Vees open playoffs Thursday against Cowichan Valley

Penticton, BC: The Penticton Vees won an eighth straight Interior Division pennant and as such will host the Island Division-crossover Cowichan Valley Capitals in the first round of the Fred Page Cup playoffs. Game one is tonight at the South Okanagan Events Centre.

The Vees clinched the division title with a 4-0 win over the Salmon Arm Silverbacks on Saturday. Andre Ghantous and Ty Pochipinski scored just eight seconds apart to give the Vees a 2-0 lead just 1:17 into the first period.

Ryan Sandelin and David Silye added the rest of the offence while Jack LaFontaine turned aside all 23 shots sent his way to record his third shutout of the season. He was named the BCHL’s Top Goaltender on Tuesday, becoming the fourth Penticton goaltender in the past eight years to take the honour.

The win also marked 500 career regular season victories for Vees head coach, general manager and president Fred Harbinson as he became the fourth coach in league history to win 500 games. He is now in the 500 club with Harvey Smyl, Kent Lewis and Bill Bestwick.

The Capitals finished fifth in the Island Division and made the playoffs after being the only team not to make the post season in 2017-18. Cowichan was fighting with the Alberni Valley Bulldogs for fourth place down the stretch, but a pivotal 6-2 loss to the Bulldogs February 15 sealed their fate as the crossover team.

The two teams matched up just twice during the 2018-19 season, both coming in the first five weeks of the year. September 14 Penticton picked up their first win of the season with a 4-2 decision at the Island Savings Centre. Drew Elser, now lost for the season with injury, scored twice in the win.

Capitals head coach Mike Vandekamp was ejected during the third period of that game, an indication of the fire his team played with all season. They led the BCHL in penalty minutes this season with 942 and were the only team to be shorthanded more than 300 times.

The rematch came a month later at the SOEC with the Vees going 3-for-13 on the power play en route to a 4-1 win. After the Capitals opened the scoring with a shorthanded goal, the parade to the penalty box began. Dimitri Mikrogiannakis was thrown out of the game for a checking from behind major and suspended four games.
In the third, Kolten Cousins was ejected for a one-man fight and gave Penticton a seven minute power play. Andrew Troy was also ejected during the scrum while Cole Broadhurst and Preston Broadziak were ejected in the final minute of the game.

Game two goes Saturday night at 6:00 due to a scheduling conflict at the SOEC on Friday, before the series shifts to Duncan for games three and four Tuesday and Wednesday. Both games are at 7:00.