Warriors defenceman Andrew Viggars’ return to the lineup didn’t lift the Warriors in the loss to Meritt. Photo: Garrett James

West Kelowna Warriors prepare for BCHL playoffs

The Warriors’ last home game is Feb. 22, with last game of season Feb. 23

The West Kelowna Warriors aim to end their season on the right foot this weekend. They will get little rest as the playoffs are set to start a week after the Warriors’ final two games against the Trail Smoke Eaters.

“Trail is playing some really good hockey right now,” said Warriors’ assistant coach Matt Miller. “Now we have to get back to playing good hockey ourselves. It’s going to be a tough weekend, both teams are fighting for a (better) playoff position. It won’t be easy, but that’s the test we need going into the playoffs.”

West Kelowna had a late collapse in a 4-1 lost to the Merritt Centennials on Feb. 19. Merritt has one of the hottest teams in the BCHL, but the Warriors were right behind them up until the third period, when West Kelowna forfeited some penalties that gifted the Cents the lopsided win.

“We had a good 40 minutes in Merritt, but we need to focus on a full 60, especially heading into the playoffs. We got to find our game, and the last two games are important,” said Miller.

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After an interesting year, the West Kelowna Warriors will finish near the bottom in the Interior division of the BCHL, but as hockey fans know, anything can happen in the playoffs.

The Warriors will need the best play from all their players heading into the last two games of the regular season, and then into the playoffs. Most notably, leading Warriors’ scorer Mike Hardman, who’s been nominated for the BCHL’s Bob Fenton Trophy for most sportsmanlike player in the league, will need to maintain his hot hand for the playoffs. Warriors’ goalies Connor Hopkins and Brock Baier will need to play their best hockey as well when the BCHL playoffs start March 1.

“Hardman will be a playoff player, he’s got that intensity,” said Miller. “And our two goalies are looking to find some wins and gain confidence, but we trust both of them, and when they (play well), our defence will take it from there.”

The Warriors host the Trail Smoke Eaters Feb. 22 for their last home game of the season, and then finish the campaign in Trail the next night.

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