Playoffs arrive, Vees excited

Vees hunger for championship starts with Chilliwack Chiefs

Bryce Gervais should be an offensive threat for the Penticton Vees in the playoffs. The Vees begin their pursuit of the Fred Page Cup on Friday.

Bryce Gervais should be an offensive threat for the Penticton Vees in the playoffs. The Vees begin their pursuit of the Fred Page Cup on Friday.

Kyle Beaulieu said it’s a clean slate on any trash talk with the Chilliwack Chiefs from their regular season series.

“We will still have the grudge match,” said Beaulieu, the Penticton Vees defenceman. “That will carry over a little bit.”

The Chiefs and Vees will clash at the South Okanagan Events Centre for Games 1 and 2 Friday and Saturday, both 7 p.m. starts, to open the BCHL’s playoffs.

Beaulieu, who is making his second playoff appearance with the Vees, is excited for what it is t come. The White Rock native said teams shut down defensively, plays happen quicker and hitting is harder. He is eager to help the Vees advance further in the playoffs.

“We certainly have the group to go far,” he said, as the Vees are the No. 1-ranked team in the Canadian Junior Hockey League.

Vees captain Logan Johnston shares Beaulieu’s feelings in wanting to see the team go further and believes they will.

“I think everybody is pretty excited,” said Johnston. “We didn’t necessarily have a whole lot on the line at the end of the year except for the streak. Now it’s kind of like everything is resetting.”

Johnston, who is known to step up his game in the playoffs, expects to continue that trend.

“I just think the game suits me better, the playoff style,”  he said after being one of last guys off the ice on Tuesday.

He feels the key to success against the Chiefs will be a strong start and matching their intensity.

“That’s going to be their main thing. If we’re as intense as they are and sharp, then I think we’re sitting pretty good,” said Johnston, who has 12 goals and 17 points in 35 playoff games.

He added that the Chiefs have strong goaltending and defence. What works in the Chiefs favour in Johnston’s opinion is their work ethic. They also have experience.

“A lot of those guys played for Quesnel before and they had a couple of successful playoff goes there in Vernon,” he said.

Vees defenceman Troy Stecher, who shared playoff MVP honours with Johnston, looks to continue his strong play in the post season. Stecher felt he had a strong second season playing with Mike Reilly.

“I feel I played well and found chemistry with Mike Reilly,” said Stecher, adding that he improved his defensive play and his much stronger in battles along the boards.

Stecher said the key to success for the Vees will be out battling teams.

Travis St. Denis said the Vees have a team that can go all the way and that excites him in his final season. St. Denis has experienced the BCHL’s playoff action before with the Trail Smoke Eaters, but they never advanced past the opening round,

“I’m very hungry,” he said to go further. “I’m going to give everything I can.”

St. Denis, a veteran of 203 BCHL games, who also set career highs in goals and assists for a total of 89 points, said the difference between BCHL regular season and playoff hockey is the speed and more bodies are being thrown.

“Playing with Logan, we will be crashing and banging,” said St. Denis, who has played all season with Interior Conference Rookie of the Year Mario Lucia.

And St. Denis added that he won’t stop being a pest for opponents.

The key for today’s game St. Denis said is to get on the Chiefs early.

“They will have bus legs,” he said. “Our starts of late haven’t been great. Starts are going to be huge.”

Vees coach-GM Fred Harbinson said the Chiefs get to pucks quickly and their forwards pressure hard. He acknowledged while both their goalies are good, they have had success against them. He talked about getting pucks on net and staying disciplined.

“We have to play physical, play between whistles and don’t be selfish,” said Harbinson.

“We certainly don’t want to take any bad penalties, I’ll tell you that,”  said Chiefs coach Harvey Smyl. “We have to play banging, grinding hockey and not give them odd-man rushes. We have to make them earn their chances.”

The Chiefs, meanwhile, will be striving to make life difficult for Vees goalie Michael Garteig, who was named the BCHL’s Goalie of the Year for the second year in a row.

Ice chips: The BCHL named its all-stars. On the first team are Interior Conference forwards Wade Murphy, Penticton Vees, Paul De Jersey, Prince George Spruce Kings and Joey Benik, Vees with defenceman Mike Reilly, Vees and Brett Corkey of the Vernon Vipers. In goals is Garteig. Coastal Conference forwards are Alex Petan Coquitlam Express, Devin Gannon Cowichan Valley Capitals and Alex Kerfoot of the Express. On defence is Powell River Kings Craig Dalrymple and Clinton Atkinson of the Express. In goal is Andrew Hunt of the Surrey Eagles. On the second all-star team are Vees forwards Mario Lucia, Travis St. Denis and Connor Reilly. On defence it is Reece Wilcox of the Merritt Centennials and Troy Stecher of the Vees. In goal is Chilliwack Chief Mitch Gillam. In the Coastal Conference selected forwards are Cohen Adair, Powell River Kings, Matt Brown, Cowichan Valley Capitals and Tyler Morley of the Eagles. On defence it is Jon Jutzi of the Kings and Graeme McCormack of the Nanaimo Clippers. In goal is Sean Maguire of the Kings. The All Rookie team consists of Kerfoot, Steven Fogarty of the Vees and Lucia, while the defence is Reilly and Devon Toews of the Eagles. Gillam is in goal.