The Vernon Vipers will face the Salmon Arm Silverbacks in round one of the B.C. Hockey League playoffs.
The matchup was confirmed Saturday after Vernon lost 4-3 in overtime to the Merritt Centennials, the Gorillas fell 4-0 in Penticton, and the West Kelowna Warriors – who could have overtaken Salmon Arm in the standings with a win – dropped a 5-4 overtime decision to the Smoke Eaters in Trail.
The Vees’ victory clinched the Interior Division pennant, and gives the Vees a first-round date with the Island Division crossovers, the Cowichan Valley Capitals.
Merritt will take on the Smoke Eaters and the third-place Wenatchee Wild draw the Warriors.
All series are best-of-seven affairs, and start Friday.
It’s the second straight year Vernon and Salmon Arm will face-off in the opening round. The Snakes swept the Gorillas last season.
Games 1 and 2 and in the Vipers-Silverbacks series will be at Kal Tire Place Friday and Saturday.
Salmon Arm won five of the six regular-season meetings with Vernon, though the Vipers took the last game, Jan. 11, 4-1, at Kal Tire Place.
Matthieu Gosselin got the overtime winner for Merritt on a powerplay with 15 seconds left in the first five-minute overtime period. Jesse Lansdell had been whistled for a slash 43 seconds earlier.
Elan Bar lev wise forced OT for the Vipers with a goal, his seventh of the year, with only one second left in regulation time, capping a Vipers’ two-goal deficit comeback in the period.
Teddy Wooding, with his 21st of the year, opened the scoring for Vernon at 7:24 of the second. Payton Matsui tied the game four minutes later for the Centennials.
Merritt took a 3-1 lead on goals from Bradley Cocca and Nicholas Wicks four minutes apart midway through the frame. Logan Cash, with his seventh, got Vernon to within one at 18:04, setting the stage for Bar lev wise’s heroics.
Bradley Cooper made 45 saves for the Vipers.
All playoff series are now set.
In the Mainland Division, the regular-season pennant-winning and defending Royal Bank Cup champion Chilliwack Chiefs will play the Langley Rivermen, and the Prince George Spruce Kings take on the Coquitlam Express.
In the Island Division, the division-winning Victoria Grizzlies draw the Alberni Valley Bulldogs and the Powell River Kings face the Nanaimo Clippers.
The winners of the Island and Mainland Divisions will play a semifinal series with the winner meeting the Interior Division champion in the BCHL’s Fred Page Cup championship series.