The BCHL’s Interior Division final pits its best, the ranked Penticton Vees against the Vernon Vipers starting Saturday at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
Ranked sixth among 129 Canadian Junior A Hockey League teams, the Vees are jacked up to face the Vipers and add to their historic rivalry. For Dakota Conroy, who the Vees picked up earlier this season for Liam Finlay, it is a first-time experience and he is anxious to get to work.
“I think it’s time this year that we just got to strap on the boots and get to work,” said Conroy, who has been told about the many battles between the teams.
Conroy, who led the Vees with three goals and six points in five games against the West Kelowna Warriors in the BCHL’s first round, said that’s all he hears about.
“The fans and everyone is excited about us playing Vernon,” he said.
To have success against the Vipers, who they defeated in six of seven games matchups during the regular season, Conroy said they need to stick to what they do best — keep their feet moving, transition well, put the puck on net and crash the goal.
“Most of our goals were scored within 10 feet of the net,” said Conroy.
Vees coach-general manager Fred Harbinson used part of the week to focus on how the Vipers play, adding that they have small intricacies.
“Play a team seven times in the regular season, you have a pretty good indication of who they are and how they play,” said Harbinson.
“They are a really hard-working team,” said Vees goalie Hunter Miska, adding that each game was decided by one or two goals.
Miska is aware of their big Texas shooter Thomas Aldsworth who pocketed 37 snipes this season.
“He’s got a pretty good one-timer on their power play. He’s one of their key guys,” said Miska. “They have a really strong offensive group. A lot of hard shots. I just have to control my rebounds and play my game.”
Finlay spent 10 games with the Vees before joining the Vipers and led them with 64 regular season points, provided insight on the Vees to the Vernon Morning Star.
“They’re a great team and it’s a great rivalry,” said Finlay, who has two goals and four points in the playoffs.
“We got a few bounces our way and I think we pressured them more than we did previous games and Danny (goalie Todosychuk) played extremely well for us that game.”
Finlay on Miska: “He’s really acrobatic so it’s tough to beat him anywhere, but I think we just got to get traffic and get in front of him.”
Viper captain Riley Guenther emphasized the importance of playing a physical game and being aggressive.
“They’re real skilled so we can’t let them get time and space because they’ll take advantage of it,” he said. “We’re gonna have to push the pace on them and make it a hard game for them.”
Vees notes: It’s the 11th straight season in which the Vees have made it past the first round of the BCHL playoffs. Mark MacMillan, who played one season with the Vees, is a finalist for the National Collegiate Hockey Conference defensive forward of the year award. MacMillan was tied for the conference lead in scoring with 13 despite missing the final two games to injury. He is tied for the league lead with two short-handed goals. Joey LaLeggia, a two-time NCHC Player of the Month, is a finalist for player of the year. He finished second in the NCHC scoring race with 29 points in 23 conference games on 12 goals and 17 assists, while posting a