The Princeton Posse road a roller coaster last weekend straight into the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League playoffs.
After losing 2-1 to division rivals North Okanagan Friday night, only three points separated those two teams in the battle for the fourth playoff spot in the Okanagan Division. The Posse faced three more regular season games and North Okanagan had four chances to overtake Princeton.
The Posse – that had recorded just one win since the new year – then faced Revelstoke – the second place team in the league and they beat that powerhouse 4-3.
The icing on the regular season cake came Monday against Summerland Steam – with the Posse taking down the division’s second place holder 3-2.
The back to back victories secure a playoff position for Princeton for the first time since 2015.
Hockey operations manager Randy McLean was all smiles Tuesday.
“This has been a whirlwind finish to this season, after lately losing games as a result of penalties or the inability to put the puck in the net. We go into the rinks of two of the best teams in our conference and beat them to clinch a berth in the playoffs,” he said.
“This is a victory for the players who have overcome this adversity. It is a victory for the coaching staff and their program.”
The emotion-filled weekend came just days after a team bus accident that rattled nerves and sent the Posse’s starting goalie to hospital with a concussion. Bobby Mulligan is still not cleared to play, and coach Mark McNaughton signed a third goalie to the team last week.
The newcomer is 19-year-old Max Gaudet who was recently released from Kelowna, and McNaughton is not speculating on who gets the net next.
“We’ve got all kinds of time. If Bobby is healthy he is our guy. If not the way Danni (Lorencz) performed this weekend he’s certainly given us lots of confidence. We are confident in all our options when it comes down to it.”
Anyone who wants to join the team for a celebration is invited to the Posse’s annual banquet Friday February 16 at Billy’s Restaurant. The $20 ticket includes a roast beef dinner.
Lorencz was key to the Posse’s last minute playoff lockdown, allowing just seven goals in 120 shots over three games. He was named game star in the Summerland win.
“He played phenomenal,” said McNaughton. “He played phenomenal all weekend actually. He was certainly strong for us.”
Justin Fodchuk had the Posse’s lone goal, unassisted, against North Okanagan.
Goals against Revelstoke were contributed by Ethan Schmor, Kole Halvorson, Jonathan Lee and Drew Carter; with assists earned by Halvorson, Dawson Jenner, Chad Kimmie (2) Drew Carter and Mort Johnston.
Halvorson and Linden Grove scored against Summerland, with Morton Johnston burying the winning marker with a minute to go in regulation time. Assists when to Fodchuk (2) and Kimmie.
The Posse has one more regular season game, against Kelowna, and then takes a break before the playoffs begin in two weeks.
Princeton will face Osoyoos, the first ranked club in the Okanagan Division and a team it’s only beat once this season.
“The thing with them [Osoyoos] is the power play. They’ve got the second best power play in the league, averaging out at 27 per cent,” said McNaughton.
“We’ve actually made a lot of adjustments in our game in January based on how they run their power play and we are pretty confident we can do what we need to do.”