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“Last year was obviously a difficult year,” admits West Kelowna Warriors head coach

West Kelowna Warriors 2019 Preview
West Kelowna Warriors 2019 Preview

It’s easy to forget that the West Kelowna Warriors won a national championship in 2016.

Easy, because on-ice accomplishments, have been overshadowed by off-ice distractions.

The distractions include one new owner, two lawsuits and three coaching changes.

READ MORE: New ownership group for West Kelowna Warriors

Plainly put, Warriors hockey has taken a back seat to front-office headlines.

“Last year was obviously a difficult year,” said Warriors head coach Brandon West.

“It’s a brand new situation for everybody, it’s a fresh start for everyone,” added West.

So to discount this season’s team because of past turmoil would be unfair to the young men who play their hearts out for the logo on the front of the jersey.

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Players like West Kelowna’s very own Jake Harrison, who’s back this season to captain the team after spending last season with the Fargo Force of the USHL.

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“I’m very excited,” said Harrison. “My three years here were the best years of my life so far, and coming back for my last year of junior is very exciting.”

The 20-year-old defenceman helped the Warriors win the Royal Bank Cup in 2016 and West is happy to have him back.

“He has all the experience, he knows what a good dressing room is all about,” said West.

“He knows what [speed]practices have to be played at, he knows exactly how to win and that’s what we want, our guys following his lead.”

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West Kelowna Warriors say community will dictate team’s future

Harrison, Lucas Cullen and Parm Dhaliwal will form the Warriors’ core group of veteran leaders this year.

The three 20-year-olds will be tasked with bringing along younger players and showing them what it takes to play day in and day out in the BCHL.

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“Just show them the ropes a little bit, just tell them don’t be too nervous, just play your game.” Dhaliwal said.

And when it comes to “playing their game,” this season’s Warriors have a singular focus.

“Our goal is obviously to make the Fred Page final. It’s a goal that starts from here for camp from Day 1,” Dhaliwal said.

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Last season, according to West, the Warriors gave up too many goals and were bounced out of the first round of the playoffs.

This season, the Warriors have four netminders battling to backstop the team.

“We said from Day 1, we have 23 roster spots to fill and no one is going to be given anything,” West said.

“All four guys have given us a difficult decision to make.”

The Warriors have three exhibition games left before paring down the roster as they open their season on Friday, Sept. 6, at home to the Vernon Vipers.