Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Warriors 5 - Chiefs 1

The West Kelowna Warriors got off on the right foot in the first game of the third round in the BCHL playoffs, knocking off the Chilliwack Chiefs by a 5-1 score from the Lower Mainland.

A scoreless first period was the result of each team starting off the game trying to feel one another out, but also try and figure out the way the other was going to play. The Chiefs had the majority of the chances early on, with Matthew Greenfield standing tall in the Warriors net, before the Warriors started to find their legs. The turning point of the first, and maybe the game was the Warriors Kyle Marino getting ejected halfway through the period for checking from behind. West Kelowna seemed energized from the kill, and picked up their physical play while narrowing the gap on the shot clock, which read 14-13 Chilliwack after the opening 20.

Speaking of the shot clock, it was the Warriors who gave it a workout in the second period, firing 19 shots on Aidan Pelino in the frame, and picking up a pair of goals as well. Jake LeBrun got West Kelowna on the board with a good effort on the forecheck, stealing the puck from the goaltender Pelino and tucking into the open cage. The goal silenced the 1598 in attendance, and shortly after, the Warriors made it 2-0 as Connor Sodergren buried one from the left circle on a great cross-ice pass off the rush from Bryan Basilico. The Warriors continued to frustrate the Chiefs rush, breaking up passes or stealing pucks in the neutral zone. One rush did work out for the Chiefs, as Jordan Kawaguchi picked the top corner on a great rush through the attacking zone, beating Rylan Yarekmo in tight and then firing one past a screened Greenfield.

The Warriors were given an early power play in the third after Yaremko was slashed on a rush through the neutral zone by Vimal Sukumaran; and they made good on the opportunity, as Quin Foreman was the recipient of a loose puck in the crease that he was able to tap in. Liam Blackburn sent the puck towards the goal, as LeBrun tried to tuck it in; it went right to Foreman for the marker. The man advantage worked again for the Warriors once again in the third, as Blackburn picked the inside of the post with a shot as he showed great patience between the circles in picking his spot. The play was made possible by a great keep in by Kristian Blumenschein at the blue line.
The Chiefs pulled Pelino with 6:20 remaining in the third period to try and get within a pair, but Kylar Hope put the final dagger into the open net with a shot from center ice with 4:10 to go.

Game Thoughts:
  • The Warriors weren’t great to start the hockey game, but had that bend but not break attitude in the first seven or so minutes. The Chiefs held an early shot clock edge but there were no results from any Chilliwack opportunities.
  • The rallying point of the first period was the Checking from Behind minor and Game Misconduct to Kyle Marino. You could tell that this team got behind their captain, killed off the penalty, then made sure it was their mission to win it on his behalf.
  • The power play was the killer instinct the Warriors needed tonight in the third. They looked like the better team in the middle frame, and getting the early opportunity to score was the key to the third. Quin Foreman was in the right spot but some great work before that by Liam Blackburn and Jake LeBrun lead to the goal.
  • Speaking of LeBrun, it was good to see him get his first of the post-season on a hard-working forecheck, then have a good night playing with Bryan Basilico and Connor Sodergren after the Marino ejection. Some good moments for LeBrun with the puck, and not afraid to finish checks and help out. Maybe his best game of the postseason tonight.
  • The Warriors give up 33 shots in the game, but that’s not a number to be concerned with anymore. Prior to December 18th, the Warriors were allowing around 28.6 shots against per game, and had a 19-13-0-2 record. After that, they allowed 34.9 shots/game, but Matthew Greenfield and Keelan Willaims has been back there and it hasn’t mattered. Another first star effort after 32 saves.

Monday, 28 March 2016

BCHL Round Robin

People have been wondering, and I'm hopeful to give some answers here, as to what exactly happens now that there are three teams left in the BCHL playoffs. Well the third round is essentially a double round robin format, with a unique twist, but first some history.

A few seasons ago, with the league in its current alignment, had the Island and Mainland Divisions playing towards a Coastal Conference Championship, and the Interior Conference standing on its own. In the playoffs, the Interior Division played Best of 7 series to get the Interior Champions (2 rounds), while the Island and Mainland played a pair of Best of 5's (for Division Championships), then a Best of 7 to decide who would face the Interior as the Coastal Conference Champs.

While the system sounds a lot easier to explain than the current format, teams believed a change needed to be made, as the Island/Mainland had to win 10 games to make the final, and the Interior only had to win eight. If the series had all gone max length, the Final would be played between a Coastal team playing 17 games, and an Interior team playing 14, which just wasn't fair.

So, the Round Robin was adopted to determine which two teams would play for the Fred Page Cup, and after some tweaks each season, we are at this format of 3 WINS AND YOU'RE IN which is as simple as it can be put.

Here's the schedule:
Tuesday March 29th - West Kelowna @ Chilliwack
Thursday March 31st - Nanaimo @ West Kelowna
Saturday April 2nd - Chilliwack @ Nanaimo
Monday April 4th - Nanaimo @ Chilliwack
Wednesday April 6th - Chilliwack @ West Kelowna
Friday April 8th - West Kelowna @ Nanaimo

The key to this format, is 3 WINS. Once a team has won three games, they will advance to the BCHL Final, and have home ice, while the other two teams go head to head until the next team has won three games. There is a possibility that after the first six scheduled games, there would be a 3-way tie at 2-2, then there are two other games scheduled in a Page Playoff format. If the teams are tied with 2-2 records after Game 6, then Seed 2 (West Kelowna) would visit Chilliwack (Seed 1) with the winner getting the first spot in the final, and then Nanaimo would play the loser for the second spot. The top two seeds would get two chances to win their way into the Fred Page Cup final.

Looking at a breakdown of the possibilities in results looks like this:

  • There are 41 possible combinations of results through the first six games
  • In 63.4% of the scenarios, the sixth Game on April 8th would be played as a deciding game, either for one team advancing, or the 3-way tie.
  • There are 9 possibilities of a 3-way tie at 2-2 (22%)
  • The earliest one team could advance is April 4th (9.8%)
  • There's a 26.8% chance that one team advances on April 6th.
Round 3 tickets are on sale starting Tuesday at 10 AM at the Warriors office. Visit the office between 10-4 Tuesday, 9-4 Wednesday, or 9-6 Thursday before the box office opens at 6 pm. Get your tickets early! For those who cannot travel to Chilliwack to watch Tuesday, tune in at www.mixlr.com/bchlwarriors starting with the pre-game show at 6:40

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Interior Division Champions

Break Game 6 down into two categories...the first 55:31, and the last 4:29 and I guarantee almost everyone will talk about the last 4:29. A 3-goal lead that goes down to 1 goal, a miraculous save off the goal line by Matthew Greenfield, and a disallowed PP goal for the Vees that would have tied it with 8 seconds left. For the record crowd on hand at Royal LePage Place, they got their monies worth, and then some.

West Kelowna opened the scoring in the game, and picked up the first two goals in that opening frame, both off of face-off plays. Bryan Basilico sent one past Zach Driscoll to give the Warriors a lead, before a win off the draw by Garrett Forster was off the stick of Jonathan Desbiens before it had even fully been on it, and in the back of the net for the edge. The Vees though controlled good chunks of play and out-shot the Warriors but it would be 2-0 after the opening 20.

In the second period, Desbiens again would get a goal, this time on the power play when he wrapped one around from behind the goal, bouncing it off something in the crease and in. It was tough to tell if it hit the leg of the goaltender or of a defenseman, but it was over the line and the Warriors looked to be in control. Shortly after a delay occurred which seemed to slow the momentum of West Kelowna, as the Vees came out flying after the glass issue was finally fixed. The Vees would count one on a 5 on 3 to get back within two, as Nicholas Jones was able to slip one over the line past Matthew Greenfield. The Warriors headed to the locker room again with a 2-goal lead.

In the third, it is almost impossible to recall exactly what happened in the first 15 minutes of the frame, but the Warriors weathered the Vees storm throughout that stretch, and then it went crazy. Garrett Forster won a foot race with the Penticton net empty and less than five minutes to go against Dante Fabbro, spinning around and sliding it into the yawning cage, as the Warriors fans in the building figured the game was over. Well it wasn't.

It was Jones who made it 4-2 for the Vees with just under three minutes remaining, then Tyson Jost scored 58 seconds later and all of a sudden it was 4-3. You could feel the pure jubilation from the crowd turn into pure fear, as the Vees looked to tie the game with all their offensive weapons on the ice. There was one defense to those weapons in the final minute, as Matthew Greenfield made the save of the year maybe, reaching out and robbing Jones from the top of the crease with a glove save (video below)

Now you'd think that was the final piece to the end of the night and a Division Banner, but you'd be wrong again (your percentage at this point if you didn't watch would be low.) Kylar Hope got called for a penalty with 12 seconds remaining, and the Vees won the face-off for a last ditch effort. The point shot was thrown towards the goal, re-directed, and into the net behind Greenfield to tie the game at 4. But wait, the referee in the corner immediately waves it off, saying it was a high stick and after the officials conference, it would indeed remain no goal, and a Warriors 4-3 lead. The final 8 seconds would see one shot by the Vees, a clearance to the corner, and a collective sigh of relief along with a lot of noise for the Warriors first Interior Division Championship.

Series Thoughts:
  • Skill, grit, and determination, those are the words you probably use to describe the Warriors in this series. They blocked shot after shot, played ruthless man on man coverage, and they shut down a pair of 50-goal scorers after Game 2. Scott Conway did not score in the four losses and Tyson Jost scored just once (last night) as Kristian Blumenschein and Rylan Yaremko (plus some other defensive zone company) took away time and space repeatedly and made it difficult. West Kelowna allowed 5 goals in their last 4 games, and two were scored 6 on 5, one on a 5 on 3 PP, another on a 5 on 4 PP, and the fifth was even strength in Game 5. The Warriors gave up just one goal while in an even-strength situation in the last four games of the series. Stingy. 
  • Nicholas Jones was one player the Warriors actually didn't contain, as he scored four of his teams five goals in the last four games of the series, and was maybe the Vees best forward in the latter parts of this series. He may be seeing Matthew Greenfield's glove in his nightmares after that huge save kept it 4-3. Jones left Ohio State earlier this season and ended up in Penticton, then committed to North Dakota, but will have to sit out the first semester of action if he heads to school. He is technically (I believe) to play junior next season as a 20-year-old, and could be a 60+ goal scorer in the BCHL.
  • A lot of credit must be given to the Penticton Vees, as they showed why they were the Regular Season Champions, flexing their offensive muscle in Game 1 and finding a way to win Game 2, tying it late and winning in overtime. There was so much talent and leadership on that ice and bench in the final minutes of Game 3, 4, 5, and 6 that the Warriors had their hands full each shift. Rylan Ferster said following the game that there was a ton of respect and classy comments from the Vees players in the hand shake line, and that reflects the organization as a whole. From Fred Harbinson on down, that was a team that didn't give up, took nothing for granted, and battled all the way to the final buzzer. To the Vees graduating players and others moving on, good luck in your hockey careers. To those who are returning next year, the rivalry will always be here. Should be fun in 2016/2017.
The Warriors now move on to the Division Champion Round-Robin, as they'll join the Nanaimo Clippers and Chilliwack Chiefs in a race to 3 WINS, as the teams play in a double round-robin format. I'll post again in the morning and lay out the schedule and possibilities/probabilities etc of this format. Mark your calendars though, the Warriors will play at home on Thursday March 31st vs Nanaimo, and Wednesday April 6th vs. Chilliwack.

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Warriors 2 - Vees 1 (Game 5 Recap)

The West Kelowna Warriors scored twice in the third period to beat the Penticton Vees 2-1 on Friday night at the SOEC, taking a 3-2 series lead back to RLP for Saturday night's Game 6.

Friday's game started off just like the game Tuesday night in Game 4, as it was scoreless after the opening 20 minutes. The difference though, was the fact it wasn't the Warriors with a major edge in shots and play, it was the Vees who controlled the puck throughout the majority of the period. The Warriors did have a late PP that failed to click, but created a couple of opportunities after it as well, but Zach Driscoll shut the door.

The Vees got on the board in the second after a stretch of play that dominated the shot clock high above centre ice, widening the Vees lead in that department in the first few minutes. Shots were around 8-2 Penticton when Nicholas Jones opened the scoring on a deflection, lifting it over the top of Matthew Greenfield and under the bar, snapping a 136+ minute goal-less drought the Vees had been on. Special Teams solved nothing and the Vees headed to the 3rd with a lead for the 45th time this season.

The two teams went toe to toe in the third period as Penticton tried to extend their lead and the Warriors tried to launch a comeback. It was a bit of an unlikely source that tied the game, as Nick Rutigliano redirected Quin Foreman's pass past Driscoll to knot it up at one, while Vees fans hollered for a penalty on the previous rush that never came. It almost seemed at that point that this game was going to be destined for overtime. That's how tight-checking it had become. The Vees out-shot the Warriors 10-5 in the frame but Matthew Greenfield stood tall, as did the Warriors defense.

With under five minutes left in the third, Dante Fabbro couldn't get the puck past Rylan Yaremko at the line, who sent a shot on goal that bounced off Driscoll's glove and in, stunning 3400+ fans and delighting the 100+ Warriors fans who made the trip. West Kelowna knew they weren't done there, and had to defend their one-goal lead for the next 4:07. With Driscoll on the bench for the extra attacker, the Warriors blocked countless shot attempts, and had a pair of chances at the empty net, but those were blocked by the Vees coming back the other way. After the way Game 2 ended with Scott Conway tying it late, the buzzer was definitely a satisfying sound after another hard fought game against such a strong opponent.

As far as a preview for Game 6 goes, just know this: Tickets for Game 6 go back on sale at 9 am. TODAY!  People are going to want those tickets and will be lining up at the Warriors office, calling the Warriors office, and Royal LePage Place will be ROCKING THE RED tonight! Please be patient as we work through all of our phone lines and ticket orders. It should be another great game in this series that you won't want to miss!

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Warriors 3 - Vees 0 (Game 4 Interior Final)

The West Kelowna Warriors evened up their series with the Penticton Vees with a 3-0 shutout victory on Tuesday night, guaranteeing at least one more home game this season at RLP.

Over 1500 fans showed up tonight and it was loud and proud, and the Warriors supporters ROCKING THE RED had some great things to cheer about early, even without goals.

Zach Driscoll was the story in the Vees net in the first period, as he stymied West Kelowna's attack repeatedly, the Warriors had a 12-3 edge on the shot clock at one point, that finished 17-7 in West Kelowna's favour. There were big hits being thrown out around the rink in the opening period, two of which resulted in Warriors penalties, as the final three Vees shots of the period came on the man advantage. While no goal was on the board, West Kelowna and their faithful enjoyed the opening twenty minutes of pressure.

I felt the turning point in the buildings energy came in the first 7-8  minutes of the opening frame, when the Warriors fourth line of Reed Gunville, Jared Marino, and Jake LeBrun came onto the ice and created an opportunity. They battled their way to the front of the net with both Gunville and Marino having whacks at a loose puck that never went in, but really fired up the Warriors bench.

The game seemed to even out at times of the second frame, but at the halfway point, and in the final minute of the period it ended up as the Jonathan Desbiens show. With the Warriors on the power play, Desbiens was able to open the scoring by flipping one over Driscoll from the side of the goal, and a good shot selection from the point and Liam Blackburn's attempt finding Desbiens.

In the final two minutes of the second, the Warriors had countless chances in a flurry of action in and around the Vees net but nobody was able to find the mesh. West Kelowna was credited with two shots, and about three misses trying to bat at bouncing pucks, and then to have the whistle go in the middle of it all it seemed West Kelowna couldn't believe a penalty had been called. It indeed had, to Penticton though, as David Eccles was deemed to have knocked the net off intentionally, giving the Warriors a late power play.

After great work at the point from Liam Blackburn and Jake LeBrun, Desbiens came off the halfwall, snapped a shot that was blocked, then ripped the wrist shot past the goaltender Driscoll to make it 2-0. I had to turn the volume up in my headphones to block out the noise from the crowd at that moment.

While I wouldn't say West Kelowna sat back in the third, the Vees had a couple opportunities in tight to make it 2-1, but Matthew Greenfield stood tall and kept it at a 2-0 game. Kylar Hope late in the third received a pass from Blackburn after Greenfield poked a shot attempt away, and Hope beat Dixon Bowen to the outside and finished a beauty wrap around off of Driscoll and in which sealed the deal and tied the series.

Some rough stuff went down at the buzzer, and a stoppage before that, but nothing came of it, just frustrations boiling over and players defending themselves and their teammates. Game 5 goes Friday night at the SOEC in Penticton, while Game 6 will be back in West Kelowna at 7 PM Saturday night.

For tickets to Game 6. Visit the Warriors office beneath the Jim Lind Arena sign between 9 pm and 4 pm Wednesday - Friday. Stay tuned to the Warriors website, Facebook, and Twitter for details on Saturday ticket sales. You can also call 250-769-7051 with a Visa or Mastercard to book your seats.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Game 3 Recap

The West Kelowna Warriors battled a lot of adversity on Monday night and they came away with a huge victory to make the series a 2-1 scoreline in favour of the Vees. To say tonight's came was crucial was obvious, but the route to get to the win is one that had the fans reacting with applause and despair.

The Warriors trailed in the first period after giving up a power-play goal, the fourth they've allowed in the series, but were able to tie it up at the end of the first period when Jonathan Desbiens slipped one through the legs of goaltender Zachary Driscoll, bringing the 1352 fans (minus the Vees supporters) to their feet.

Let's talk about the crowd for a moment. Yes there were a bunch of Vees fans, as expected, and they made a lot of noise with their Go Vees Go chants early in the game, and supported their team without. The Warriors fans took some time to get going, but Desbiens got them going with that key goal late in the first.

The fans continued to be united on one front, and that was the support of the Warriors penalty kill. West Kelowna was called for the first five penalties in the hockey game, including some 5 on 3 time that the Vees were given after Kylar Hope was called for goaltender interference with the Warriors trying for a 2 on 1 while down a man. Watching the tape after, there's a pretty healthy shove from Easton Brodzinski that helps Hope into the crease. The Warriors killed it all off and headed to the third tied at 1.

Liam Blackburn scores the winner for the Warriors halfway through the period, but the Warriors had something at the start of the period they hadn't had all game...a power play. It lasted just one minute on the heels of some 4 on 4 time, and West Kelowna couldn't get a sniff at the net in the 60 seconds.

I'm a big stats guy, and a lot of people who haven't seen the games are starting to think that maybe West Kelowna is just a little undisciplined. Those who have watched the games, know this isn't the case, and there may just be a double standard being called. Sure, the Vees may have the puck a lot because they have a ton of skilled players, but the Warriors have skilled guys too that just don't get any benefits when they have the puck.

The penalties are 18 for the Warriors and 6 for the Vees in 3 games, not counting double-minors or coincidentals. I'll just leave that there.

West Kelowna will need another big effort Tuesday Night to hopefully be in a tied position heading back to Penticton on Friday. The Vees haven't lost back to back all season, but it's the playoffs, and they've only had one opportunity to win after losing (1st round vs Vernon). Plus, as Fred Harbinson said to me pre-game, "We're playing a lot better team in this round", so we'll see what happens.

Fans, the Warriors need you! You were great tonight, let's be great again tomorrow! Office is open from 9 am to 4 pm, you can also call with Visa/Mastercard at 250-769-7051

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Warriors/Vees Series Preview

The West Kelowna Warriors and Penticton Vees will square off starting March 18th at the SOEC as the battle for the Interior Division Final kicks off. This will be the fifth time these teams have met in the post-season in the last 10 years, and the third time in the Interior Division Final. The Vees have won all previous meetings, including last years first round series that ended in five games.

The season series this year also favoured the Vees, winning six of seven against West Kelowna, with a total score of 23-13. West Kelowna lost one of those games in overtime.

When you look at the head to head stats from the season series, the Vees best players were on their game against the Warriors. Scott Conway scored six times and had 12 points against the Warriors in six games, while Tyson Jost scored nine times in five games. Dante Fabbro added eight assists from the back end. In goal, the two netminders split duties, with Anthony Brodeur going 4-0 with a 1.50 GAA and .956 SV%, and Zach Driscoll going 2-1 with a 2.01 GAA and .938 V%. Brodeur did not dress in the last two games of the Vernon series, so Driscoll may have the edge as the Game 1 starter.

On the Warriors side of things its clear who the Game 1 starter will be, as Matthew Greenfield has had a great playoffs so far, going 4-2 with a 2.40 GAA and a .932 SV%, although when you remove Game 1's 6-5 scoreline, Greenfield posted a 1.77 GAA and a .948 SV%. Great numbers all around.
In the regular season, Greenfield saw the Vees three times, shutting them out in his Warriors debut, and overall posting a 2.69 GAA and a .924 SV%.

Jonathan Desbiens lead the way offensively in the Warriors season series against Penticton, scoring five times in seven games, while Liam Blackburn had three goals and three assists.

The Special Teams in the season series were as follows:
Vees PP - 6 for 37 (16.2%)
Warriors PP - 3 for 28 (10.7%)
Vees PK - 25 for 28 (89.3%)
Warriors PK - 31 for 37 (83.8%)

The Penticton Vees were the #2 ranked PP in the opening round (7 for 22) behind the Coquitlam Express (5 for 15) who got swept in the opening round. The Warriors PP was down in 8th, going 5 for 29). When you flip the page to penalty kill numbers, both teams shine, having each allowed (and scored) two goals while short-handed in the opening round. The Warriors were short-handed 4.2 times per game, while the Vees were short-handed 3.4 times.

Scott Conway lead the BCHL in scoring in the opening round with five goals and five assists, while Vees locked down the 3rd and 4th spots in the top scoring as Nicholas Jones had 5+4, and Tyson Jost had 4+5. The Warriors Liam Blackburn had 4+4 against Salmon Arm and sits in 7th in playoff scoring.

Series Schedule:
Game 1 – Friday March 18th – SOEC Penticton – 7 PM
Game 2 – Saturday March 19th – SOEC Penticton – 6 PM
Game 3 – Monday March 21st – Royal LePage Place- 7 PM
Game 4 – Tuesday March 22nd – Royal LePage Place – 7 PM
**Game 5 – Friday March 25th – SOEC Penticton – 7 PM
**Game 6 – Saturday March 26th – Royal LePage Place – 7 PM
**Game 7 – Sunday March 27th – SOEC Penticton – 6 PM

All games broadcast on www.mixlr.com/bchlwarriors and www.bchl.fasthockey.com

Call 250-769-7051 for tickets to the Warriors home games. 

Friday, 11 March 2016

Game 5 vs SA PREVIEW

A lot has happened over the course of the last two games in Salmon Arm and its my apologies for not sharing them all with you. After a big 4-1 win on Monday night with some late game shenanigans, the Warriors could not push the Silverbacks to the brink with a win in Game 4, instead falling to the 'Backs and having the series tied up at two heading into Royal LePage Place tonight.

Game 3 Thoughts:

  • Warriors give up the first goal, but that was it. They found a way to get things done in the game and capitalized on the mistakes the 'Backs made. With the opening goal being a mix of luck and Jonathan Desbiens skill, to the bounce off a Silverbacks defender and in on the power play, West Kelowna was at full marks for the victory in that one.
  • Matthew Greenfield earned first star honours and deserved them, but Angus Redmond was pretty good as well. He made some big saves when it was 3-1 to keep it close and give his team a chance.
  • The 'Backs were shorthanded five times in the third period, and the double-minor for butt-ending to Ayrton Nikkel didn't allow the Silverbacks a chance, as Desbiens buried the 4-1 goal to start the PP.
Game 4 Thoughts:
  • The Warriors only played about 20 minutes on Tuesday night, and you can't do that in the playoffs and expect to win. After an opening period which saw a Silverbacks edge in shots, Salmon Arm controlled the majority of the second period as well as West Kelowna stood around watching. A nice goal from the 'Backs made it 1-0, and a gifted breakaway to Ross Heidt made it 2-0. It was the Tribe who showed up in the third, getting within one, but nobody could find the equalizer. 
  • Once again, Special Teams goals were hard to come by, as the penalty kills have been super strong in this series (killing off 35 of 40 between the two teams) over four games. 
  • It's the most important game in the series thus far, and arguably as important as a Game 7 when you're in a 2-2 situation. Tonight's game pushes one team to the brink of elimination, and the other just one win from the second round. Yeah, it's intense.
  • One area of concern for the Warriors was their play outside of the third period in Game 4. I'd expect that was addressed by the leadership group and the Warriors will be ready to go when the puck drops for Game 5.
  • Goaltending will likely be a big key in Game 5, seeing as how each goaltender has played extremely well since Game 2. The goaltenders have been Star #1 each game as well, as after 11 goals were scored in Game 1, a total of 11 have been scored since. 
  • West Kelowna's best players are going to need to step it up a notch tonight as well. I thought Quin Foreman looked good in the third period with Liam Blackburn's line, but Jonathan Desbiens will need to be back to his usual self. Bryan Basilico has also been one of the most consistent Warriors forwards along with Kylar Hope, so maybe one of them makes the difference.
It's bound to be a great crowd on hand at Royal LePage Place tonight, so secure your tickets by calling Kim at 250-769-7051! As always, listen live at www.mixlr.com/bchlwarriors

Monday, 7 March 2016

Game 3 vs SA PREVIEW

The West Kelowna Warriors head out on on the road for Game Three tonight in Salmon Arm as the Warriors try and wrestle home ice advantage back into their favour. It's a building that holds a lot of memories for Rylan Ferster as he spent seven years with the 'Backs organization.

The first two games of the series both went to overtime, and the way the series has gone to this point it would not be shocking to see more games make their way to overtime. Kylar Hope played the hero in game two, after it was Chase Zieky who won the game for the Silverbacks on Friday night.

The biggest question to this point in the series is whether or not the power-plays have struggled, or the penalty kills have thrived. Each team has only scored once on the man advantage, while killing off 18 penalties between the two. The Warriors blocked a large number of shots in the second game, and had a huge kill to complete in overtime as well. The staff from West Kelowna has to be happy with the way their penalty kill has worked, but would hope for a couple less penalties against in the upcoming games.

Both goaltenders responded in game two after shaky opening games, and it would be shocking to not see their strong play continue throughout the remainder of the series. If I was a betting man, i'd say there would be no more 11-goal games.

Warriors Stats Breakdown:
Record: 1-0-1
Powerplay: 1 for 9 (11.1%)
Penalty Kill: 10 for 11 (90.9%)
Home: 1-0-1
When Scoring 1st: 1-0
Time with Lead: 40:54
Time Tied: 56:30
Time Trailing: 38:23

Salmon Arm Stats Breakdown
Record: 1-0-1
Powerplay: 1 for 11 (9.1%)
Penalty Kill: 8 for 9 (88.9%)
Road: 1-0-1
When Scoring 1st: 1-0
Time with Lead: 38:23
Time Tied: 56:30

Time Trailing: 40:54

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Game 2 vs SA RECAP

The West Kelowna Warriors got strong goaltending from Matthew Greenfield and an overtime goal from Kylar Hope as they evened up their round one series with Salmon Arm at a game apiece with a 2-1 victory on Saturday night.

This game had a different feeling from the beginning, as there was more flow, better passing, and some great goaltending. The two masked men were each out to prove that last night was an anomaly, and they did so throughout the hockey game.

While the shot totals were a lot less than last night, the quality of opportunities felt like they were much higher. There were less scrambles in front of the goals, and a few more chances from the rush. It will be interesting to see how the scoring chances break down when the video is analyzed.

Jonathan Desbiens got the Warriors on the board but it was Quin Foreman's play that stood out tonight. Foreman fed Desbiens for the finish on a 2 on 1, as the smooth skaters found their way into the offensive zone and got the crowd behind West Kelowna in the opening frame.

Jump to the third period for the next goal, and its a tying goal from Ross Heidt, his second of the series as he converted a one-timer from the circle just as a Warriors penalty had expired, meaning the Salmon Arm PP technically did not score tonight.

Once again through 60 minutes the game was deadlocked, but that was due to the goaltenders. Throughout the night, each netminder made some big saves, including Angus Redmond with a pair of spectacular saves back to back in the second period. Matthew Greenfield made a big glove save as well in the third, plus a solid save through a screen in overtime.

Speaking of overtime, the Warriors did nothing on 1:04 of power play time to begin the frame, and to have the Silverbacks get a full two minute advantage had the faithful collectively holding their breath. A huge round of applause went up as the Warriors killed it off and just a minute later Kylar Hope picked up the puck and brought it in over the Silverbacks line, firing one towards the goal. His initial shot hit a defenseman, but Hope wasted no time firing it once again and beating Redmond to the glove side, as the Warriors poured over the boards to celebrate the victory.

Game Thoughts (from the box)

  • Complete reversal from last nights 3 hours, 40 minute struggle to find a winner with all the whistles and stoppages and that fun stuff. Tonight's game on the game clock was five or so minutes shorter, but played in just under three hours. Good speed, good passing, and some great end to end flow occurred throughout the night and was definitely fun to watch. 
  • Matthew Greenfield felt he owed his teammates from last night as they scored five but didn't win. He made up for it with some great play tonight, but a big tip of the cap to Angus Redmond as well. Each night the game came down to one goal, but this time the Warriors were on the winning side of things. Redmond was the storyline for Salmon Arm, and probably deserving of the second star.
  • Quin Foreman got some more ice time tonight and he was impressive. I like the way he battles on the wall and just seems to always find loose pucks. He picked up an assist on Desbiens goal in the first, and was good all night. I see why Dartmouth has committed to him already.
  • Special Teams were important tonight once again, and overall in this series its the Penalty Kill numbers you talk about. West Kelowna was 7/7 on the PK tonight, and 10/11 in the series, while the Silverbacks killed off 8/9 in the first two games. West Kelowna had the shot blocks working tonight on the PK and helped Greenfield out throughout the night.
  • Game 3 on Monday will more than likely be another great game in this series, as the Silverbacks fans are always loud and passionate and will be supporting their team with pride at the Shaw Centre. Look for a Game 3 Preview Monday mid-day. 

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Game 1 vs SA RECAP

A frantic night of hockey ended around 10:40 PM with Warrior players and fans alike screaming foul over the game winning goal that hit some part of the crossbar.

It was in. That's as blunt as it can be put, there is video evidence of it hitting the back-bar of the net and popping straight out and into the feet of Matthew Greenfield. In the end, the Salmon Arm Silverbacks were one shot better as Rylan Ferster put it, in a wild 6-5 game that took over three and a half hours to play (and that's with just half an OT period).

This game could have been over fast. The Silverbacks came out on fire early on in the hockey game and took it to what looked to be a scared and timid Warriors team, at least when it came to carrying the puck. Kyle Marino got the fireworks started on a huge hit behind the net, before another couple big hits were dished out in the opening few minutes.

Within the big checks, it was a pair of goals from Salmon Arm that gave them the life they needed early on. West Kelowna learned a wide-open Ross Heidt is a bad idea, then Marcus Mitchell drove the front of the net and found the puck to put past Matthew Greenfield, as the 'Backs scored on two of their first three shots.

West Kelowna never really looked comfortable until after the media timeout, and Connor Sodergren finally gave the 1000+ fans something to get excited about. He would find a loose puck in front on a Warriors net drive, and tuck it into the cage to cut the lead down to one, where it would finish after 20 minutes.

It would be a Warriors lead less than five minutes into the middle stanza, but Liam Blackburn first had to tie the game. Off a faceoff, Kristian Blumenschein tried to get to the front of the goal for a shot, but the puck rolled off his stick, right to Blackburn who beat Redmond on the glove side to tie it at two. Right after that, it was Mitchell off in the box for slashing, and Bryan Basilico gloved down the puck at centre, and his shot beat the shoulder of Redmond for the 3-2 Warriors lead.

West Kelowna would only have a lead for a total of 5:41 in the hockey game as Nick Hutchison equalized at 10:38, and Kodi Schwarz pinballed one past Greenfield on the power play to put Salmon Arm ahead once again after 40 minutes.

The Warriors equalized at 7:08 from Kylar Hope, in what was the most frantic minute of the entire hockey game. After Hope's goal, Chase Zieky was hauled down by a Warriors defender and Zieky awarded a penalty shot. Zieky would use a lot of speed on the attempt, but Greenfield shut the door with a right pad save to keep it tied. Off the next face-off, Josh Laframboise threw one towards the goal that eluded Greenfield's pad and made it 5-4.

Quin Foreman made the most of what was limited ice, as his luck turned the game back square, tying the game at five by hitting Redmond with a shot that bounced off Ryley Booth and over the line to five the Warriors hope heading to the extra frame.

Salmon Arm was the better team in OT, having glorious chances early, and out-shooting the Warriors 11-6 in the extra session. The Zieky marker came at 10:38 off a broken play that popped out in front of the Warriors net with a pair of players sprawling to try and block it, but it ended the hockey game with a ping.

Game Thoughts (from the box)

  • West Kelowna looked tentative and nervous to open the hockey game, unable to handle passes, create any offense, and struggled putting things together and found themselves down early. Battling back throughout the night was a testament to the character of this group, but give the Silverbacks a ton of credit too for their start. They came out flying and took advantage of Warriors mistakes and put them in the back of the net.
  • Bryan Basilico was really good for the Warriors tonight and deserving of his first star. With one goal and one assist, he kept the energy up with Kyle Marino and Connor Sodergren throughout the night, plus added a couple of good scoring chances. As a 20-year-old playing his first BCHL playoff game, he didn't look out of place.
  • Two Warriors had to switch jerseys tonight due to the blood they shed. First it was Jake Harrison who got caught by a high stick in the first period and switched to #5, then a scary incident involving Tyler Anderson. A rolling puck slapshot hit Anderson in the face, and after the whistle blew a trail of blood made its way to the Warriors bench. Like any good Canadian kid, he was back in the third period with a cage on and finished the game.
  • Matthew Greenfield tonight was not the Matthew Greenfield that Warriors fans have seen. A couple tough breaks for him tonight on shots/rebounds he probably feels he should have had, but he had to deal with a lot of traffic all night long as the Silverbacks constantly applied pressure to the front of the net. He did make some really big saves to get the Warriors to OT though.

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Warriors/Silverbacks SERIES PREVIEW

The West Kelowna Warriors and Salmon Arm Silverbacks are set to begin their first round playoff series tonight with Game 1 at Royal Lepage Place
 The Teams
·       West Kelowna Warriors – (38-17-1-2) – 79 Points – 2nd BCHL Interior
·       Salmon Arm Silverbacks – (29-20-4-5) – 67 Points – 3rd BCHL Interior
The Schedule
·       Game 1 – Friday March 4th  - West Kelowna – 7:00 PM
·       Game 2 – Saturday March 5th – West Kelowna – 7:00 PM
·       Game 3 – Monday March 7th – Salmon Arm – 7:00 PM
·       Game 4 – Tuesday March 8th – Salmon Arm – 7:00 PM
·       Game 5 – Friday March 11th – West Kelowna – 7:00 PM (If Necessary)
·       Game 6 – Saturday March 12th – Salmon Arm – 7:00 PM (If Necessary)
·       Game 7 – Sunday March 13th – West Kelowna – 7 PM (If Necessary)
Goaltending will be an interesting story to follow throughout this first round series, as both teams sport a legitimate #1 goaltender that is 20-years-old. The interesting part of this story is the amount of time each of the 20 year olds have seen the opposition this season. While Matthew Greenfield was only acquired in mid-December, Angus Redmond has been manning the crease for the Silverbacks for the last two seasons. Redmond has only appeared in three of the six games against West Kelowna this season, while Greenfield has a pair of victories against the Silverbacks
West Kelowna
Matthew Greenfield
2.09 GAA
.938 SV%
Keelan Williams
3.38 GAA
.893 SV%
Salmon Arm
Angus Redmond
3.05 GAA
.904 SV%
Brandon Kegler
3.09 GAA
.910 SV%
Vs. Salmon Arm
Matthew Greenfield
1.00 GAA
.972 SV%
Keelan Williams
2.81 GAA
.909 SV%
Vs. West Kelowna
Angus Redmond
4.40 GAA
.883 SV%
Brandon Kegler
3.00 GAA
.916 SV%
West Kelowna
The Warriors do not boast a 20-year-old on the backend like they did last season with Tyler Kunz and Braeden Jones. The experience they do have on the backend, mixed with the young talent in Jake Harrison is a good mix on the blueline. Tyler Anderson was the Warriors Most Improved Player when the Awards were handed out last week, while Scott Allan has been steady throughout the year. Add in scholarships for Nick Rutiglano and Rylan Yaremko that were earned this season, and this is a solid group on the blueline.
Salmon Arm
Three 20-year-olds on the backend gives the Salmon Arm Silverbacks the edge when it comes to age on the blueline. Ayrton Nikkel has pro experience this season with the ECHL Allen Americans, but its his emotions that could make a difference in this series. Nikkel took five minors against the Warriors in two games that he faced them this year, but expect him to play hard-nosed defense against whichever Warriors forward group he’s matched against.
It will be interesting to see if Ryley Booth is back in the lineup for Game 1, as he missed the final game against the Warriors last week. For the Silverbacks to have success in this series, Phil Middleton and Damian Chrcek need to play big, hard, successful minutes on the Salmon Arm defense corp.
West Kelowna
The Warriors are lead up front by 44 goal scorer Jonathan Desbiens, who finished just shy of the most points in a single-season in Warriors history. He did set the goals mark, however, while Kylar Hope exploded this season on the offensive side of the puck, putting up 74 points while playing in every game for the second straight season. Add in Brett Mennear, and the Warriors trio is playing with great confidence. Liam Blackburn added 74 points of his own, it’s his linemates of Jake LeBrun and Garrett Forster who seem to have created some top-line chemistry. The depth is there for West Kelowna, as it is for the Silverbacks as well, when you look at Bryan Basilico, Kyle Marino, and Connor Sodergren seeing big minutes, and the fourth unit has seen some success recently as well, lead by the 13 goals from Quin Foreman, and 25 assists from Reed Gunville.
Salmon Arm
Lead by 71 points from Taro Hirose (including 56 assists), the Salmon Arm Silverbacks enjoyed success on the offensive side of the puck this season. Scoring 227 goals this season, the Silverbacks ranked 5th in that category this season, and finished with a +43 differential. The Silverbacks leading player in goals was 33 goal scorer Ross Heidt, while Chase Zieky scored 28. Carson Bolduc was just one of four ‘Backs to reach the twenty goal plateau, as their scoring was spread out amongst the lineup.
Special Teams
These two teams are very evenly matched on the Special Teams side of things heading into the series, as the Warriors sit 3rd on the power play, with the Silverbacks 4th. On the Penalty Kill side, West Kelowna has seen their percentage increase over the last two months, and finished the regular season with the 4th best mark. Salmon Arm sits just 3% back of West Kelowna, but is ranked 9th when a man short.
In the season series West Kelowna went 8 for 28 on the man advantage, while the Silverbacks went 7 for 38.
Overall Preview

Many say this will be one of the hardest fought first round series in the BCHL this season. As was shown last weekend in the Warriors final Regular Season game, this looks to be a very physical series where special teams could play a big role. It will be interesting to see how the officials let this series play out, and see where the line is drawn, as each team is going to try and toe the line. Buckle up. This one is going to be fun.