The West Kelowna Warriors begin a big home-and-home series on Friday night when they host the Merritt Centennials at Royal LePage Place on the 6th annual Pastor Don’s Christmas Hamper Night.
Tuesday, September 27th @ Royal LePage Place (5-1 Centennials) (BOXSCORE)
Friday, December 9th @ Royal LePage Place (7:00 PM)
Saturday, December 10th @ Nicola Valley Memorial Arena (7:00 PM)
Friday, January 6th @ Royal LePage Place (7:00 PM)
Saturday, January 7th @ Nicola Valley Memorial Arena (8:00 PM)
Friday, February 3rd @ Nicola Valley Memorial Arena (7:00 PM)
Friday, February 24th @ Nicola Valley Memorial Arena (7:30 PM)
The Warriors come into Friday night’s contest after a comeback bid that fell just short on Tuesday night, dropping a 4-3 decision to the Salmon Arm Silverbacks at Royal LePage Place. Stephen Kleysen opened the scoring but the ‘Backs followed that with four unanswered goals to take a 4-1 lead in the third period. Braiden Epp and Michael Ryan tallied in the 3rd period to make it a close finish but the Silverbacks would come away with the win. Nik Amundrud made 29 saves on 33 shots in the losing cause, his 5th loss of the season.
The Warriors and Centennials haven’t met since September 27th, a 111-day layoff since the Cents defeated the Warriors 5-1 on that Tuesday night at RLP. Connor Sodergren scored the lone goal on that night for the Warriors while Xavier Burgart made 27 saves on 33 shots in the Warriors net.
West Kelowna has enjoyed some offensive success in the form of secondary scoring over the last few games. Defensemen Stephen Kleysen is on quite the roll right now, scoring on a gorgeous wrist shot to give the Warriors the lead. The Winnipeg native has points in three straight games with two goals and five points in that span. Warriors forward Braiden Epp is also on a bit of a roll as of late, scoring in back-to-back games and has points in five of his last seven games (3-3-6).
Special teams will be a big key for Friday night’s affair and the Warriors will have to be careful to stay on the right side of the law, so to speak. The Cents power play is ranked first in the BCHL at just over 29%, a unit that is to not be messed with. The Warriors power play has started to find a bit of a groove it seems, as they have four goals over the last three games on the man advantage, along with Epp leading the charge on with a man up with 4 power play goals.
The Achilles heel of the Warriors the past few seasons has come in the form of the Centennials as West Kelowna has just struggled whenever matching up against their foes from up the Coquihalla. The Warriors hold a record of 4-8-0-3 over their last 15 regular season matchups with the Cents, spanning over a three season period (including their one loss to Merritt earlier this season).
The Merritt Centennials come into this weekend’s set winners of three of their last four games with victories over Surrey, Trail and the latest against Victoria last Saturday, the lone game of the weekend for the Cents. The win was the 12th of the season for the Centennials, a 3-2 overtime victory against the Island Division’s top team in the Victoria Grizzlies. Zach Risteau and Zachary Zorn scored in regulation before Zach Metsa tallied his first BCHL goal just 27 seconds into overtime for the win. Jacob Berger was excellent in goal for the Cents, making 35 saves on 37 shots for his 10th win of the season.
Speaking of Berger, the Minnetonka, Minnesota native has been outstanding over his last three games. Berger has wins in all three games with a 2.33 goals against average and a .944 save percentage in that time, including a big 48 save effort on November 26th in Trail against the Smoke Eaters. The Cents sit 7th in the BCHL with just 99 goals against in their 30 games played and Berger has played a key role in that with his .919 SV% sitting 4th in the league amongst qualified goaltenders with at least 600 minutes played.
The Cents will be playing the weekend a bit shorthanded as their leading scorer Michael Regush, leading the team with 11 goals and 25 points, as he is off with Canada West at the World Junior ‘A’ Challenge in Bonnyville, Alberta. Second year standout forward Tyler Ward also looks like he will be out of action as he is on the injured reserve with 16 games under his belt this season with seven goals and 12 points.
Zach Risteau has been one of the impressive mid-season additions for Joe Martin’s squad thus far. He had a goal and an assist in his first game as a Centennial at Royal LePage Place. The Lakeville, Minnesota native has 14 goals and 23 points in 25 games this year and also leads the team with 6 power play goals. The 18-year-old is the owner of a four-game point streak with five goals (scoring in each of the four games) and an assist for six points during the stretch.
The puck drops at 7:00 PM from Royal LePage Place with tickets available at the Warriors office and by calling Kim at (250) 769-7051. The game has special meaning as it is the 6th annual Pastor Don’s Christmas Hamper Drive sponsored by Real Canadian Superstore. Fans are encouraged to bring cash donations to the game for Warriors chaplain Pastor Don Richmond with hampers being made by the team on Monday.