The West Kelowna Warriors look to snap a three-game losing stretch as they play host to the Wenatchee Wild on Saturday night at Royal LePage Place.
Warriors vs. Wild 2017/18 Schedule:
Friday, October 13th @ Royal LePage Place (4-2 Wild) (BOXSCORE)
Friday, November 10th @ Town Toyota Center (9-2 Wild) (BOXSCORE)
Saturday, December 2nd @ Royal LePage Place (7:00 PM)
Friday, January 12th @ Town Toyota Center (7:05 PM)
Saturday, January 13th @ Town Toyota Center (7:05 PM)
Tuesday, February 21st @ Royal LePage Place (7:00 PM)
1) SPECIAL TEAMS PLAY
It’s played a factor in both of the Warriors games this week and, if I was a betting man, I’d imagine our old friend Mr. Special Teams will have a say in tonight’s contest between the Warriors and Wild from RLP. The Warriors did some good things special teams wise on Friday night in their loss to Merritt and those were on the power play with two goals coming courtesy of the man advantage and were the results of simple, hard plays. Stephen Kleysen was able to bury after a scramble that started with Jake Harrison taking the puck hard to the net on a 5-on-3 power play while Chase Stevenson redirected in a Michael Ryan point shot while going hard to the front of the goal and actually getting knocked down in the act of tipping it home. So it was simple plays that created the Warriors opportunities to score and just because you change buildings, doesn’t mean you should change power play strategies. I think the same could be applied for tonight with making simple, hard plays to get to the front of the net and make life hard for whoever the heck is gonna play in goal for the Wild. The Warriors power play has been very good over the club’s last four games, going 8/27 (29.6%) and has been good against Wenatchee this season as they are 3/12 against their American foes when up in manpower and will be going up against a very good Wenatchee penalty kill that sits 2nd in the BCHL at 86.2% on the season. The Wild’s power play has scored in three straight games and is currently ranked 3rd in the league at 21.9% and will be a tough test for the Warriors penalty kill, which has surrendered four goals against in the last two games. Wenatchee sits at 2/11 on the season series against West Kelowna when on the power play and will be interesting to watch as the course of the night rolls along. The Wild have a plethora of offensive weapons to choose from in regards to their power play and the Warriors penalty kill will have to be alert on this night. The special teams battle is always a big one and I can imagine tonight won’t be any different.
2) PLAYING SHORTHANDED
No, I’m not talking about special teams anymore but the Warriors may feel like they are shorthanded for the entire night as their lineup is missing some key pieces for tonight. First off, I want to wish Chase Stevenson the best of luck as he heads to the Team Canada West selection camp in Calgary, Alberta with his flight from Kelowna heading out earlier this morning. With Stevenson’s absence for tonight, the Warriors will be extra shorthanded after already missing three regular forwards in the likes of Parm Dhaliwal, Matt Kowalski and Bennett Norlin. Dhaliwal may be able to return to the lineup for next weekend while Kowalski and Norlin may remain out until after the Christmas break and the Warriors have felt their presence out of their lineup on a nightly basis. West Kelowna will be missing a total of 240 games of BCHL experience out of their lineup and that’s tough for any team, never mind for the Warriors having four forwards out of their lineup for the night. West Kelowna will be looking at a depleted lineup of just 9 forwards and 7 defensemen for the night, which will be extremely tough for Warriors bench boss Rylan Ferster to work with. In saying that, the Warriors had just 10 forwards and 7 D last night in Merritt and I never really saw any signs of fatigue but having that extra forward in Stevenson out of the lineup will be a presence surely missed for the Warriors on a night where they play a team that comes in red hot. The Warriors will have to dig deep and fight past the fatigue they might have to come up with a big performance on Saturday night but if any team is up for that challenge, I think it’s this one.
3) THE OPPOSITION
The Wenatchee Wild sit in 4th place in the ultra-packed Interior Division with the Trail Smoke Eaters that sees them just four points out of top spot in the division and the league. This team plays with a ton of speed and skill and head coach Bliss Littler has gotten his squad playing some very strong hockey as of late, to the tune of an 8-1-0-1 record over the team’s last 10 games, outscoring their opposition by a 35-17 margin over that span. The team is lead in scoring by sophomore forward Jasper Weatherby, who recently committed to the University of North Dakota and you can see why as he has been a force in the 2017/18 season. The Lummi Island, Washington native is tied for the lead in points in the BCHL with Trail’s Ross Armour with 41 points heading into Saturday’s action. Weatherby also has a knack for finding the back of the net, sitting 2nd in the BCHL in goals with 21 and has been a thorn in the Warriors side through two games head-to-head this season as he holds 4 goals and 6 points in those two matchups. He leads a very skilled Wenatchee forward core that boasts the likes of captain AJ Vanderbeck, Murphy Stratton and Lucas Sowder, just to name a few. The Wild have 113 goals for this season, good for being tied for 2nd in the BCHL and are a handful to deal with, as the Warriors know first hand. The defense of the Wild is strong as well with potential NHL draft pick Slava Demin leading the charge from the blueline alongside Cooper Zech and Chad Sasaki, who is in his 2nd year with the Wild. As for in between the pipes, Seth Eisele and Austin Park have done a good job at holding opponents at bay. One thing to note on both of these netminders is that their save percentages both range under .900 but the Wild don’t surrender many shots on any given night but they have been good this season. My guess is the Warriors will see Austin Park on Saturday but the guessing game will remain on until one of them leads his team out for warmups. No matter who is in net, the Warriors will need to bring an ‘A’ effort against a tough Wenatchee team.
The Warriors and Wild drop the puck at 7:00 PM from Royal LePage Place on the third of their six-game season series. Tickets are available for purchase online at wkw.goticketpro.com, at the Warriors office, by calling (250) 769-7051 or at the box office ahead of the opening face-off. If you can’t make it to the rink, Warriors Chaplain Pastor Don Richmond and myself will have the call on the Warriors Internet Network and HockeyTV.com beginning at 6:45 PM with the pre-game show.