Interior Conference Round 2 Playoff Preview

After a pair of exciting Game 7s on Sunday and Monday, the Shaw BCHL Playoffs return tomorrow night with Game 1 of the series between the Penticton Vees and Prince George Spruce Kings. With the start of Round 2 only a day away, we will preview the two Interior Conference matchups.

#1 Penticton Vees vs. #4 Prince George Spruce Kings

Head to head:

The two teams split the season series 3-3-0-0

Top playoff performers:

Penticton – F Luc Wilson (7 points), F Adam Eisele (5 points), F Bradley Nadeau (5 points), G Kaeden Lane (.931 SV%)

Prince George – F Luc Laylin (7 points), F Nick Rhéaume (6 points), F Simon Labelle (5 points), G Aaron Trotter (.921 SV%)

Breakdown:

This is a matchup between the two best defensive teams in the BCHL during the regular season, with Penticton first and Prince George second in goals against. With a split 3-3 record head-to-head, we could be looking at one of the tighter series in the second round.

The Vees relied on that strong defensive play, as well as lights out goaltending from Kaeden Lane to get by the Trail Smoke Eaters in Round 1. After dropping the first game of the series, they reeled off four straight wins, including back-to-back 2-1 victories in Trail in Games 3 and 4. They also got solid offensive production from their usual suspects, including 2001-born forwards Luc Wilson and Adam Eisele.

The Spruce Kings are coming off a hard-fought first-round battle with the Cranbrook Bucks, capped off by a thrilling comeback win in overtime in Game 6 on the road. Prince George will hope to carry that momentum into the second round and keep their top players rolling. Nick Rhéaume had three points in the final two games of the series, while Luc Laylin has been the team’s most productive forward, piling up seven points in six playoff games. The team will also rely heavily on goaltender Aaron Trotter, who gave up two goals or less in all four of his team’s wins in the first round and gave up three or more in their two losses.

Special teams will likely prove to be a big factor in this series as well. Penticton has the edge here so far in the postseason with a league-best playoff penalty kill, killing at a 94.4 per cent clip, and a top-five power play, while PG’s special teams are both in the bottom half of the league so far.

#2 Salmon Arm Silverbacks vs. #3 West Kelowna Warriors

Head to head:

Salmon Arm won the season series 4-2-0-0 with one of their wins coming in overtime.

Top playoff performers:

Salmon Arm – Noah Serdachny (14 points), Simon Tassy (11 points), D Tucker Hartmann (7 points), G Owen Say (.914 SV%)

West Kelowna – F John Evans (9 points), F Tyler Cristall (8 points), D Charles-Alexis Legault (7 points), G Johnny Derrick (.921 SV%)

Breakdown:

This is another tight matchup on paper with the teams separated by only three points in the regular-season standings.

Salmon Arm is coming off a Game 7 win on home ice to advance over the Wenatchee Wild who gave them all they could handle in Round 1. The Silverbacks high-end scorers came through for them when it mattered most. Noah Serdachny leads the BCHL playoffs in scoring with 14 points and BCHL MVP finalist Simon Tassy is second with 11 points. They also received some major production from their back end with Tucker Hartmann averaging a point per game and players like Michael Ladyman and William Lavigne chipping in here and there. Owen Say is a finalist for the BCHL’s Top Goaltender Award after a strong season and will need to play up to that standard for Salmon Arm to advance.

West Kelowna dispatched the Vernon Vipers in five games in their first-round series. After losing Game 1, they rolled to four straight victories. The Warriors have a cast of forwards who are capable of going off for a huge night at any time, including players like Felix Trudeau, John Evans, Christophe Farmer and Tyler Cristall to name a few, but maybe the most significant development has been the emergence of Charles-Alexis Legault as a legitimate offensive threat and a compliment to BCHL Top Defenceman finalist Tyson Jugnauth. Legault caught fire offensively late in the regular season and has carried that into the playoffs, putting up seven points in the five-game series, while Jugnauth finished the regular season as the BCHL’s second-highest scoring defenceman with 50 points in 52 games. West Kelowna also received a strong goaltending performance from Johnny Derrick in Round 1. The 20-year-old netminder posted a .921 save percentage and a 2.62 goals-against average against Vernon.

Salmon Arm will want to stay out of the box in this series as West Kelowna has the best power play percentage of any of the teams remaining.