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GAME PREVIEW: Warriors Host Smoke Eaters For First Game After Xmas Break

PHOTO: Julie Pringle/Snap Photography

The West Kelowna Warriors return from the 11-day Christmas break and host the first of a home-and-home set against the Trail Smoke Eaters on Friday night at Royal LePage Place.

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Warriors vs. Smoke Eaters 2017/18 Schedule:

Friday, September 8th @ Cominco Arena (4-3 Warriors) (BOXSCORE)

Saturday, September 9th @ Royal LePage Place (4-0 Smoke Eaters) (BOXSCORE)

Saturday, December 9th @ Royal LePage Place (5-3 Smoke Eaters) (BOXSCORE)

Friday, December 29th @ Royal LePage Place (7:00 PM)

Saturday, December 30th @ Cominco Arena (7:00 PM)

Friday, January 19th @ Cominco Arena (7:00 PM)

The Warriors and Smoke Eaters are set to play in their fourth game of the season series between the two sides and the final meeting at Royal LePage Place in the regular season between West Kelowna and Trail. It’s been a visiting team’s season series so far as the Smokies have won both games at RLP while the Warriors won the season opener in Trail in September. Their last meeting on December 9th saw Trail pick up a 5-3 victory with Lucas Cullen, Jared Marino and Michael Lombardi scoring the goals for West Kelowna and Nik Amundrud turning aside 18 of the 22 shots he faced in the game for the loss.

West Kelowna comes into their first game out of the Christmas break after three of a possible four points in their final action ahead of the break. The Warriors earned a big 3-2 overtime victory against the Penticton Vees on Friday, December 15th and followed that up with a come-from-behind effort to tie the Powell River Kings by a 6-6 score. Willie Reim, Jake Harrison, Max Bulawka, Chase Dubois, Michael Lombardi and Jared Marino tallied in the draw while Cole Demers stopped 25 of the 31 shots he faced in the game for his first tie of the season.

Warriors Leading Scorers:
Jared Marino (13-19-32)

Chase Dubois (14-14-28)

Michael Ryan (3-24-27)

Michael Lombardi (10-12-22)

Jake Harrison (6-16-22)

A pair of Warriors look to keep the offence rolling out of the Christmas break as forwards Jared Marino and Michael Lombardi closed out their pre-Christmas schedules on point streaks. The Warriors captain Marino is on a season-high six-game point streak which sees him with three goals and eight points during that span. The Barrington, Rhode Island native Lombardi has scored in three straight games and has five points in that span.

Friday night’s game is a big one for the Warriors as it is the club’s final contest on home ice until January 16th when The Tribe hosts the Vernon Vipers, a span of six games away from the comfy confines of Royal LePage Place which sees the Warriors in Trail followed by a weekend on Vancouver Island and Wenatchee after that. West Kelowna holds a 13-5-1-0 record on home ice this season and have scored the 3rd-most goals at home this season with 70 goals for on home soil.

The Christmas break brought some welcome rest for the Warriors but the team is still feeling the rash of the injury bug of five players will sit out for tonight’s game. Bennett Norlin, Chase Stevenson, Matt Kowalski, Parm Dhaliwal and Lucas Cullen will sit out for the Warriors tonight with affiliate player Mitchell Gove drawing in up front. The Summerland, BC native has 15 goals and 24 points in 23 games with the Okanagan Rockets of the BC Major Midget League. Gove has drawn into 3 games with the Warriors this season and has yet to register a point.

The Trail Smoke Eaters enter play on Friday night with a 20-13-0-2 record and sit in 4th place in the Interior Division with 42 points but have lost 9 of their last 10 games including a 5-2 decision at the hands of the Vernon Vipers at Kal Tire Place in Vernon. Blaine Caton and Ryan Murphy scored the goals for Trail while Adam Marcoux stopped 24 of the 28 shots he faced in his 21st loss of the season.

Smoke Eaters Leading Scorers:

Ross Armour (16-26-42)

Kale Howarth (15-25-40)

Levi Glasman (15-21-36)

Jeremy Lucchini (3-27-30)

Carter Jones (10-18-28)

There might be no team that benefited from the Xmas break more than the Smoke Eaters as December has not been a kind month to Trail whatsoever. The Smokies have lost nine of their last ten games, with their only victory in that span coming against the Warriors in West Kelowna on December 9th. During that stretch of play, the Smoke Eaters have been outscored by a 46-23 margin but have one of the better road records in the BC Hockey League with a 11-5-0-1 record when playing away from Cominco Arena, including two wins this season inside of Royal LePage Place.

Another reason that the Smoke Eaters will benefit from the Christmas break will be the crop of players that return to their lineup. Forward Ross Armour and defenseman Seth Barton make their way back into the fold after spending time away with Team Canada West at the World Junior ‘A’ Challenge in Truro, Nova Scotia, a tournament in which Canada brought home gold with a 5-1 victory over the United States a couple of weeks ago. Armour sits 5th in the BCHL with 16 goals and 42 points this season and hasn’t played since December 1st against Vernon, a span of 6 games while Barton has scored 5 goals with 15 points in his rookie season in the league.

To go along with Armour and Barton, Kale Howarth makes his return to the lineup for the first time since November 25th due to personal reasons. The Red Deer, Alberta native has been missed by the Smoke Eaters lineup as he has registered 15 goals and 40 points in just 26 games so far this season and leads the BCHL in points per game at 1.54. The 20-year-old is committed to the University of Connecticut for next season and was drafted in the 5th round, 148th overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets in last year’s National Hockey League Entry Draft in Chicago.

The Warriors and Smoke Eaters drop the puck on the final home game of year 2017 for the Warriors at 7:00 PM. Tickets are available for purchase online at wkw.goticketpro.com, at the Warriors office, by calling (250) 769-7051 or at the box office beginning one hour ahead of the opening face-off.

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