Practise, practise, practise.
It’s all the Vernon Vipers and Coquitlam Express can do as they prepare to meet in the B.C. Hockey League’s Fred Page Cup best-of-seven league championship final starting Friday at 7 p.m. at Kal Tire Place.
Both teams will endure lengthy layoffs prior to game one. The Vipers will be looking at 11 days off since their last game March 30, a 6-1 win over the Express in the semi-final round-robin tournament.
Coquitlam will have had a shorter break – seven days off – since eliminating the Victoria Grizzlies April 3.
“The layoff, it is what it is,” said Vernon head coach Jason Williamson, who had his team back on the ice Monday after giving them the weekend off.
“Our job is to make sure our guys are fresh and not rusty, take some time to mentally and physically recharge, then this week ramp it up with a lot of game-like practice, structure and things like that.”
Likewise, Coquitlam head coach Barry Woolf gave his team the weekend to rest up before getting back to work Monday.
It’s the second time during this post-season the Express have had an extended break. They were off for nine days, after eliminating the Langley Rivermen in six games in the Mainland Division final, before facing the Vipers March 30.
“The first layoff hurt us, I thought we were rusty against Vernon having had nine days off,” said Woolf. “Here, we only have really six, so it’s better for us. We gave them a couple of days off because we were banged up a little. Now, it’s business as usual, practise every day, dryland here and there. We’re approaching Friday as just another game and we’ll keep going forward.”
Game 2 in the series goes Saturday at 7 p.m. at Kal Tire Place before the league final shifts to Coquitlam for Games 3 and 4 Monday and Tuesday.
The players, of course, are eager to get back into the grind of a playoff series. The round-robin format was unique to everybody, playing sporadically as opposed to the first two rounds, when games were held every night or every other night.
“Oh, man, I want to get the final started so bad,” said Vipers forward Brett Mulcahy during a break from drills at Monday’s practice. “Three weeks and playing only two games, that’s a little much. There’s obviously some rest that you want. When you get in the groove and you’re playing every other day, you start to feel good.
“With all this rest, we do a lot of practising but it will be nice to get the games going. I think Friday will be a pretty energetic game. It’s the final, both teams are excited about that.”
Counting the round-robin, Vernon has won two of three meetings with the Express. The teams split in the regular season with both games played before the trade deadline.
SNAKE BITES: Vipers d-man Dylan Chanter is among nine BCHLers listed in the NHL’s final ranking before the entry draft. Chanter is ranked #164 among skaters… The Spruce Groves Saints forced Game 7 in their Alberta league semifinal, scoring a 5-1 win over the Oil Barons in Fort McMurray Sunday. Game 7 went Tuesday night in Spruce Grove. The winner meets the Drumheller Dragons in the league final.