PHOTO: Randy Emery/Trail Smoke Eaters
The West Kelowna Warriors begin their 58-game regular season with a season opening home-and-home set with the Trail Smoke Eaters beginning on Friday night at Cominco Arena.
Warriors vs. Smoke Eaters 2016/17:
Friday, September 9th @ Royal LePage Place (3-1 Warriors) (BOXSCORE)
Saturday, September 10th @ Cominco Arena (8-5 Smoke Eaters) (BOXSCORE)
Saturday, November 5th @ Royal LePage Place (5-3 Warriors) (BOXSCORE)
Thursday, November 10th @ Cominco Arena (5-3 Smoke Eaters) (BOXSCORE)
Thursday, December 29th @ Royal LePage Place (3-2 Warriors 2OT) (BOXSCORE)
Friday, December 30th @ Cominco Arena (4-0 Smoke Eaters) (BOXSCORE)
Warriors vs. Smoke Eaters 2017/18 Schedule:
Friday, September 8th @ Cominco Arena (7:00 PM)
Saturday, September 9th @ Royal LePage Place (7:00 PM)
Saturday, December 9th @ Royal LePage Place (7:00 PM)
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 Smokies met six times in the 2016/17 season with each squad winning in their respective buildings. West Kelowna won all three games played at RLP in the season series last season and outscored Trail by an 11-6 margin over those games while the Smoke Eaters outscored the Warriors 17-8 in their victories over West Kelowna.
There’s a bit of a different look to the Warriors in 2017/18 and it starts in the form of fourteen returning players, something that was lost at the beginning of the season in 2016. Tyler Jutting, Jake Harrison, Stephen Kleysen, Michael Ryan, Jordan Todd, Chase Dubois, Chase Stevenson, Cavin Tilsley, Peter Tomaras, Parm Dhaliwal, Matt Campese, Jared Marino, Cole Demers and Nik Amundrud are back from one season ago and bring plenty of veteran experience to the Warriors lineup.
As is the case in Junior hockey, even with the high turnover of players from the previous season, the Warriors will have new faces in new places this season. The team recently acquired defenseman Garrett Ewert, formerly of the Penticton Vees, and forward Matt Kowalski who spent last season with the Nanaimo Clippers. A pair of Warrior rookies from the United States had strong preseason games in the way of Bennett Norlin and Willie Reim. 19-year-old Norlin and 18-year-old Reim, along with the 20-year-old Jutting, are committed to Air Force and have shown strong play throughout the preseason.
The Warriors unveiled three assistant captains on Wednesday to join captain Jared Marino in helping lead the team during the 2017/18 season. Jake Harrison, Stephen Kleysen and Cavin Tilsley will wear “A’s” for the Warriors this season with each playing over 100 career regular season games and bringing a combined 370 regular season games and over 400 games in total between the three.
Speaking of the captain Marino, the Warriors 20-year-old forward will be celebrating not only his first game with a “C” on his jersey but also career regular season game number 100 on Friday night in Trail. The Niagara Falls, Ontario native has scored 6 goals and earned 29 points to go along with 68 penalty minutes in his 99 career regular season games with the Warriors.
In the crease, the Warriors are bringing back a pair of goaltenders from one season ago as Nik Amundrud and Cole Demers are back to man the blue paint for West Kelowna. The 20-year-old Amundrud spent 7 games with the Warriors last season, playing to a 2-5 record with a 4.93 GAA and a .889 SV% while the 18-year-old Demers carried the mail for the Warriors in the latter half of the 2016/17 season. The Kelowna native played in 12 games with a 4-8 record to go along with a 3.31 GAA and a .905 SV%.
Opening night has been a good one for the Warriors over the years as the club has won their season opening game in back-to-back years and won four of their last five games to open the season. It will be a bit of a scenery switch for West Kelowna as it’s the first time the team will open a season on the road since the 2011/12 season, which was back-to-back wins over the Smokies.
The Trail Smoke Eaters enter the 2017/18 season with high promise after finishing in third place in the Interior Division standings with a 26-26-1-5 record and making the playoffs one season ago for the first time in six years. The Smokies enjoyed some success in their playoff run, defeating the Salmon Arm Silverbacks in the opening round of the playoffs in six games but eventually fell in five games to the Vernon Vipers in the 2nd round. The Smoke Eaters have given plenty of hope to the City of Trail that this team can be a top team in the Interior Division.
Although the Smoke Eaters lost a lot of their offensive attack from 2016/17, a pair of forwards for Trail are returning and look to have big seasons. 20-year-old Kale Howarth was regarded as one of the more dominant players in the BCHL a season ago, scoring 30 goals and earning 59 points in 51 games. His game was so highly recognized that the Columbus Blue Jackets selected him in the 5th round, 178th overall in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.
Ross Armour is another dynamic forward that could be hard to stop for the Smokies in the upcoming year as he enters his 3rd full season with the club. The Rossland, BC native scored 15 goals and collected 40 points in 35 games last season after dealing with a leg injury that kept him out of the lineup for a handful of weeks.
Like the Warriors, a big core of players is returning for the Smokies this season with 14 players ready to suit up again in Trail including Braeden Tuck, Andre Ghantous, Ryan Murphy, Korbyn Chabot, Ryan Moon, Blaine Caton, Spencer McLean, Kyle Chernenkoff, Jeremy Lucchini, captain Troy Ring and Ethan Martini along with Howarth and Armour. Plenty of veteran players for each side heading into the opening night of play in the BCHL.
The Warriors are proud to be hosting a First Responders Appreciation Night to be held at their home opener on Saturday, September 9th against the Trail Smoke Eaters. There will be a courtyard party outside of Royal LePage Place that kicks off at 4:00 PM with street hockey, beverage tents, music and much more. Fans are encouraged to buy their tickets early and can do so by visiting the Warriors office or by calling Office Administrator Kim Potter at (250) 769-7051.