The West Kelowna Warriors open one of their toughest stretches of hockey this season with a three-game road trip that starts at the Q Centre on Friday night with a matchup against the Island Division leading Victoria Grizzlies.
Friday, January 27th @ The Q Centre (7:00 PM)
Saturday, February 18th @ Royal LePage Place (7:00 PM)
The Warriors come into Friday night’s contest with losses in back-to-back games as they dropped a 2-1 score on last Friday against the Vernon Vipers before falling on Saturday in Penticton to the Vees by a 4-2 score. Connor Sodergren opened the scoring in the 2nd period with his 20th goal of the season while Chase Stevenson tied the game early in the 3rd but the Vees scored two goals shortly after that for the win. Gabriel Morency got the call in the Warriors crease on Saturday and made 30 saves on 34 shots in the losing effort.
The Warriors and Grizzlies battle for the first time in the season series on Friday night as both teams will meet up again on February 18th in West Kelowna. The Warriors hope this season series goes the same as last season’s as West-K won both of their meetings against the Grizzlies in last year’s seasonal series. The first came in the way of a 4-2 victory on October 25th at Royal LePage Place before the season series came to an end in Victoria with a 5-3 Warriors victory.
A road trip to Vancouver Island may do some good for the Warriors, although it will be a very tough trip as they play the top two teams in the Island Division and the 2ndplace team in the Mainland Division. West Kelowna is 14-4-0-0 over the last 18 games against the Island Division, including a 6-1-0-0 record against their foes from the Island this season. In addition to that record, the Warriors have won their last four games against the Grizzlies spanning over the last two seasons.
Parm Dhaliwal is set for a busy end to his week as the Warriors 17-year-old forward participated in the Canadian Junior Hockey League (CJHL) Prospects Game that took place on Wednesday in Cornwall, Ontario before meeting the team in Victoria for the weekend set of three games. The Surrey, BC native was held pointless in the Prospects Game that was held with 40 of the top NHL Draft eligible players in the CJHL but Dhaliwal has had a solid rookie season in the BCHL with three goals and 21 points in 38 games played.
The Warriors come into the weekend battered and bruised as they will be without six regulars for the three games away from home. Chase Stevenson, who is suspended for four games after a checking from behind major penalty taken in Saturday’s loss to Penticton, joins Cavin Tilsley, Nick Rutigliano, Jonas Gordon, Jake Harrison and Peter Tomaras as Warriors who are out for the weekend as the injury bug has hit the club. This means the Warriors will use five affiliate players this weekend in the likes of 17-year-olds forward Jordan Robinson and defenseman Wyatt Head from the Okanagan Rockets of the BC Major Midget League, 16-year-old defenseman Kabir Gill and 15-year-old forward Bryce Anderson from the Valley West Hawks of the BCMML and 18-year-old forward Jon Vandermolen from the Revelstoke Grizzlies of the KIJHL.
The Victoria Grizzlies enter Friday night with a 30-10-4-3 record and sit in 1st in the Island Division with 67 points, six ahead of the Powell River Kings for the lead in the division. The “Grizz” have won their last three games with a pair of victories over the Cowichan Valley Capitals and most recently on Wednesday defeating the Alberni Valley Bulldogs by a 6-3 score in Port Alberni for their 3rd straight win. A pair of goals from Keyvan Mokhtari and Carter Berger each along with a single from Lucas Clark and a 23 save performance from Matthew Galajda earned the Grizzlies their 30th win of the season.
The Grizzlies sit fifth in the BCHL in scoring with 179 goals for in 47 games this season with forward Cole Pickup leading the way in points on the club. The University of Nebraska-Omaha leads the Grizzlies with 24 goals and 33 assists for 57 points, which ranks him 9th among league leaders in points. The 116 goals against for the Grizzlies that has them in 2nd in the BCHL in that category due in large part to their goaltender Matthew Galajda. The 19-year-old is 2nd in both goals against (2.33) and save percentage (.922), behind the Vees Mat Robson, along with his 20 victories this season as the sophomore netminder is enjoying a fantastic 2nd year.
Victoria has been a tough place for teams to play over the course of the season as the Grizzlies have just four losses to 17 wins at The Q Centre and have won four of their last six games on home ice. What’s even better is how well the Grizzlies play against their own division as the Grizz hold a 21-4-2-1 record when playing their foes from Vancouver Island compared to just 2-2-0-2 against the Interior Division. Another big key to success for Victoria is scoring first in games as the Grizzlies are 23-3-3-2 when recording the game’s opening goal.
The Warriors and Grizzlies drop the puck at 7:00 PM with the pre-game show getting underway at 6:50 PM on the Warriors Internet Network and www.hockeytv.com. The Warriors continue their road trip with their lone stop at the Hap Parker Arena to face-off against the Powell River Kings. Puck drop is slated for 7:15 PM.