Penticton Vees captain Troy Stecher described the British Columbia Hockey League playoffs as the time of year players have to get up with no excuses.
“Everyone needs to bring their A game. If you think the coaches are asking too much of you, you’re sadly mistaken,” said Stecher, who said they are ready for first round opponents the Salmon Arm SilverBacks.
He added that players need to understand this is do or die, as they begin the battle to get back to the RBC Cup.
“We couldn’t be more excited for Friday night,” he said.
The Vees won the season series against the SilverBacks 5-1-0-1. They were 1-1-0-1 in the final three games.
When asked what the SilverBacks do well, Stecher and Vees coach-GM Fred Harbinson said they have defenceman who like to jump into the play and skate well. Harbinson said that Brayden Sherbinin and Shane Hanna are quick on the back end. He also said they forecheck really hard most times with two or three guys low in the zone.
“Our transition game has to be on its A game,” said Harbinson, who heard that the SilverBacks expressed their excitement on playing them on Twitter. “Right now, they have fought hard and feel good about getting in the playoffs. They have been giving up a lot of goals in the process. We need to exploit that.”
In their five March games, the SilverBacks scored 24 goals and allowed 22.
Stecher added the SilverBacks are opportunistic with their scoring chances and said goalie (Adam) Clark can steal some games.
“They’re a good hockey team,” said Stecher, named the Interior Conference’s best defenceman. “I think we match up well against them.”
SilverBacks coach Scott Robinson said they want to avoid playing high scoring hockey.
“We’ve got to limit their chances,” said Robinson. “They have too many guys that can finish and make plays.”
With the Vees having Stecher, Cody DePourcq, Wade Murphy and Chad Katunar to lean on from their RBC Cup-winning experience, Robinson said they know how to win. He also said they understand how to play in tight games. The Vees played in 27 one-goal games, going 14-8-0-5.
“You know they know they have what it takes and that’s going to be a big challenge for us,” said Robinson.
When it comes to his own teams’ play, Robinson said they know who they are and that is a group that has to work hard. They are also a group that has to be disciplined. The SilverBacks put teams on the power play 225 times and allowed 40 goals for a killing efficiency rate of 82 per cent.
“The margin for error for us is a small one because we don’t score a lot of goals,” said Robinson, whose team power play was 0.33 per cent better than the Vees during the season (44 goals on 225 chances compared to 45 goals on 234 Vees chances).
The margin for error against the SilverBacks increases as the Vees’ goaltending tandem of Chad Katunar and Nic Renyard were awarded the Wally Forslund Memorial Trophy as the BCHL’s top duo. It’s the first time in five years the Vees won the award since Alex Evin and Bryan Mountain guarded the net for them. Katunar and Renyard combined for a 2.33 goals-against average.
When it comes to their regular season series, Robinson said the only thing they can take from it is knowing they have had success against the defending RBC Cup champs. Matchup wise, Robinson said the Vees pose a lot of problems.
“The one very good thing about our team is we don’t assume a lot of negative or positive things about our opponent,” he said. “We just kind of go out and play. I think we will put a very good effort forward.”
Robinson said his team has defended well heading into the playoffs and have to since their offence averages 2.7 goals per game. After the Jan. 10 deadline, the SilverBacks scored 62 goals in 20 games and allowed 69. Robinson said his players are a confident group.
“We feel that we can get something done here,” he said.
Vees notes: Asked why fans will enjoy the Vees/SilverBacks series, Harbinson said “I think the whole BCHL season this year for everybody has been real tight. Games are all tight and it should be an exciting series for sure.” Harbinson said before the regular season was over that goals in the BCHL have been harder to come by. Last year 3,326 goals were scored in 960 games for an average of 3.4 per game. This year 2,825 goals were scored in 896 games for an average of 3.15. Brian Wiebe, who blogs on the BCHL, posted on March 10 about the scoring depth in the league. He reported that it wasn’t a surprise two of the three division leaders (Penticton and Victoria) are among the leaders of players having 20-plus goals, although Chilliwack and Prince George both had more 20-plus scorers than the Mainland Division champs from Surrey.