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Vipers figuring out formula
Kevin Mitchell & TYLER LOWEY
Albert Einstein’s E = mc2 is perhaps the most famous math equation out there. Something about space and time and general relativity.
The formula may be less complicated than the B.C. Hockey League’s new and unique three-way, double round-robin playoff series which starts tonight with the Vernon Vipers visiting the Victoria Grizzlies. Vernon hosts the Coquitlam Express in a Sunday 5 p.m. game.
The league has broken the schedule down on its website for fans, media and scouts to follow. In simple turns, each of the three teams will play one another at home and away over the next 10 days.
The two top teams following the six games advance to the best-of-seven Fred Page Cup championship series starting April 11. If one team loses its first three games, the Vipers at Express game scheduled for Monday, April 7 may not be required.
To put in really easy English, take it away Viper d-man Jared Wilson.
“It’s different, but it’s a lot like the Western Canada Cup or the RBC, so that’s kind of the way it’s structured,” said the 19-year-old Calgary product. “You pretty much gotta look at every game being a Game 7. I think the magic number is to win three and you’re pretty well through so that’s our goal, to win three.”
After playing a zany 13 games in 19 days, the Vipers were very loose and having a blast at practice this week, joyfully jumping on shootout loser Logan Mick, who was all smiles, near the end of Wednesday’s session. They are enjoying the rest from battle, healing their wounds and mentally preparing for the next round.
Head coach Jason Williamson will expect the Vipers to be fired up for each round-robin tilt
“It’s tough to even formulate a plan. It’s almost like regular-season games with obviously a lot more on the line. Our mind-set is gonna be every game’s like a Game 7 because you never know. We’ll just take it one game at a time and try and control our own fate.”
Victoria head coach Craig Didmon, who replaced Bill Bestwick earlier this season, doesn’t mind the playoff layout.
“It’s a horse race as soon as the puck drops,” said Didmon. “I like the format. It’s a nice change from two seven-game series. You get a couple games in your barn, then play once each in two other rinks. It’s kind of a fun way to do it. As well, it gives you chance to check out the rink before playing a team in the final.”
Viper forward Demico Hannoun says his back is getting better and he’s ready to go after a great comeback series win over the Penticton Vees. He, Liam Coughlin, Mason Blacklock and Brett Mulcahy are all former Surrey Eagles who know the Grizzlies and Express well. The Vipers split two games with both teams this season.
“Last year I saw Coquitlam more than Victoria.,” said Hannoun, 18, of North Delta. “Coquitlam is a good offensive team and Vic is an all-around good team.”
On the playoff format, Hannoun said: “It’s definitely different. It seems kind of fun, like minor hockey tournaments back in the day. We have no room for errors this round. It doesn’t really allow you to come back in the series.”
As four-year-veteran triplets Myles, Gerald and Leo go, so go the Grizzlies.
Victoria won the Island Division at 37-15-3-5 with Myles first on the team with 27 goals and 83 points. Gerry was next with 35 goals and 81 points. Leo was hurt much of the season but managed 15 points in 17 games and has seven goals and 10 points in the playoffs.
“They’ve got the triplets, but they work very hard, they’ve got aggressive dee and their goaltending has been very good in the playoffs and their speciality teams are good,” said Williamson. “So we gotta stay out of the box and keep their guys contained to the outside. They have some offensive firepower. We have to play to our strengths, use our size, use our skill level.”
The Port Alberni triplets, who turn 21 in August, are headed to Bemidji State Tigers in Minnesota next year. The Grizz have nine scholarship players.
“Victoria is a lot like us, a pretty big team, pretty physical and they forecheck well,” said Wilson, who came here in a trade from Alberni Valley Bulldogs last fall. “Obviously, they’ve got the one line that pretty much does all their damage.”
On Coquitlam, Wilson offered: “From what I remember, they’re pretty run ‘n gun. They like to push the pace, especially on the PK, but I think we’re pretty sound defensively so it shouldn’t be an issue.”
Home-grown forward Colton Sparrow says the Snakes have to keep their speed game moving despite the longer break between games.
“We got a lot of energy and a lot of excitment after a series (Interior Division final) like that,” said Sparrow. “Those series take a lot out of you but they also build a lot of confidence taking out a team like that.
“Both Victoria and Coquitlam (third in the Mainland at 27-26-2-3) are run-and-gun teams that will work hard and pressure you all night. I feel like the round-robin kind of slows everything down, which we don’t really like. But I guess the break is good. It will be different. That Game 7 was do-or-die which is basically like each game this series. It kind of got us ready.”
On the Fitzgeralds, who have also played for Prince George and Nanaimo, Sparrow said: “The triplets – they love to work the cycle and they have a lot of stick skill. My line (with Mulcahy and Brendan Persley) will probably match up with them. You got to respect them and play them hard.”
Didmon said he feels pretty comfortable with his goaltenders. Both Nic Renyard and Alec Dillon have four wins in the playoffs, Dillon won all four games against Powell River Kings, including two in a row to close out the series.
“To be in the third round hasn’t happened a lot in this organization,” he said. “The guys have been through a lot – that first round, going to Game 7 in double overtime, was pretty intense. I think they feel like they’ve had their back against the wall and they know what that feels like. I think we’re getting mentally stronger as a group and starting to believe there’s a great opportunity here.”
SNAKE BITES: Viper grad Mike Collins has signed a tryout deal with the Boston Bruins...Vees’ captain Brad McClure has been invited to the Pittsburgh Penguins’ prospect camp in July. The BCHL first all-star team winger has committed to Minnesota State-Mankato Mavericks next fall...Viper grad Mike Zalewski has been issued No. 40 with the Vancouver Canucks. He hasn’t cracked the lineup yet.