Penticton Vees captain Owen Sillinger during the playoffs with Coquitlam. Sillinger earned the BC Hockey League player of the month honours for his efforts in February. Mark Brett/Western News

Vees looking ahead to round two of BCHL playoffs

Penticton Vees now prepare for second round action against the Trail Smoke Eaters

Penticton Vees are due for some rest and recovery after sweeping their first-round B.C. Hockey League playoff opponent, the Coquitlam Express, this week.

Good news on the home front is what was thought to be a serious injury to Nicky Leivermann in the second period of Tuesday’s game in Coquitlam was not as bad as first thought.

The Penticton defencemen was pushed from behind and crashed head first into the boards. He was eventually stretchered off the ice and taken to hospital.

“There’s 10 days between when Leivermann got hurt and when our next game is so I think there will be a good chance he will be ready for that game,” said head coach and GM Fred Harbinson, Thursday, adding that injured Vee Ryan Sandelin is also close to returning.

The Vees will host the Trail Smoke Eaters, who dispatched the West Kelowna Warriors in four games, on March 16 and 17.

According to Harbinson, Wednesday’s 2-1 win to clinch the series in Coquitlam was somewhat of a relief.

“Yeah, it’s nice to put that one behind us,” he said. “It’s a tough series to play. It’s a bit of a trap in trying to be perfect but it’s impossible to be perfect. Everybody expects you to blow the team out of the water, and it’s going to be easy, but that’s not always the case.”

There were two blowouts in the series, 9-2 and 7-2, that were bookended by a pair of 2-1 home and away victories.

“So to me there were a couple of good things to come away from it with. One was we had to play in a desperate situation in game one where a team puts us on our heels and we have to find a way to win,” said Harbinson.

Related:Penticton Vees looking to sweep Coquitlam Express

Four Interior Division teams swept their series, Wenatchee Wild knocked off the Merritt Centennials and the Vernon Vipers toppled the Salmon Arm Silverbacks.

“Really, it’s a flip of the coin for all four matchups so it’s going to be all about doing all the little extra stuff making the right play at the right time,” said Harbinson. “Wenatchee and Trail, when they have all their guys, which they do now, are probably the most powerfully offensive teams in the league, and Trail is going to be firing on all cylinders, and we’re going to have to be ready.”

The other good news for the Vees coming out of Coquitlam was learning team captain Owen Sillinger was the BCHL player of the month for February.

In all 12 games he played that month, the 5’10” Regina, Sask. native scored nine goals and added 12 assists to help the team to a 9-2-1-0 record.

The honour was celebrated by the team, especially after being shutout in the individual league awards announced at the end of the regular season.

“It’s well deserved,” said Harbinson about Sillinger’s selection. “He does so much for our program on and off the ice, definitely a nice accolade for him.”

The March 16 game at the South Okanagan Events Centre goes at 7 p.m. and the Saturday match begins at 6 p.m.

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