Tim Kehler is sure fans will be in for a treat when the Penticton Vees and Salmon Arm SilverBacks do battle in the second round.
The SilverBacks coach has already begun his game plan when his team meets the Vees for Game 1 as the BCHL playoffs continue. Kehler feels two of the league’s best teams will be on display.
“This is what the BCHL is all about,” said Kehler, who won the Joe Tenant Memorial trophy as coach of the year for the Interior Conference of his excitement for the series. “It’s two teams that can play the game with a lot of pace. They have the skill set to move puck. Both teams have defenceman that can join in the scoring. Nobody has done it better than (Joey) Laleggia this year. Should make for great, exciting, skillful hockey.”
Like the Vees, the SilverBacks swept their first round opponents, the Merritt Centennials, but were given a tougher test. Kehler said the series was how the scores indicated, close. Aside from a Game 1 blowout (7-2), all the games were decided by a goal and one went into overtime.
“Merritt played really well,” he said. “They gave us a good, competitive first round series, which I was happy that we were able to persevere. Playoff hockey is about winning close games.”
Centennials coach-general manager Luke Pierce felt his club made strides.
“Game 1 wasn’t good,” said Pierce. “Game 2, I thought we outplayed them for a portion of that. Likely deserved a better fate. We wanted to gain the experience of trying to win a round, at least win a game and learn what it was going to take for our group. I think it was a good season for us.”
What the Centennials discovered is the SilverBacks have a dangerous power play, which scored four times on 17 chances. Pierce commented on the offensive depth Salmon Arm possesses.
“Mike Hammond is a leading scorer in our league, is a very dangerous player,” said Pierce, of the Brett Hull trophy winner. “You can’t spend time focusing on one or two guys. They have depth through their lineup up front that can score and their defenceman are very active. They play a very up-tempo game.”
Pierce thinks it’s going to be a good matchup. He said it’s power against power with this matchup and noted goaltending is going to be a huge factor. In the post-season, Brett Knowles leads with SilverBacks with three goals and 10 points. The Vees will also face a familiar face in Brad Reid, who played for the club in 2008-09. Laleggia leads the Vees in offence with six points in four games, while four others collected five against the Quesnel Millionaires.
“It could turn out to one of those series where last shot wins,” said Pierce, who will take time off work during the offseason to get married in May. “Turnovers are critical. They (SilverBacks) take pucks that you turn over and they turn them into offensive chances. You can dominate the game for five to 10 minutes and you give them one opportunity and then they can score.”
Kehler sees similarities between his club and the Vees in that both have depth and scoring through four lines. Kehler knows attention must be paid to all the Vees’ forwards. He is also interested to see how matchups unfold and is putting his plan together. In looking at the regular season series stats, the SilverBacks had the edge in record at 3-2-1-0, while the goals for were equal at 21.
“I think we’re both going to count on exceptional goaltending and just execute at key times,” said Kehler. “We expect it to be a great series. We really respect the skill level and the depth of the Vees roster. It will be a great matchup.”