It’s a match-up two years in the making as the Penticton Vees take on the West Kelowna Warriors in the Interior Conference finals.
A B.C. Hockey League playoff rematch between these rivals is set to begin at the South Okanagan Events Centre on Friday, April 29.
Two years ago, the Penticton Vees were primed for a deep playoff run after finishing the 2019-2020 regular season as the Interior Conference’s best team.
In 2020, a decisive first-round series win against the West Kelowna Warriors only backed up those aspirations. The win even forced the West Kelowna mayor to wear a Vees jersey to work.
Shortly after the Penticton victory, the pandemic rocked the sports world and forced the BCHL to cancel its season, putting a halt on the Vees’ playoff dreams in the process.
Fast forward to 2022 and Penticton will meet their Okanagan-based foes for a playoff matchup once again. This time, though, the Interior Conference title will be on the line.
“I think it will be an outstanding series, with the teams just 40 minutes apart. You’re probably going to have their fans in our building and ours in theirs. It will make for some great rivalries in the stands,” said Fred Harbinson, the president, general manager and head coach of the Vees.
The Vees and Warriors met seven times during the 2021-2022 regular season, with West Kelowna capturing four victories. Despite falling short in the season series, Penticton outscored its rivals 23-21 over the course of the seven meetings.
It’s been anything but a rocky road to the conference finals for the Vees, who have cruised to series wins against the Trail Smoke Eaters and Prince George Spruce Kings in succession.
The Warriors, meanwhile, have had the same playoff fate. West Kelowna defeated the Vernon Vipers in the first round, before taking care of the higher-seeded Salmon Arm Silverbacks in five games in the second round.
“They have a high-octane offense,” Harbinson said about the Warriors. “They have a lot of guys who are very creative upfront and that have been in the league for the last three years. They have a smooth-skating defense core and a veteran goaltender.”
Since 2004, Penticton has battled West Kelowna in the playoffs six different times, with the Vees coming out on top in five of those matchups.
The winner of this year’s series will play either the Nanaimo Clippers or Langley Rivermen for the Fred Page Cup, the trophy awarded annually to the BCHL champions between the Interior Conference and Coastal Conference.
The Vees and Warriors will play the series’ first two matchups at the SOEC on Friday and Saturday, before moving over to the Royal LePage Place in West Kelowna for games three and four on May 2 and 4.
“You got the two top offensive teams in the league getting ready to go at each other here,” Harbinson said.
Puck drop for all of the series’ games is slated for 7 p.m.
Tickets for the third-round matchup are available for purchase at valleyfirstix.com.