The Vernon Vipers’ push towards home-ice advantage in the first round of the B.C. Hockey League playoffs gets a stiff challenge as they play two of the league’s top three teams three times in four days.
The Vipers entertain the league-best Chilliwack Chiefs tonight (Wednesday) at 7 p.m. at Kal Tire Place, then play a home-and-home with the second-best team, the Interior Division leading Penticton Vees. The front end of the doubleheader is Friday at the South Okanagan Events Centre, the back end is Saturday at Kal Tire Place at 6 p.m.
Chilliwack (37-12-1-0) has 75 points, five ahead of the Prince George Spruce in the Mainland Division. The Chiefs beat Vernon 3-2 in the Fraser Valley back on Oct. 14, scoring twice in the third period and the winner with just 21 seconds left in regulation time.
The game marks the return to Vernon of defenceman Mitch Andres, dealt to the Chiefs at the league trade deadline for defence Will Dow-Kenny.
Andres has a goal and three points in 12 games with the Chiefs.
Dow-Kenny has two assists in eight games with the Vipers.
Vernon (22-18-7-3) enters Wednesday’s game in fifth place in the Interior Division, one point behind the Salmon Arm Silverbacks, six behind the third-place Wenatchee Wild, one point ahead of sixth-place West Kelowna Warriors and six ahead of the seventh-place Trail Smoke Eaters. All seven Interior teams have clinched a playoff spot.
The division champion will play a crossover team from the Mainland or Island Division in the first round of the playoffs.
Penticton (33-14-1-2) has 69 points, good for third overall in the league and a six-point lead on the Merritt Centennials in the Interior. The Vees have won three of four against the Vipers this season, including the last two meetings.
Prior to Saturday’s game, the Vipers will honour the 1976-78 Vernon Tigers Senior B lacrosse team, which won consecutive provincial and Canadian championships in those years.
A banner recognition ceremony will take place at centre ice with a number of the Tigers on hand to be introduced. The players will then conduct a ceremonial faceoff.