As the Penticton Vees and West Kelowna Warriors gear up for the start of the B.C. Hockey League’s Interior Conference Finals on Friday, April 29, veteran leadership is a winning ingredient both teams will be counting on.
“You never go far into the playoffs without leadership,” said Fred Harbinson, the Vees’ president, general manager and this year’s recipient of the BCHL’s Coach of the Year award.
But when it comes to the upcoming third-round series, it’s a point of emphasis that starts and ends in the crease.
Kaeden Lane, the Vees’ netminder and his Warriors counterpart, Johnny Derrick, are both approaching the final years of their junior hockey careers.
Playing in high-pressure games is nothing new for the 20-year-old goaltenders, who will be counted on to lead by example, given their extended experience.
“Lane is one of the top goaltenders in the league and he’s been there for two years now,” said Simon Ferguson, the head coach and general manager of the Warriors. “They’ve kind of relied on him heavily and we’re going to have to do our work to score goals.”
Derrick, meanwhile, was a member of the Warriors when his team suffered a first-round playoff defeat to the Vees in 2020, just days before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the league to put a halt to its postseason schedule. Now as a 20-year-old veteran, he’ll be tasked with holding off a potent Penticton offense over the course of the upcoming best-of-seven series.
Experience in the crease is invaluable, according to the Vees coach. Having championship aspirations — as Penticton does — only adds to its importance.
“You lean on your 20-year-olds,” Harbinson said. “I’ve been in the league a long time and when you look at the playoff goaltending near the end, it’s 20-year-olds that are in there. They got their 20-year-old goaltender in Johnny Derrick and we got ours in Lane.”
The Vees’ starting netminder was honoured by the BCHL on Wednesday, April 27, for contributing to the league’s lowest goals-against average. Lane and backup goaltender Carter Serhyenko were presented with the Wally Forslund Trophy for collectively accomplishing the feat during the 2021-2022 regular season.
The winner of the series will advance to the BCHL Finals and play either the Nanaimo Clippers or Langley Rivermen, where the Fred Page Cup will be up for grabs.