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BC Ford Dealers Road to the Fred Page Cup – playoffs snapshot

The BC Ford Dealers Road to the Fred Page Cup BCHL Playoffs are here. It’s 12 teams laying it on the line for the right to hoist the most sought-after trophy in the league. A different team has claimed the Fred Page Cup each of the last three seasons. Who will claim the title this year? No doubt, there are favourites and underdogs so we’ll bring you some of the names you’ll need to know as the playoffs get underway.

Interior #3 Salmon Arm Silverbacks vs. #2 West Kelowna Warriors (Warriors went 4-2, with two OT wins, against the Silverbacks this season)
Going 8-1 in February, not many teams can claim to be as hot entering the postseason as the Warriors. Upon inserting Matthew Greenfield into the lineup, West Kelowna has enjoyed reliable goaltending that seems to have given confidence to the rest of the lineup. Forward Jonathan Desbiens is one of the top snipers in the BCHL, finishing fourth in the league with 44 goals including 14 in his last 13 games. For Salmon Arm, netminder Angus Redmond is as veteran a goalie as there is in the league but the ‘Backs have only made the playoffs once before in his tenure so he has just three postseason games under his belt. Taro Hirose is one of the BCHL’s smoothest playmakers and has lots of options with 10 teammates scoring in double figures.

Interior #4 Vernon Vipers vs. #1 Penticton Vees (Vees went 6-0, with two OT wins, against the Vipers this season)
Penticton has as solid a reputation across the Junior A landscape as you can have and went 9-1 in February to boot. They won 50 games in the regular season, just the fifth time it’s been done in BCHL history. Expected first-round NHL draft picks in defenceman Dante Fabbro and forward Tyson Jost get much of the attention and deservedly so but former NCAA players Scott Conway (the league’s leading scorer) and Nick Jones give the Vees depth up front they have not had in recent seasons. The goalie tandem of Zach Driscoll and Anthony Brodeur both posted sparkling numbers. Vernon counters with some elite talent of their own in waterbugs Odeen Tufto and Liam Finlay and get decent push from the back in the form of Bo Pellah. Goalie Andrew Shortridge is capable of stealing games, having made 40+ saves on 14 occasions.

Mainland #3 Langley Rivermen vs. #2 Wenatchee Wild (Wild went 4-1-0-1, with one OT win, against the Rivermen this season)
These two skated to a draw the last time they faced off with Langley defenceman and captain Jordan Schneider tying it with one second left. It’s developed into a pretty good rivalry in this, the Wild’s first BCHL season. Wenatchee will rely on August Von Ungern and Brendan Harris to lead the way offensively but neither finished in the top-25 in league scoring. The Wild thrive by limiting shots and chances against so it will be up to Langley’s Matt Graham, Justin Fregona and Max Kaufman to break through. Bo Didur should get the call in net but Nick Trenciansky saw significant duty when Didur was sidelined with injury.

Mainland #4 Coquitlam Express vs. #1 Chilliwack Chiefs (Chiefs went 7-0, with one OT win, against the Express this season)
The regular-season record would suggest this should go the Chiefs way but the last two times these teams played, Coquitlam was in it into the final frame. There should be some animosity here too because there were four fights the last time they played, just six days ago. Coquitlam’s top line of Jackson Cressey, Colton Kerfoot and Austin McIlmurray will face the best shutdown defence Chilliwack can offer so support from Owen Stout contributions from D-men Charlie Barrow and Taylor Green will be key. Chilliwack boasts plenty of elite talent up front with Jordan Kawaguchi, rookie of the year Vimal Sukumaran and Darien Craighead – all 30-goal scorers.

Island #3 Cowichan Valley Capitals vs. #2 Powell River Kings (season series tied 4-4)
On the surface of it, you might pick this one as a likely seven-gamer but when they last played, Powell River shut out the Caps on back-to-back nights. It will be the responsibility of Cowichan’s Kade Kehoe, Matt Hudie and Ryan Burton to break the goose egg streak the Kings Jeff Smith currently has going against them. Another boost would be Corey Hoffman showing more of the form he displayed in Prince George before being acquired by the Caps. Powell River has one of the more dynamic bluelines in the Island with Rylan Ball, Adam Brubacher and Jeremy LeClerc combining for 37 goals and 117 points. Cowichan’s Storm Phaneuf is used to a heavy workload and should see the bulk of the crease assignments.

Island #4 Alberni Valley Bulldogs vs. #1 Nanaimo Clippers (Clippers went 6-2 against the Bulldogs this season)
The Clips had the number of their closest geographical rivals but the ‘Dogs have been playing playoff-desperation hockey for a while already, just clinching a postseason berth on Sunday. They’ll have to find a way to limit the damage done by 59-goal scorer Sheldon Rempal and his linemates Devin Brosseau and Matt Hoover. Discipline will help as well as they Clips had the best power play in the division this season but are prone to the penalty box themselves, going shorthanded more times than any other BCHL team this season. If that continues, it could be good for the ‘Dogs Chris Schutz who notched 16 power-play goals. Brody Claeys showed well in the ‘Dogs crease down the stretch and will play a big part in any success Alberni Valley achieves.