The West Kelowna Warriors conclude the first two months of the 2019-20 season after this upcoming weekend.
Eighteen games in and the Warriors are not in the most ideal position with only 12 points, a 4-10-3-1 record and sitting 6th in the BCHL’s Interior Division. Luckily for fans in West Kelowna, the Warriors still have 40 games remaining this season to fix what’s broken and make some changes for the better.
Changes were made last weekend when the Warriors fought hard for a well-earned 2-1 win over the league-leading Salmon Arm Silverbacks, who have almost 10 more wins than West-K. The Silverbacks have the Warriors’ number so far this season, outscoring West Kelowna 18-5 in three games.
It was a combination of spectacular goaltending and a perfect penalty kill that lead to the Warriors first win over the Silverbacks on Oct. 18. Brock Baier made 37 saves while the Warriors killed three penalties and capitalized on one of their own four opportunities.
A solid start to the game for the Centennials forced the Warriors to play behind for the entire game. Final score 5-2. Warriors to get back on track in Wenatchee next Wednesday night.
— West Kelowna Warriors (@BCHLWarriors) October 20, 2019
However, the success was short lived after the win against one of the favourites for the Fred Page Cup. The Warriors were unable to ride their momentum into their next game against the Merritt Centennials where they lost 5-2 to the only team who sits lower in the standings than them.
Over these first 18 games, the Warriors’ goals-for/goals-against ratio has been the biggest indicator of where improvements need to be made. At minus-21, they’re tied for the second-worst ratio in the league.
The Warriors don’t lack the ability to score with players Brandon Dent and Lucas Cullen averaging almost a point-per-game and rookies Brendan Pigeon and John Evans contributing as well. The offence does have time to made adjustments, but with nearly a third of the season behind them, the puck will need to start finding the back of the net, and often, very soon.
One area where the Warriors have looked good this season is on the power play. West Kelowna’s 19.7 per cent efficiency with the man advantage is ranked 10th in the league and third best in the Interior Division.
Their penalty kill, on the other hand, needs improvement as their 75.9 percent rate is third worst in the league.
The Warriors wrap up month two of the season this week starting Wednesday night against the Wenatchee Wild and then with a home-and-home against the Trail Smoke Eaters on Friday and Saturday. West Kelowna secured three points in double-header action against the Wild two weeks ago, scoring eight goals in a packed arena in Wenatchee where each game brought in over 2,100 fans.
Against Trail, the Warriors will look for their first win against the Smoke Eaters after a 5-1 loss on Sept. 21.
The Warriors have the last three games of the month to salvage this first third of the season. Starting November with wins and confidence should lead to a more successful final two-thirds of the campaign. The playoffs are only 40 games away and West Kelowna will need some changes in the stats to increase its odds going into the 2020 BCHL post-season.