The Penticton Vees are making their fifth trip to the B.C. Hockey League’s Fred Page Cup in 10 years.
The Vees advanced to the BCHL Final after winning Game seven of the Interior Division championship over the Vernon Vipers 3-1 Monday at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
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The Vees will now face the Chilliwack Chiefs, who knocked off the Langley Rivermen, the league-leading Wenatchee Wild and recently the Victoria Grizzlies in six games. It’s the second year in a row the Chiefs advanced to the BCHL Final.
The Vees won the regular season series against the Chiefs with a 3-2 overtime win on home ice, then shutout the Chiefs 3-0 in Chilliwack.
“They are a great team,” said Vees captain Nicholas Jones. “They have some good players. Some really good high-end scorers. They got guys that play a hard game too. We’ve got to be ready in their building on Friday with a mindset that it is going to be even harder.”
Chiefs captain Jordan Kawaguchi leads the playoffs in scoring with 12 goals and 28 points in 16 games. Kawaguchi, commit ed to the University of North Dakota, has teammate Kohen Olischefski behind him in third with eight goals and 17 points in 16 games. Jones has 17 points in 14 games. Jake Smith is another Chief in the top 10 with 15 points in 16 games. In goal, Mark Sinclair, committed to the University of Alabama Huntsville, is second in goals against average at 2.02 and has a .927 save percentage. Vees goalie Mat Robson has a 2.22 goals against average and .921 save percentage.
Duncan Campbell, who scored the winner Monday, said facing the Chiefs will be a new challenge.
“They were really fast-paced games,” said Campbell. “Their D moves pucks really well. Their forwards are fast and skilled. They create a lot of plays. It’s going to be a good series.”
Games one and two will be in Chilliwack on April 14 and 15. Games three and four return to the SOEC on April 18 and 19 at 7 p.m.
The Vees earned the right to play for the Fred Page Cup, the 18th time in franchise history (with 11 wins), on goals by Gabe Bast, Campbell and Taylor Sanheim in front of an energetic crowd of 4,033. Vees coach-GM Fred Harbinson said following the game that opening the scoring was the turning point in them getting the win.
“It has been important in this series. Both teams are so good with the lead,” said Harbinson. “Getting that first goal gave us the confidence. Got the crowd into it, which was outstanding tonight, over 4,000 people.”
With 6:40 left in the middle frame, the Vees put the dagger in. Sol Seibel, filling in for Chris Jandric, who was serving a one-game suspension, turned the puck over in the Vees end to Owen Sillinger. The Bemidji State commit, sprung Sanheim. The veteran forward broke into the Vipers zone, then slowed as he made an inside out move on Shane Kelly that looked like it wouldn’t work. Sanheim then snapped a shot high blocker that nearly blew the roof off the SOEC.
“Incredible,” said Campbell, who wasn’t surprised by the play. “I play a lot of summer hockey with him. That’s really when you can showcase a lot of your skill. Work on your new dangles and moves and I’ve seen that before.”
“Inserting Sanheim from Game 7 on from the last series, he has scored some big goals obviously in both those Game sevens,” said Harbinson.
On Wednesday, the Vees announced single-game tickets for the 2017 Western Canada Cup (WCC), presented by Sun Life Financial, go on sale to the public on April 12.
“We’re happy to release single-game tickets to the public and we believe they will find our pricing structure very fair. Tournament packages have been selling very well, but with today’s announcement it’s exciting to know the Western Canada Cup is right around the corner,” said Tournament Chair David Michaud.
There are three pricing structures for single-game WCC tickets, as Vees round-robin games will be $20 for adults and seniors, and non-Vees round-robin games will be $15. Tickets for the WCC Championship game and the RBC Cup “Play-In” game are $25. Local students and children (18 and under) are free courtesy of Peter Bros. Construction. Single game tickets can be purchased at the Valley First box office, or online at www.valleyfirsttix.com.
Fans who’ve already purchased Western Canada Cup tournament packages, can pick those up at the Valley First box office starting Wednesday.
WCC Ticket packages are still available, including the “Vees Only” package. That’s the Vees’ round-robin games at the WCC, plus the playoff round (seven games) for just $130. Full tournament packages (13 games) are on sale for $179. Fans can purchase Western Canada Cup packages by phoning the Vees’ Ticket Office at 250-493-8337 (extension 4).