West Kelowna Warriors have high expectations heading into a 'near normal' regular season

Warriors expectations high

It's been more than 19 months since the West Kelowna Warriors played a meaningful game at Royal LePage Place with fans in the seats.

That all changes Saturday night when the Warriors kick off what everyone associated with the BC Hockey League hope will be a full 2021-2022 season.

And, it's a season 20-year-old captain Elan Bar Lev Wise hopes will be a very special season in West Kelowna.

"Last year was not the year we wanted to see. But, coming into the season, my final year, with the recruits we have and the guys coming back, I think everyone is really excited because they know we have a team that can really make a run this year," said Bar Lev Wise ahead of the team's final practice before the season opener.

"I played in Vernon my first year and we made a run to the finals. We didn't win it, but I'm pretty hungry to win this year with this group."

The Warriors come into the season with a young, veteran-laden club with a crop of highly-touted rookies mixed in with 16 returning vets, and depth across the board.

"I'd say we have three pretty solid lines, and the fourth line is a younger group but they played in the pod last year and proved themselves in this league.

"And our D corps are pretty special. We have eight D who can all play in the lineup every night. The goaltending, we have Johnny Derrick who's been in this league for a while so he gives up a good veteran presence."

While Bar Lev Wise will wear the "C" for a second season, he'll have a lot of veteran experience to lean on in the dressing room and on the ice.

Newcomer Chase Dafoe, the captain in Trail last season, forwards John Evans and Marcus Joughin and defenceman Nick Ardenaz will all serve as assistant captains.

"We have a lot of guys that love the game of hockey - we're really passionate - a bunch of guys who study the game a lot off the ice," Bar Lev wise added.

"I like to use the term nerds of hockey."

The Warriors host Prince George in their season opener Saturday, a team they beat 4-3 in overtime in a highly entertaining preseason game 11 days ago.

The Warriors will honour West Kelowna firefighters throughout the game.

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