With the B.C. Hockey League’s top two teams included on the menu, the West Kelowna Warriors will kick off a three-game homestand Friday at Royal LePage Place.
The first course will be the Interior-rival Vernon Vipers with a 7 p.m. face-off.
The Warriors (9-11-1-0) have lost three straight games and are three points back of the third-place Vipers (10-11-2-0), but they do have three games in hand.
On Saturday, the Warriors will host the Mainland Division-leading Wenatchee Wild, followed by the Interior Division-leading Penticton Vees on Tuesday.
While it’s an important stretch of hockey for the Warriors, the BCHL’s new playoff format alleviates some of the day-to-day pressure on Rylan Ferster’s team.
Six teams from the Interior Division will qualify for the 2017 playoffs—unless the fifth place team in the Mainland Division has enough points to bump one club.
“You don’t want to fall too far back, but the new playoff structure does change things a little,” said Ferster, the Warriors’ coach and GM. “There’s a little more time to figure things out and mould your team. Every game is important, but this does give you some room.”
Injuries continue to dog the Warriors. The club’s top two puck moving defencemen, Michael Ryan and Jake Harrison, remain sidelined.
Harrison suffered a concussion after a check from Salmon Arm’s Landon Fuller on Nov. 2 at the Shaw Centre.
Fuller was assessed a two-minute hit-to-the head penalty, but wasn’t suspended by the BCHL.
“It’s unfortunate,” Fertser said. “The league loses a star player. I don’t make those decisions, but it leaves us shaking our heads.”
Warriors add two players…
The Warriors have acquired forward Cavin Tilsley (’98) from the Prince George Spruce Kings in exchange for future considerations.
Tilsley, 18, is a veteran of 78 BCHL games, spending the last two seasons with the Spruce Kings.
This season, Tilsley has two goals and nine points in 22 games with Prince George, coming off of a productive 2015-16 season that saw him tally 10 goals and 21 points in 56 games to go along with 83 penalty minutes.
The Delta native has ties to the Okanagan as he spent the 2013-14 season with the Pursuit of Excellence Hockey Academy before heading to the Fernie Ghostriders of the KIJHL in the 2014-15 season.
“Tilsley is a young veteran player,” said general manager and head coach Rylan Ferster, ”who is hard to play against and will be a nice addition for our hockey club.”
In a related move, the Warriors are pleased to announce the addition of goaltender Nik Amundrud (’97) from the Western Hockey League (WHL).
Amundrud, 19, split last season between the Saskatoon Blades and the Calgary Hitmen in the WHL, playing in 31 total games with a 13-12-0-1 record and a 3.17 GAA while amassing a .887 save rate.
The Melfort, SK native has ties to Junior A hockey with his father, Trevor, who spent the 1993-94 season with the Melfort Mustangs of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL).
“Adding a goalie like Nik with a lot of WHL experience at 19 is an nice piece to have a this time of the year,” continued Ferster.
Still recovering from an injury, Ferster said Amundrud is unlikely to be available this weekend.