The West Kelowna Warriors head into the B.C. Hockey League playoffs this weekend playing what might be their best hockey of the season.
The Warriors have won four straight games, including three on a Coastal Conference road trip last weekend that saw them pass Merritt for second place in the BCHL Interior Division, earning the Warriors home ice advantage in the first round playoff series between the two teams.
West Kelowna and Merritt meet tonight (Friday) and Saturday night at Royal LePage Place, beginning a best-of-seven playoff series between the two teams.
“We’ve had a great finish and and I think the team has picked up some confidence down the stretch and since the trade deadline,” said Warriors captain Max French. “Our last road trip was a good character road trip. We won three times and we had to battle from behind in those games. Those are the types of wins we are going to need in the playoffs.”
The Warriors (30-13-4-9) handled the Centennials (31-17-3-5) quite easily in the season series between the two teams, winning six games and tying another. However French said they are a hard-working team that is tough to play against, especially in their own building.
“We’ve had a really good record against them,” he said. “We had some success but playoffs is a different ball game. They work hard, they get pucks to the net and they crash and bang. But if we play the way we have all year I think we can have success.”
The Warriors finished the season three points ahead of Merritt, earning them the home ice advantage in the series. French says starting at home is important.
“It was huge to pass them,” he said. “Anytime you can play at home is huge. Especially going into Merritt. It’s a smaller rink and a tough place to play. There is no doubt in our minds that we have the talent and the work ethic. We just have to keep working hard and things will go our way.
After the first two games of the series this weekend in West Kelowna, the two teams will travel to Merritt for games three and four in the series Monday and Tuesday. Game five, if necessary, will be in West Kelowna on Thursday with game six slated for Merritt next Friday. A deciding game seven would be played at Royal LePage Place Sunday March 24.
The other first round playoff series in the BCHL Interior pits first place Penticton (35-16-0-5) against fourth place Salmon Arm (26-24-2-4). •••
The Warriors are sending fan buses to Merritt for playoff games there. The buses will be leaving for Merritt from Kelly O’s at 5:25 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday. To book your seat email Andrew Deans at firstname.lastname@example.org