Warriors, Cents Battle In Merritt With Playoff Implications

west-kelowna-shield-logo vs. merritt-centennials

The West Kelowna Warriors wrap up a six-game stretch away from Royal LePage Place as they head to the Nicola Valley to take on the Merritt Centennials in a big Interior Division matchup on Friday night.

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Season Series:

Tuesday, September 27th @ Royal LePage Place (5-1 Centennials) (BOXSCORE)

Friday, December 9th @ Royal LePage Place (3-2 Warriors/OT) (BOXSCORE)

Saturday, December 10th @ Nicola Valley Memorial Arena (4-2 Warriors) (BOXSCORE)

Friday, January 6th @ Royal LePage Place (4-1 Warriors) (BOXSCORE)

Saturday, January 7th @ Nicola Valley Memorial Arena (4-1 Warriors) (BOXSCORE)

Friday, February 3rd @ Nicola Valley Memorial Arena (7:00 PM)

Friday, February 24th @ Nicola Valley Memorial Arena (7:30 PM)

The Warriors enter Friday night’s game off of an impressive 4-3 overtime victory over the Vernon Vipers on Wednesday night at Kal Tire Place. West Kelowna tallied three times in the opening 10:17 of the game as Connor Sodergren, Braiden Epp and Quin Foreman each scored to put the Warriors ahead by a 3-1 score. Vernon answered with two goals to get the game into overtime where just 48 seconds into the extra period, Parm Dhaliwal chopped in his 4th goal of the season to give the Warriors a 4-3 overtime win. Cole Demers earned the start in goal and picked up 35 saves on 38 shots for his 7th victory of the season.

The Warriors and Centennials play in their 6th meeting of seven in the regular season with West Kelowna leading the season series 4-1. The latest game between the two, back on January 7th, was a 4-1 victory for the visiting club as Connor Sodergren tallied two third period goals while Chase Stevenson and Jake Harrison added singles in the win. Cole Demers got the start in between the pipes and was excellent in the game, stopping 34 of the 35 shots he faced on the night.

tale-of-the-tape-vs-mer-feb-3

Friday marked a milestone for the Warriors as forward Braiden Epp amassed 100 career points in the BCHL in his 201st regular season games. The Prince George, BC native paced the Warriors offense with a goal and two assists in the victory on Wednesday night in Vernon. Epp hit 100 career points on an assist of a Connor Sodergren first period goal and now has 54 career goals and 102 points over 201 career games. In 35 games with the Warriors this season, the former Prince George Spruce King has 13 goals and 22 points.

The Warriors do get some help on the injury front as a pair of players will return to the lineup as Chase Stevenson and Cavin Tilsley draw back in for the Warriors. Stevenson has missed the last four games due to a suspension while Tilsley has yet to play since January 7th against the Cents, a span of nine games, as he’s dealt with an illness. The Warriors will still be without captain Nicholas Rutigliano along with forwards Jared Marino and Peter Tomaras. The Warriors have called up 16-year-old defensemen Kabir Gill from the Valley West Hawks of the BC Major Midget League tonight as an affiliate player to help out on the back end.

The Warriors have had a bit of luck on their side when it comes to overtime so far this season as West Kelowna is tied for 2nd in the BCHL with six overtime victories, one of those coming back on December 9th against the Centennials. Parm Dhaliwal was the latest of what has been five different players to end the game in extra time. Only Connor Sodergren, with two, has earned more overtime winners than any one else on the team.

Friday night’s affair could pose some playoff implications as the Warriors sit just two points ahead of the Centennials as their 48 points is good enough for 4th place in the Interior Division. West Kelowna has eleven games remaining while Merritt has ten games left on their schedule making Friday night’s affair a valuable one to say the least. The two will meet one final time on February 24th in what could potentially be a playoff preview.

The Merritt Centennials enter Friday night with a 18-20-2-8 record and are winless in their last three games with losses to the Trail Smoke Eaters, Prince George Spruce Kings and most recently the Penticton Vees on Wednesday night, that being a 4-2 setback. Tyler Ward and Henry Cleghorn scored third period goals but it was too little, too late for the Cents as they dropped that game by two goals. Jacob Berger got the call in goal for the Centennials, making 35 saves on 39 shots in the losing cause, his 15th loss of the season.

The Centennials sit 12th in the BCHL in goal scoring with 146 goals for and are led in scoring by Lakeville, Minnesota native Zach Risteau as he leads the team in goals with 22 and points with 43 in 43 games played this season and averages a point per game. Another American import, Minneapolis, Minnesota’s Cade Gleekel leads the Cents in assists with 25 on the season and sits 2nd in team scoring with 40 points.

One of the reasons for Merritt’s success this season has stemmed from their power play as the Cents own the BCHL’s best man advantage at 25.9%, 0.1% ahead of the Wenatchee Wild for top spot. Merritt is tied for 1st with Wenatchee in regards to home power play percentage at 29.8% helped in large part by Zach Risteau, who sits tied for 9th in the BCHL with 10 power play goals this season.

The puck drops from the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena at 7:00 PM with the pre-game show airing for free on the Warriors Internet Network and live on pay-per-view at www.hockeytv.com at 6:50 PM with the voice of the Warriors Trevor Miller. The Warriors return home to Royal LePage Place on Saturday night against the Coquitlam Express for a 7:00 PM face-off. Fans are reminded to bring a non-perishable food item to the game in support of the Five Hole for Food challenge presented by Valley First and have a chance to win a team signed Warriors jersey!

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