Tuesday, March 17, 2009
NO RUST FOR THE RESTED
The Conference finals matchups are now set in the run for the Fred Page Cup.
The Vernon Vipers will play the Salmon Arm Silverbacks in the Interior final. And the Victoria Grizzlies needed 7 games to knock off the Cowichan Valley Capitals and earn a final 4 date with the Powell River Kings in the Coastal final.
This is the 2nd year that both the Interior and Coastal Conference had a pair of teams earn first round byes.
And if there's one common theme the last two years its this, no team has shown any signs of rust after earning some much needed rest.
There have been 8 teams the last 2 years that have earned first round byes, and all 8 have won their 2nd round matchups and advanced to the conference finals.
Both matchups have great story lines.
The Coastal final sees the league's top team (Victoria) continue their quest to go through the front door of the Royal Bank Cup they will be hosting in May. Powell River showed in their 5 game domination of the Surrey Eagles that they can play just as well defensively as they can offensively.
Powell River outscored Surrey 25-3 in series. Carsen Chubak had a pair of shutouts while stopping 116 of 119 shots.
Victoria had a scare though, they opened up a 3-1 series lead on the Cowichan Valley Capitals before the Coastal conference MVP Chris Rawlings showed why he earned that crown by stopping 81 of 83 shots in back to back wins to force a game 7. But in game 7, Victoria's big guns who were rather quiet heading into the game stepped up large.
36 goal scorer and trade deadline acquisition Trevor Hertz scored his first goal of the playoffs to open the scoring. He also had an assist. Justin Courtnall was also looking for his first goal of the playoffs rounded out the scoring by tallying his first goal of the playoffs. And Evan Pighin, who had just 2 goals in the series exploded with 2 more while adding an assist.
Over in the Interior, Vernon dropped their opening game of their 2nd round series with Penticton 4-3 in overtime. But then the Vipers took over the rest of the series taking the next 4 games eliminating the defending champions in 5 games.
Salmon Arm matched up with Westside in round 2. This series had the potential to be a dandy. But injuries hampered the Warriors.
2 time Interior defenceman of the year Justin Schultz suffered a deep knee bruise in the first round vs. Trail and missed the first 2 games of the series. The injury really hampered Schultz who was not the same player when he returned.
Plus, goaltender Kevin Jebson went down in game 2 with groin and hamstring pulls and never returned.
Looking back at the regular season, we know both the Vipers and Silverbacks can score. Salmon Arm was 3rd in the league in goals scored with 234. Vernon wasn't too far behind with 223. And they can play defense. Vernon allowed a league low 144 goals in the regular season. Salmon Arm wasn't too far behind with 167.
This series features 2 teams that have a long rivalry due to their close geographical proximity to one another. This is the first time these two teams will meet in an Interior final.
It's hard to predict who will prevail when the dust settles. All I know is, you the fan will be the one who will benefit if you are able to attend a game as they will be beauties.