The West Kelowna Warriors have a chance beginning this weekend to exorcise some B.C. Hockey League demons as the team will hit the ice in the BCHL Interior Conference final series against its biggest rival, the Penticton Vees.
The Warriors and Vees finished the season just two points apart in the standings, but the Vees held the advantage in the season series, winning six times and losing just once.
More than that the Vees—the defending RBC Royal Bank Cup champions—have been a thorn in the Warriors side ever since the Warriors arrived in the Okanagan in 2006, dominating West Kelowna in regular season and playoffs alike.
As a long time BCHL coach, Warriors bench boss Rylan Ferster is aware of the history, but says his team is focussed on just one game at a time, with the series to start Friday night at the South Okanagan Events Centre in Penticton.
“It’s been well-documented what’s gone on between Penticton and West Kelowna but if you get caught up in the history you lose focus,” said Ferster. “We are at a point right now where we are trying to win four games and no matter how we get there, that’s the most important thing. We know who we are playing and we have all the respect in the world for them. They are a very good team. But I think our guys are ready to play.”
The Warriors dispatched Merritt in five games to advance to the Interior final while the Vees swept Salmon Arm in four straight, setting up the BCHL final between the two close rivals.
The first two games of the series are tonight and Saturday in Penticton before the series shifts to West Kelowna on Monday and Tuesday nights.
The Warriors lone win against the Vees came in Penticton while two of the Warriors’ losses were in overtime as the team’s played a competitive season series.
West Kelowna heads into the series with some injury concerns. Ferster says he expects David Pope and Ben Tegtmeyer to be available for this weekend’s games while Mitch Nardi and Brett McKinnon both remain sidelined.
Ferster says the Warriors must stay out of the penalty box and remain committed to the team’s systems.
“We have to be disciplined,” he said. “They have excellent team speed and a lot of skill. You have to be disciplined not only for the special teams battle but in our game too.”
With the first two games in the series in Penticton tonight and Saturday, Royal LePage Place will play host to games three and four Monday and Tuesday.