Tonight – West Kelowna Warriors (6-5-0-0) at Merritt Centennials (7-6-0-0)
7 p.m. at Nicola Valley Memorial Arena in Merritt
Presented by the BCIHL
This is the first meeting of the season between these Interior Division rivals. Last season the teams split the six-game season series with three wins apiece.
West Kelowna’s Willie Reim is on a league-high 10-game point streak with seven goals and eight assists over that stretch. Reim’s 15 points on the season are tied for the fifth most in the league and his eight goals also tie him for fifth. Defenceman Wyatt Head has 10 points on the season which is the fourth most among BCHL blueliners. In the crease, Connor Hopkins has a record of 5-3-0 and a top-10 save percentage of .910.
Merritt is the highest-scoring team in the league and their stats reflect that with five players in the top-20 in league scoring. Bradley Cocca leads the way with 16 points (4-12-16) which ties him for third in BCHL scoring. Nick Granowicz (7-7-14), Nicholas Wicks (2-11-13), Mathieu Gosselin (8-4-12) and Matthew Kopperud (5-7-12) are the other four in the top-20.
What’s at Stake
Just four points separate first and last place in the Interior Division. Merritt sits on top with 14 points and West Kelowna is tied for third and only two points back of the lead with two games in hand on the Centennials.
From the Broadcast Booth
Merritt Centennials play-by-play broacaster Jared Thomas on Merritt’s league-leading offence:
“I think the key to the Cents success offensively has been the progression of their returning players. When you look around the league you won’t find too many teams that have 13 players returning for another year, with many of them eligible to come back for another one. Guys that were seen as depth scorers last season have really come to the forefront with more opportunities. If the Cents can get their discipline under control and bring their special teams to even a middling level, they can easily be an elite team, but right now they may be the deepest team in the league up front 5-on-5.”
Thomas on the tight Interior Division:
“It really ingrains the attitude that you can never take a night off and, if you do, you’re probably not going to coast to a victory. It means that every minute, every shift could be the next key turning point in the game and the players need to be at their best to be the difference on the ice. ”
Thomas on tonight’s matchup against the Warriors:
“The Warriors are a team that the Cents match up well against on paper and also have a good crop of returning talent that’s looking to take the next step. They’re near the top of the league in regards to the powerplay, so the Cents will need to stay out of the box if they want to stay in the game. The Warriors have won games by all kinds of fashions, but I predict this one could be a last-goal-wins situation with lots of offence in the tighter confines of the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena.”
West Kelowna Warriors play-by-play broadcaster Chase Johnston on goaltender Connor Hopkins’ strong play this year:
“At the start of the year, Cole Demers was traded away to Alberni Valley making Connor Hopkins the Warriors undisputed starter between the pipes. He has excelled in every way keeping them in key games. Connor is West Kelowna’s rock who they hope to rely on this year.”
Johnston on the Warriors strong start despite the team’s unusual coaching situation to start the year:
“If anything the coaching situation allowed the players to unite and come together better than any club in the BCHL. They showed that on opening night when they came out flying against a very tough Trail Smoke Eaters squad defeating them in overtime. That night the Warriors players and coaches made a statement to their fans that they are united and strong and the events during the first week of September, if anything, made them stronger.”
Johnston on tonight’s matchup against Merritt:
“The Centennials are coming off a tough loss to the Penticton Vees at the South Okanagan Events Centre earlier in the week and will be thirsty for a victory. One thing the Warriors veterans need to do is make sure the rookies are aware of how small the ice surface at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena is and how it can be one of the toughest rinks to play in.”
ABOUT THE BCIHL
The British Columbia Intercollegiate Hockey League was created with the purpose of offering a venue for competitive, high-calibre hockey that’s close to home for players beyond their junior careers. The league was launched in 2006 and now includes five member teams: Selkirk College, Simon Fraser University, Trinity Western University, the University of Victoria and Vancouver Island University. This season, 25 graduates with over 2,750 games of BCHL experience are pursuing their academic and athletic goals in the BCIHL. To learn more about the BCIHL and playing opportunities for BCHL grads, visit BCIHL.ca.