For the seventh time in their 22 seasons in Chilliwack, the Chiefs have advanced to the league final. They’ll be looking for their first championship since 2002.
Their opponent, the Penticton Vees are making their fourth appearance in the last six years. It’s the 18th time in the league’s 57 year history that a Penticton team will play in the league final. The Vees will be looking for the city of Penticton’s 12th BCHL title.
The Penticton Broncos won three league titles while the Penticton Knights won five. The current version of the Vees have won three, their most recent coming two seasons ago.
While the Chiefs and Vees have never met in the league final, the two cities have, with the Broncos knockeding off the Chilliwack Bruins in six games to capture the 1973 title.
Getting back to the present, the Vees won both regular season games between the two clubs, winning 3-2 in overtime in Penticton on Nov. 26 before shutting out the Chiefs 3-0 at Prospera Centre on Feb. 24.
The Chiefs have home ice advantage in the series, having edged the Vees in regular season points 88-86.
While the Vees were the beneficiaries of a first round bye, they’ve only played two fewer games to get to this point than the Chiefs.
Both the Merritt Centennials and Vernon Vipers took the Vees to the maximum seven games. The Chiefs have played 16 games, knocking out Langley in six games, Wenatchee in four and Victoria in six.
This year’s version of the Vees is all about defense and discipline.
During the regular season, they were the league’s stingiest team, allowing 129 goals against in 58 games. Chilliwack ranked fifth, allowing 165 goals.
No team was shorthanded less than the Vees who gave their opponents an average of 3.5 power play chances per game during the regular season.
During the first two rounds of the playoffs they’ve lowered that to 2.92. Chilliwack’s numbers were slightly higher coming in at 4.2 during the regular season and 3.6 so far in the post season.
While defensively the numbers favor the Vees, offensively they favor the Chiefs.
The Chiefs outscored the Vees 243-189 during the regular season. Three members of the Chiefs averaged at least one point per game.
Jordan Kawaguchi led the team with an average of 1.55 followed by Kohen Olischefski (1.31) and Jake Smith (1.00). Kawaguchi has improved on those numbers in the post season leading all skaters with 28 points in 16 games. Olischefski ranks third in playoff scoring with 17 points and Smith is seventh with 15.
The Vees are led offensively by their captain Nic Jones. He was the only Penticton player to average a point per game during the regular season (1.07). He leads the Vees with 17 points in 14 playoff games.
Both teams rely heavily on their number one goaltender. Vees starter Mathew Robson led the league in minutes played with 2,910. Coming in second was the Chiefs Mark Sinclair with 2,615. Both ranked top ten in all important goaltending stats.
Expect this series to be extremely close in every possible way.
I’ll take the Chiefs in seven.