Strong Island trip boosts Warriors

After four-game slump, West Kelowna earns five of a possible six points on the road

If not for a couple of lapses on Saturday night, it could have been a perfect road trip for the West Kelowna Warriors.

As it was, Rylan Fertser’s squad earned five of a possible six points over the weekend on Vancouver Island to leapfrog from last to third place in the BCHL’s Interior Division.

Just as important, the points came on the heels of a four-game losing streak for the Warriors.

“Anytime you can go on road and you’re able to get wins on a tough place like the Island, you have to be happy,” said Ferster, the Warriors head coach and GM. “The unfortunate thing is, we could have had all six points. I know it sounds greedy, but it would have been nice to win them all.

“But if someone had told me before the trip we would get five out of six, I would have taken it.”

After a come-from-behind 4-3 win over the Nanaimo Clippers on Friday, the Warriors looked well on their way to a second straight victory on Saturday at Cowichan Valley. But West Kelowna yielded a pair of two-goal leads to the Capitals, eventually losing 6-5 in overtime.

On Sunday in Victoria, the Warriors fell behind 3-0 to the Grizzlies less than nine minutes into the game, but then rallied back for a 6-5 win.

In the end, it was positive way to finish off a largely positive weekend.

“That last game in Victoria was a character builder for us,” Ferster said. “We didn’t show up to start the game and could have easily just packed it in. You know, three games in 2 1/2 days…but I give the kids credit, they battled and got the win.”

The Warriors’s newest addition, forward Andrew Johnson, played a key role in Sunday’s victory, scoring twice, including the game winner in the third period.

The team’s new captain, Johnson, 20, came to the Warriors earlier this month with four-plus seasons of WHL experience.

“It’s been a huge addition for us,” said Ferster. “(Johnson) is such a calming presence, he’s got a ton of experience in the Western Hockey League, and he competes. He’s a 200-foot guy who shows up every day. It’s nice to get all those things from one player.”

As for the Interior Division race, Ferster can’t remember a tighter scenario than the one that’s been unfolding so far in 2014-15. A mere two points separates the second and fifth place teams.

“It’s so tight, if you have a bad weekend you can find yourself in last place,” said Ferster. “We left on the trip in last place and came back in third. Our goal is to just stay in the hunt because every team in our division is a good team.”

The Warriors return to action on Halloween night when they travel to Salmon Arm to play the Silver Backs in the first of a home-and-home set between the clubs.

The teams will meet again Saturday, 7 p.m. at Royal LePage Place.