If there is a strong dislike between the Penticton Vees and West Kelowna Warriors, they are not admitting it.
Warriors coach-GM Rylan Ferster said they have respect for the Vees. Lots of it. When asked if there is also a feeling of hatred, he said no.
“It’s something we certainly don’t talk about,” said Ferster.
The question was asked after their last game ended with a melee in a Vees 2-1 win. In a cleanly played game, the ending was surprising. Ferster continued by saying he doesn’t think the playoffs is a time to be settling scores. He said they are about one thing, moving on.
“I think a lot of that quite possibly maybe got blown out of proportion,” he said.
Maybe the media contributed to that, but when more than one fight breaks out and a handful of suspensions are assessed, questions are going to be asked.
“If you look at the game tape, I’m sure they would agree there was a lot more that has happened in years past. Everyone said it was this big bench clearing brawl. Really there wasn’t a whole lot that happened,” said Ferster. “I don’t think there is any scores to settle from either side.”
The only penalties assessed in the third period were a result of that dance-off.
Vees coach-GM Fred Harbinson said he’s not sure if the same behaviour will continue.
“We want to win a playoff series,” said Harbinson, who guided his team to an RBC Cup championship last year. “I know their coach will tell everybody that wants to listen about how soft we are. We’ve found ways to win a lot of hockey games this year. Have had a lot of guys who have battled through things and don’t miss games. I’m sure part of their game plan will be to try to have a bit of a carry over there. We are going to play our game. Execute and hopefully score more goals.”
Vees power forward Jedd Soleway, who received plenty of special attention from the Warriors in that incident, said both teams know how they feel about each other. They want to win badly.
Soleway stressed the need to play disciplined because there is the potential for things to get out of hand.
“I think if we stay disciplined and we let them take the cheap shots after the whistle, you know if they think we’re being soft and they’re taking penalties on us, so be it. Hopefully we can get goals on the power play and take advantage of them,” he said.
As for getting into fights, the six-foot-two forward said if a fight happens it happens. He just said they don’t want to be dirty and taking penalties. It makes sense. Once you start going down that road, it may be too late to get back on track. Harbinson said discipline will be the key to winning the series.
“If you’re running around trying to settle scores, a lot of times that is going to get you in trouble,” he said. “Our guys have the big picture in mind.”
Maybe there won’t be a score to settle, but there will be intensity. Neither team will back down when they feel they are being wronged. Ferster thinks the intensity will pick up because the stakes are higher.
“It’s the final four now,” he said. “The winner of this gets the opportunity to play for the Fred Page Cup. The price for sacrifice becomes even more.”
Vees captain Troy Stecher may have described the feeling of what the series could be like best.
“It’s going to be a war,” he said.
It should also be entertaining hockey.