West Kelowna Warriors got past Vernon in hockey's return to play

Warriors, BCHL return

The fans were missing, and only a skeleton crew of off-ice officials were in the building, but, during these uncertain times, hockey was back at Royal LePage Place.

The West Kelowna Warriors and Vernon Vipers tangled Friday night in the first game of the Okanagan Challenge Cup.

The exhibition season series pits these two teams, along with Penticton and Salmon Arm in a four-team tournament leading up to the start of the regular season at the beginning of December.

In a game that was at times sloppy and others fast paced, typical for an opener to a pre season, the Warriors got a pair of goals from newcomer Felix Trudeau in a 4-1 victory over the vising Vipers.

But the real story, as coaches and scant others looked on clad in masks, was the return of the sport at the junior level.

"It was awesome. There were some strange rules happening out there that we're not used to, so we'll adjust as we have all summer...but, getting on the ice, getting back in competition against a good team, and finishing the way we wanted to was good," said Warriors head coach Simon Ferguson.

"It was strange (without fans), I kept hearing noise, I think they were playing fan music.

"I think it adds to it when our fans are going, but I think the competitive juices in each guy is going regardless of the building."

On the ice, the Warriors jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead just 10 seconds in when former Viper Elan Bar Lev Wise was credited a goal after a clearing attempt bounced off him and behind Vernon netminder Kobe Grant.

The Warriors controlled much of the opening 10 minutes, aided in part by a pair of Vernon penalties and nearly a minute of five-on-three power play time, but were unable to lengthen the lead.

"The first 10 minutes I thought we pressured hard, then we thought we were pretty good, and they pressured hard," said Ferguson.

"We kind of dialed it in in the second and third a little bit better, and saw some guys do some really good things. We'll evaluate as we go, so it was good."

Johnny Derrick, back after a spectacular rookie season with the Warriors, made several key stops, including a spectacular save off Nicholas Remissong on a two-man breakaway in close.

The only puck to beat him came later in the first as the Vipers capitalized on a two-man advantage when Ryan Shostak tapped home a cross-crease pass.

Trudeau one-timed a beautiful backdoor pass from from Marcus Joughin midway through the second to put the Warriors up for good.

Deegan Mofford banged home a rebound to extend the lead later in the second before Trudeau iced it with an empty net tally in the final minute.

The Vipers lost the services of forward Cameron MacDonald in the second period after he was hit hard into the boards by Warriors defenceman Kyle Pow. Pow received a charging penalty for the hit.

MacDonald didn't return.

The two teams will play again Saturday night in Vernon.

In the other Okanagan Challenge Cup opener Friday, Yaniv Perets turned away 20 shots as the Vees pummeled Salmon Arm 7-0.

Tristan Amonte and Quinn Hutson each scored twice for the Vees, while Devlin O'Brien, Jackson Niedermayer and Drew Elser added singles.

Those same two teams will face off Saturday in Salmon Arm.

Penticton Vees sign new assistant captain

Vees nab new asst. captain

The Penticton Vees have a new leader in their midst as forward Matteo Constantini joins the team as assistant captain for the 2020/21 season. 

Costantini, 17, is set to begin his first season in Penticton after an excellent year with the Buffalo Jr. Sabres of the Ontario Junior Hockey League.

He produced 36 goals and 32 assists for 68 points in just 50 games over the 2019/20 campaign while adding two goals and eight assists for 10 points in six playoff games. 

He was the OJHL’s Rookie of the Year, and is also eligible for this year’s NHL Entry Draft, ranking 96th amongst North American skaters from the NHL’s Central Scouting department. 

Costantini also secured his collegiate future, committing to the University of North Dakota a week ago.

Four interior teams will play a seven week series beginning Friday

Okanagan Cup up for grabs

The four Okanagan and Shuswap teams in the BC Hockey League will have something tangible to play for during what the league is calling "extended training camp."

The West Kelowna Warriors, Penticton Vees, Vernon Vipers and Salmon Arm Silverbacks will play a 12-game series over seven weeks, beginning Friday night.

Games will mostly be played on weekends, culminating with the championship game for the Okanagan Cup Saturday, Nov. 14.

Teams will face each other four times over the course of the tournament.

This, and several other tournaments are taking place across the BCHL, as teams look to keep their players engaged and together prior to the start of the regular season, expected at the beginning of December.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions limiting the number of people who can attend events, fans will not be allowed in the buildings on game nights.

The 50 person maximum includes players, coaches and both on and off ice officials.

“We are very excited to be back playing games again and not just exhibition games, these are meaningful games”, said Warriors president Chris Laurie. 

“The Okanagan Cup will have four strong rivals competing hard for a unique title. It is unfortunate our fans won’t be permitted in the building to support our team, but all of our games will be broadcasted online on HockeyTV and some on Shaw TV.

"Game highlights will be posted on our website and social media platforms following the games.”

Teams have already concluded a training camp and, for the most part, have trimmed their numbers at, or near the 25 player limit.

The tournament begins this Friday night with the Warriors hosting Vernon and Salmon Arm entertaining Penticton.

BCHL releases schedule for the 2020-21 exhibition season

BCHL ready for exhibition

The BC Hockey League has released its schedule for the 2020-21 exhibition season, leading up to the start of the regular season in early December.

As part of the league’s extended training camp, the schedule will feature competition between BCHL teams within a cohort of four.

“We believe it’s important to have our players playing meaningful games during this extended period before the start of our regular season, in order to stay engaged and game-ready leading into December,” said BCHL executive director Steven Cocker. “Our teams are working within the guidelines to provide our players with a high level of development on and off the ice.”

The first games will be played on Sept. 25, and will feature Penticton versus Salmon Arm and Vernon at West Kelowna.

Compared to past years the exhibition season will be expanded, with over 100 games scheduled across the league. Some teams will start play as early as Sep. 25, while others will delay until October and November, depending on their training camp model.

West Kelowna Warriors roster 3 players following training camp

Warriors add more depth

Three hopefuls turned enough heads during last week's training camp to be added to the West Kelowna Warriors roster.

The team announced Monday forwards Damon Jugnauth and Felix Trudeau and goaltender Jay Thomson will remain with the Warriors this season.

Jugnauth, 17, the older cousin of Warriors defenceman Tyson Jugnauth, spent the past two seasons with Edge prep in Calgary.

He scored 12 goals and 27 assists in 36 games.

“Damon provides a high level of compete, speed and has a great shot”, said Warriors head coach Simon Ferguson. “Damon was a clear stand out at our ID camp and I can’t wait to see what he does this season.”

Trudeau, also 17, spent last season with Northwood School in Lake Placid, NY., where he scored 30 goals and 35 assists in 55 games.

“I think Felix is going to be an exciting player for fans to watch this season. He plays with speed, has excellent hockey IQ and a natural ability to put the puck in the net," said Ferguson.

Thomson, 19, spent last season with Calgary in the AJHL.

“Jay is a goaltender who is technically very sound and has an exceptional work ethic.”, said Ferguson.

“Jay has come to West Kelowna looking for an opportunity in camp and has earned a spot through his play this past weekend.”

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