Morning Star file photo

Morning Star file photo

Vernon Vipers host Coquitlam Express

Last home game of the BCHL season has huge significance for Vipers

The Vernon Vipers close out their B.C. Hockey League regular season home schedule with a date against the Mainland Division’s Coquitlam Express.

Game time is 7 p.m. at Kal Tire Place.

The game means nothing for the Express (27-23-3-3) in terms of playoff positioning. They’ll finish in third place in the Mainland Division and will meet the Prince George Spruce Kings in the first round of the playoffs starting next week.

The Express beat the Vipers 4-1 on Nov. 2 in Coquitlam in their only other meeting this season.

The game means everything for the Vipers (25-21-7-3), who will hand out their season-ending team awards on the ice following the game.

Going into Wednesday’s contest, the Vipers are in fourth place in the Interior Division with 60 points with two games left, meaning they’re in position for home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

They can’t catch the third-place Wenatchee Wild. They have a one-point lead on the fifth-place Salmon Arm Silverbacks – the team they could face in the opening round of the post-season.

Salmon Arm has two games left, both against the Penticton Vees, who sit tied for first place with the Merritt Centennials. Penticton has a game in hand on the Cents.

The West Kelowna Warriors are sixth with 55 points. They can’t catch Vernon but could overtake Salmon Arm if they win their final two games against the Trail Smoke Eaters.

The Smokies are seventh with 54 points but have those two large games remain against the Warriors.

Vernon will finish the season Saturday at Merritt. The Centennials play Friday in Langley.

Penticton has three games left; two this weekend with Salmon Arm and a game Wednesday at home against Wenatchee, the defending league champion Wild’s final regular season game.

RELATED: Vernon Vipers, Express to play in BCHL final

What’s known at this point is this:

* The Interior Division champion will play the Cowichan Valley Capitals in the first round of the playoffs. The Capitals will finish fifth in the Island Division and cross-over into the Interior.

* The Wild will finish third in the Interior and play the sixth-place team.

* The defending Royal Bank Cup champion Chilliwack Chiefs finished first overall and will play the Langley Rivermen in the first round.

* The Island Division matchups have the division-winning Victoria Grizzlies playing the Alberni Valley Bulldogs, and the Powell River Kings facing the Nanaimo Clippers.

* The Surrey Eagles are the only team not to make the BCHL playoffs.

The winners of the Island and Mainland Divisions will meet in a league semifinal. The winner advances to the Fred Page Cup final to take on the winner of the Interior Division.

The 2019 Chevrolet BCHL Playoffs will start on Friday, March 1. Each round will be a best-of-seven series with the higher-seeded team in each matchup determining the schedule (2-3-2 or 2-2-1-1-1, for example).

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