The West Kelowna Warriors look to continue their hot play on home ice as they aim for an eighth straight win at home with a big divisional game against the Vernon Vipers on Friday night at Royal LePage Place.
Friday, September 17th @ Royal LePage Place (3-1 Warriors) (BOXSCORE)
Saturday, October 8th @ Royal LePage Place (3-2 Vipers) (BOXSCORE)
Friday, November 18th @ Royal LePage Place (3-2 Warriors/OT) (BOXSCORE)
Friday, December 2nd @ Kal Tire Place (6-1 Vipers) (BOXSCORE)
Friday, January 20th @ Royal LePage Place (7:00 PM)
Wednesday, February 1st @ Kal Tire Place (7:00 PM)
Saturday, February 11th @ Kal Tire Place (6:00 PM)
The Warriors and Vipers have played four of the seven meetings slated against each other so far this season with each team owning two victories. Their latest game happened over a month and a half ago at Kal Tire Place in Vernon with the Vipers picking up a 6-1 victory. Michael Ryan opened the scoring as the two teams were close after 40 minutes with the Vipers ahead by a goal before a four-goal third period turned the game into a bit of a lopsided score. Nik Amundrud made the start for the Warriors in the game and made 42 saves on 48 attempts toward the goal the losing effort.
The Warriors enter Friday night’s action against the Vipers after a pair of wins last weekend on home ice which extended their winning streak at RLP to seven games. The Warriors picked up a 5-2 win over the Surrey Eagles on Friday night before earning a 7-3 victory against the Cowichan Valley Capitals. Connor Sodergren led the charge with a goal and five points while Jared Marino, Chase Stevenson, Nick Rutigliano, Quin Foreman, Michael Ryan and Jordan Todd added goals in the Warriors best offensive output of the season. The goal by Todd, the West Kelowna product, marked his first in the BCHL. Cole Demers started the game in the blue paint for the Warriors and earned his 6th victory of the season and 3rd as a member of the Warriors with 19 saves on 22 shots.
Speaking of the 17-year-old Demers, he is the likely starter for tonight’s game in between the pipes for the Warriors and will make his first start against his former team in the likes of the Vipers. In his time with Vernon to begin the season, the North Vancouver native played in 12 games with a 3-8-0 record to go along with a 3.20 GAA and a .905 save percentage. With his new team, Demers has played in four games with a 3-1-0 record and an outstanding 2.01 GAA with a sparkling .941 SV% so far with the Warriors.
The recent tear of Warriors forward Connor Sodergren carried on into last weekend as the Tewksbury, Massachusetts earned an honourable mention for the BCHL’s Player of the Week award for a second straight week. The 20-year-old has points in 11 of his last 13 games along with a five-game point streak in which he has goals in each of the five games and seven in that span to go along with seven assists and 12 points. In addition to the recent hot streak, tonight’s game will mark career game number 100 in the regular season for Sodergren in the BCHL. Over his prior 99 games in the league, Connor has 27 goals and 76 points along with 98 penalty minutes.
The Warriors have only five games remaining on home ice but they have made their time at Royal LePage Place worthwhile over the past month as they have won seven games in a row on home ice. West Kelowna has outscored their opponents at RLP by a 30-12 score over the past seven games and won’t play at home again until Saturday, February 4th, making these points very valuable done the stretch. The Warriors sit tied for fourth in the BCHL with 15 home ice victories in 24 games in West Kelowna.
The Vernon Vipers have been one of the BCHL’s hottest teams over the last 10 games but have faltered a tad with back-to-back losses on home ice to the Merritt Centennials. On Saturday night, the Cents earned a 2-1 double overtime victory before the two teams met up for a rematch on Wednesday night at Kal Tire Place. Hunter Zandee tallied twice in the game along with Steven Jandric and Austin Adamson for the Vipers but a three-goal third period for Merritt gave the visitors a 5-4 win.
How hot have the Vipers been? Since the start of December, Vernon has earned a point in 11 of 13 games, winning 7 of those games while tying three of them and losing one in overtime. The loss to Merritt on Wednesday snapped an 11-game stretch of earning at least a point and have a five-point lead on the Warriors for 2nd place in the Interior Division. What’s even better for the Vipers is that 12 of their last 14 games will be played at Kal Tire Place and Vernon has been dominant at home this season with an 11-4-1-2 record in 18 games on home ice.
The Vipers sit 10th in scoring in the BCHL and have sophomore Steven Jandric leading the team in goals with 19 and points with 36 in 43 games played this season. Another 2nd year forward in Brett Stapley leads the team in assists with 27 so far this season. The goaltending for the Vipers has been a big reason for their success with recently added netminder Darion Hanson having a solid first BCHL season as the 19-year-old owns a 11-1-1 record along with a 1.91 GAA and a dazzling .938 SV%. The East Bethel, Minnesota native has not allowed more than three goals in any of his 11 appearances in a Vipers jersey this season.
The recent success of the Vipers has been all the more impressive with a couple of key injuries and a departure of the teams 7th leading scorer. Viper captain Riley Brandt has been sidelined for a couple of weeks with an injury and is always a spark plug for the Vipers along with forward Luke Gingras who is also sidelined right now. The departure from the team comes in the form of forward Christian Cakebread, who left with 9 goals and 20 points, as he left to play NCAA hockey at Niagara University for the remainder of the season and the foreseeable future.
The puck drops at 7:00 PM at Royal LePage Place with tickets available for purchase at the Warriors office or by calling Kim at (250) 769-7051. Tonight’s game is the last at RLP for the Warriors until Saturday, February 4th when they welcome the Coquitlam Express to town. The Warriors embark on a six-game road trip after tonight’s game opening in Penticton Saturday night against the Vees for a 6:00 PM face-off.