Now that the B.C. Hockey League has determined only one team will miss the playoffs, the Vernon Vipers and Penticton Vees can feel secure about the post-season.
Like they were ever going to be on the sidelines come March anyways.
Just call the home and home series starting tonight in Penticton the first preview of the Interior Conference final which normally goes seven games each season. The Vipers entertain the Vees Saturday, 6 p.m.
The 5-0 Vees are ranked No. 1 in the 132-team Canadian Junior A League, while the Vipers are No. 12 at 7-1-0-1. The pace in both games will be a sprint. The hate meter will be off the charts.
“They’re very good, obviously,” said Vernon head coach Mark Ferner. “They have a mobile dee for sure and are a good defensive team off the rush. It’s a healthy rivalry with two teams who are very familiar with what each team does.”
The Vipers are still recovering from a flu and cold bug which hit almost the entire roster after a marathon road trip. Ferner will wait until warm-up before setting his lineup.
“We’re not quite there (health wise). We’ll wait and see.”
Penticton has converted six times on 31 powerplay chances, a rate of 19.35 per cent. That sits them at 11th overall in the league, however, they have also played the least amount of games. The Wenatchee Wild sit atop the heap with 13 goals and a 28.9 per cent success rate in six games.
“When you get pucks to the net, good things happen,” said Vees’ alternate captain Chris Klack. “Obviously we have a group here that likes to make nice, silky plays as well. Maybe in the future make it a little more simple on the PP.”
Meanwhile, the BCHL board voted to keep the league’s three-division alignment for the regular season, eliminate the first-round bye in the Interior Division playoffs and have 16 of the 17 teams make the playoffs. The 2018 BC Ford Dealers Road to the Fred Page Cup BCHL Playoffs will adhere to the following structure:
• The top-four teams from both the Island and Mainland Divisions will qualify for the playoffs and will be seeded No. 1 to 4.
• In the Interior Division, which has seven teams now that the Wenatchee Wild have joined, the top-six teams will qualify for the playoffs, seeded No. 1 to 6.
• The last-place team from each division (Island fifth place, Mainland fifth place and Interior seventh place) will be eligible to compete in the Interior Division opening round as the No. 7 or 8 seed.
• The top two of the three last-place teams, determined by regular-season points total, will go into the Interior Division for round one. The Island and/or Mainland team crossing over will be the No. 7 or No. 8 seed if they have a higher points total than the Interior last-place team.
• All playoffs rounds will be a best-of-seven format. The winner of the Island versus Mainland Coastal final will play the winner of the Interior Division in the Fred Page Cup BCHL Finals.
SNAKE BITES: Vernon’s Powell Connor, a sophomore d-man with the Chilliwack Chiefs, has been listed as a C prospect by the NHL in Central Scouting Bureau’s Players to Watch list. Connor, a rugged 6-foot-1, 175-pounder, is projected as a fourth- to sixth-round draft choice next June. Penticton D Johnny Tychonick and Wenatchee D Demin Stanislav are both B prospects, meaning they are expected to go in the second or third rounds. Nanaimo Clipper F Max Crozier and Langley Rivermen F Brendan Budy are C lists…Penticton D Ben Allen has become the 17th player on the Vees’ roster to earn a NCAA Division 1 scholarship. Allen, 20, has committed to the University of Alabama-Huntsville Chargers for next season…Vernon’s Noah Turanski, 19, has three goals and five points in five games with the Kindersley Klippers of the Saskatchewan League. The 6-foot-4, 240-pounder had 2-10-12 in three years with the Coquitlam Express.