BCHL Playoffs just around the corner
By Brandon Smith.
This Friday, March 1st, 2019 the BCHL playoffs are kicking off. As team’s are getting in their last practices, preparing for their toughest tests of the season, I got to sit down with a couple of them to reflect on their regular seasons’.
In West Kelowna, defenseman Wyatt Head spoke of a season filled with up and downs; but full of lessons along the way.
“It’s been a whirlwind for sure… between the coaching changings, winning streaks and losing streaks, but I feel like we’re in a good spot.”
It was a bit a fiasco for the Warriors’ coaching staff this season, but recent hire of veteran coach, Brandon West, has calmed the storm and steered the team in the right direction.
“A couple of us have known Brando before, he’s a good guy and a good coach, it’s helped the transition to a new coach because some of the guys we’re able to say -hey trust this guy-.”
Through the ups and downs of the season Head says it has brought the team closer, and the team bond gives them an advantage going into playoffs.
“We play with a lot of heart, when we’re playing for each other, no one can match our compete [level]… we have a lot of top end skill but we don’t have to rely on just one or two lines, everybody can produce.”
For Head, if the Warriors keep it simple they will find success.
“It’s just about finding a groove where we trusting and playing for each other.”
On the other end of the spectrum, the Merritt Centennials had their best regular season in team history.
“We’ve be excellent this year, but we came up short of our goal winning the division, so we definitely feel we have unfinished business in playoffs,” says Centennials’ winger Matthew Kopperud.
“We’ve had a lot of injuries, and we lost a key player, Matthew Gosselin, for a month to Team Canada, so the team has had to put in the work to fill in the lineup… it was a challenge for the team for sure, but everyone knew they had to step up, scoring goals and playing defense and we got it done.”
In Gosselin’s absence, the team’s leading scoring, the team went 6-1 and pushed themselves towards the top of the division. Over their last 20 games of the regular season, Merritt finished strong going 14-1-5 down the stretch. The team’s successful playoff push had injected a high sense of confidence into Kopperud and the rest of the team.
“I definitely feel we should be expecting to win in playoffs. We know our identity, we’re a fast, skilled team. If we play our game, we feel we’re a tough to beat… we just got to keep doing what we’ve done all year.”
Although Kopperud’s mind is focus on the 1st round of playoffs, he is aware Wenatchee may be waiting for them as a potential 2nd round matchup, the same Wenatchee team that swept Merritt in the 2018 playoffs.
“It’s definitely in definitely in the back of our mind’s, we want to come out faster and stronger and have it the other way around this time.”
In the 1st round of playoffs, the Cents start off at home against the Trail Smoke Eaters, West Kelowna is faced with a tough matchup against the Wenatchee Wild, the Vernon Vipers are facing off against their rival the Salmon Arm Silverbacks, and Penticton is home against the Cowichan Capitals.
For full schedule and playoff bracket click here
Featured image: Kelowna born Wyatt Head (White #7) plays defense against the Penticton Vees. (Image Source: westkelownawarriors.ca)