think we had it worse than most,” said Ferster. “We didn’t have Brett McKinnon (concussion) for most of the year and that was a blow for us.
“But through it all, our guys bent but never broke. They just hung in there and did what they had to do.”
The Warriors have bid farewell to six 20-year-old graduates, including captain Max French, while 19-year-olds Marcus Basara (Alaska-Fairbanks) and Mitch Nardi (Lake Superior) will leave to pursue educations in the NCAA.
While he admits the eight players will all be missed, Ferster said heavy turnover is simply an inevitable fact of junior A hockey.
On the upside, Ferster said the Warriors should have a solid core to build around for 2013-14.
“Some of our best players are still young. Seb Lloyd, David Pope, Ambrose Firkus, Adam Plant, Matt Anholt…that’s a pretty good group of young guys.”
Ferster and his staff will be looking for more prospective young talent when the Warriors host their annual spring April 19 to 21, with more than 150 players expected to attend.
For more information on the camp, visit westkelownawarriors.com