A Valentine’s Day date for the Penticton Vees with the Vernon Vipers is followed by their third and final meeting with the Victoria Grizzlies Saturday.
The Vees (32-13-2-4) are trying to clinch a playoff berth while also securing an Interior Division regular season championship. In prepping for the Vipers (26-16-4-6), who the Vees beat 6-1 at Kal Tire Place on Jan.24, Vees coach Fred Harbinson said he knows how he wants his group to be on the ice.
“We need to play with a lot of pace. Put them into situations where we can get to pucks first,” said Harbinson. “That’s the biggest key going against them.”
Vees forward Steen Cooper said if they battle the Vipers the same as they have the last two or three games, they should be fine.
“Our battle level was down when we were going through a tough time,” said Cooper. “They should be coming out with some fire.”
And if the Vipers come out strong early, Cooper said, matching that is important.
“I think we have an extremely hard working team,” said Cooper. “I think that’s one of our biggest assets as a whole.”
While the Vees don’t face the Grizzlies as often, the Vees view them as another rival.
“The last game we played in Victoria was a tight one, we won 3-2, it was a really hard fought game,” said Cooper. “There was definitely some emotion. That game will be exciting to watch.”
“We’ve had two outstanding one-goal wins against them,” said Harbinson. “Last year we had two outstanding games where we lost two overtime games.”
The Vees and Grizzlies (31-13-3-3) met in the first game of the BCHL Showcase in which the Vees won 2-1. The Vees then edged them 3-2 on Dec.15. Including this weekend, the Vees have four home games remaining.
Part of the Vees’ success has come from the power play, which has been more dangerous following a shakeup. With the exception of going 0-for-6 against the Salmon Arm SilverBacks on Feb. 7, the Vees power play has scored six goals in 11 tries.
Vees defenceman Brett Beauvais, who has seven of his 11 goals on the man advantage, credits the improvement to keeping things simple.
“Just get pucks to the net. If we can get it on net and create a rebound, it’s always hard to defend a rebound,” he said. “We just have to pounce on that. That’s what we’ve been doing and it’s been working for us.
“Special teams really do play a big factor,” he continued. “We know a power play goal can either make or break a game.”
League notes: The BCHL and its board of directors decided on a new playoff structure, which they announced Wednesday. The top-four teams in each of the three divisions will qualify for the playoffs. Round one will be a best-of-seven series matching seed No. 1 versus No. 4 and No. 2 versus No. 3. Game 1 of the playoffs will be March 4. The winners of round one meet in the division finals in Round two, also a best-of-seven series. The champions of each division head into the third round, which brings the new structure. It will be a round-robin series with each of the three teams hosting two home games. The objective is to eliminate one club based on wins and losses. A total of six round-robin games are scheduled. After the completion of those, the remaining two teams will go head-to-head in a best-of-seven Fred Page Cup Final. In the event teams are tied after the six round-robin games, a tie-breaker game will be played with the winner going to the finals, the loser eliminated. Tie-breaker rules for the round-robin are the same as those used in the BCHL regular-season standings.