The West Kelowna Warriors raised the banner on their 2016/17 BCHL regular season with a 3-1 win over the Trail Smoke Eaters last night.
I apologize for not blogging as much recently, it’s been a busy week but I will do my best to get back into the swing of things.
1) BANNER RAISING
The night started off with the raising of the Warriors four championship banners to commemorate their season from a year ago. The crowd of 1,389 was treated to a terrific pre game ceremony as well as having the captains skate on the ice with each of the trophies from last season. Quin Foreman and Connor Sodergren carried in the Fred Page Cup, Tyler Anderson has the Western Canada Cup and captain Nicholas Rutigliano held the RBC Cup.
Matt Greenfield was on hand to catch the ceremony and take part in the ceremonial puck drop at centre ice. Pastor Don Richmond did a wonderful job with the national anthem before the puck hit the ice for the start of the 2016/17 BCHL regular season. It was great to see such a large crowd at RLP and the excitement that that championship has brought the entire city. I’m hoping this atmosphere and enthusiasm will last throughout the duration of the regular season.
2) BACKBONE OF THE NIGHT
Warrior fans will know this well that a good defense is the first part of a championship caliber team and it just so happens that the biggest strength of this year’s squad is their backend. The d-men played excellent last night, limiting Trail to 25 shots (and to just 12 in the final two periods of play) and scoring two of the three goals. Jake Harrison, the first goal scorer, moved the puck very well on the power play and looked in midseason form last night. Michael Ryan, with the game winning goal, was very strong in his BCHL debut and went over the glove of Zach Dyment for his first career BCHL goal.
The veteran defense of Tyler Anderson, Nick Rutigliano and Stephen Kleysen were outstanding in protecting their end of the ice and making life easier for Shane Farkas to stop 24 of 25 shots for his first BCHL win. The youngster Matt Monk got involved as well, getting into a scrap in the third period against Spencer McLean and held his own quite nicely.
3) SHUTTING DOWN THE SMOKIES
As mentioned, the Warriors did an excellent job at limiting the Smoke Eaters chances after the 1st period. The shots on goal were tied 13-13 after 20 minutes before West Kelowna would go on to outshoot Trail 24-12 in the final 40 minutes of the game and didn’t really give the Smokies any chance of gaining momentum. The Warriors got better as the game went on and their 3rd period was their best one, of course with the goals from Ryan and Gunville’s insurance marker to cap off the 3-1 win.
What impressed me the most, even was the game was tied and then the Warriors went ahead, was their composure. West-K only took two penalties in the entire game while Trail took four, including a checking from behind penalty with 1:28 to go in the game. The Warriors kept an even keel and will have to do the same tonight when the scene shifts to Cominco Arena.
Speaking of that, the Warriors and Smokies will do it all again tonight in Trail. West Kelowna went a perfect 6 for 6 against the Smoke Eaters last season and have gotten off on the right foot this year with a 1-0 record against them after the first game.
The defending national champs will be without forwards Parn Dhaliwal and Mitch Martan tonight as both sustained injuries in last night’s game which draw in seven defensemen for tonight meaning that Daly Hamilton will make his BCHL debut. That would put the Warriors at 11 forwards and 7 D for the night and it’s unknown as of yet if they plan on calling up an AP or not.
Shane Farkas will get back into the Warrior goal tonight in a tough environment to play in, especially for first time players in Cominco Arena. Luckily for the Warriors, they have seen a similar building just a week ago when they played in the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena in Merritt and the dimensions of the two rinks are very much the same. Crazy things can and have happened in Trail with lively end boards and strange careems so Farkas, and the rest of the Warriors, will have to be on their toes the entire night.
The game is slated for puck drop at 7:00 PM but may be a bit behind due to it being the Smokies home opener but I will be on the call at 6:50 PM to watch on pay-per-view FASTHockey.com or listen live and for free on the Warriors Internet Network.