History repeats itself: For the third straight season the Kings and Vipers meet in the Fred Page Cup. The Vipers have bested the Kings in the previous two encounters, winning in six games in '09 and in seven games last season.
These two cubs did face off in the league finals in 1991, with different names and colours on their sweaters. The Vernon Lakers swept the Powell River Paper Kings in four games that season.
Familiar Faces: Six players will be making their third straight Fred Page Cup Final. Chad Niddery, Andrew Pettitt and Jason Yee have played in the previous two finals for the Kings. Bryce Kakoske, Adam Thompson and Steve Weinstein are looking for their third ring for the Vipers.
Returnee's from last year's teams:
Chad Niddery Bryce Kakoske
Andrew Pettitt Adam Thompson
Jason Yee Steve Weinstein
Matt Garbowsky Dylan Walchuk
Justin DaSilva David Robinson
Klay Kachur Blake Voth
Brenden Forbes Patrick McGillis
Road to the Fred Page Cup
Coastal Conference Quarter-Final: Bye
Coastal Conference Semi-Final: Kings 4 vs. Grizzlies 3 (6-2 3-4OT 1-2OT 2-5 3-2OT 4-1 4-1)
Coastal Conference Final: Kings 4 vs. Eagles 2 (4-2 1-2OT 3-2 2-1OT 1-3 4-1)
Interior Conference Quarter-Final: Bye
Interior Conference Semi-Final: Vipers 4 vs. Warriors 2 (3-2 2-5 2-4 5-2 7-1 2-1)
Interior Conference Final: Vipers 4 vs. Silverbacks 2 (3-5 6-0 5-1 3-2 3-2OT 5-4)
For more on the Powell River Kings, please visit Vernon Vipers blog
History is on the Vipers side heading into tonight's game one. Vernon is the two time defending national champions and still are until they're beaten. Mark Ferner's club has been to this stage before and will be ready to defend their back-to-back titles
Vernon graduated 15 players from last year's squad including the dynamic twin duo of Connor and Kellen Jones. The team did struggle offensively compared to last year with key offensive weapons departing as the Vipers scored 101 less goals this season from last. The Vipers had seven players who scored 50 or more points last season, compared to just three this year. However the key for Vernon this year was their depth.
Vernon this season were lead up front by David Robinson, Dylan Walchuk and Bryce Kakoske but it didn't stop there. The Vipers boasted eight players who scored 10 or more goals and 11 players who recorded 25 or more points. It's not just the top line that can hurt you, as every line seems capable of putting goals on the board at any given time. The blue line also reloaded this season and didn't seem to miss a beat.
Five regulars from last year either graduated or were traded before this season. Gone are Curtis Gedig, Dan Nycholat, Garrett Noonan and Darrin Robak. The two that are holdovers are two of the most dependable on the back end. Adam Thompson and Steve Weinstein are two anchors on the Vipers blue line and are minutes eaters for Mark Ferner. They're grouped with new faces in Malcom Lyles, Ryan Renz, Brett Corkey, Max Mowat and Philip Patenaude. Lyles and Renz aren't green horns by any means for Vernon.
Lyles comes from Boston College where he played 16 games for the Hockey East powerhouse. Lyles is regarded as one of the top defenseman in the BCHL this season and deservedly so. The rear guard posses great speed and will not be shy about joining or leading the rush down the ice. Renz also has experience under his belt as he came over from Alberni Valley earlier this season in a trade. Renz isn't flashy but very effective in his own end and is a physical element to the Vipers defensive corps. Like Lyles, Renz will be going to a Hockey East Program next season in Northeastern, Lyles will apply his trade at UMass-Lowell.
The most debated area has been in between the pipes for the Vipers. In late December, before the January 10th deadline, the Vipers acquired Kirby Halcrow from the Quesnel Millionaires. Mark Ferner and Jason Williamson know all too well what he can do in the playoffs, as Halcrow stood on his head last season against the Vipers in the second round. One could say the only reason the series with Vernon and Quesnel went the distance was the play of Halcrow.
Like the Kings, the Vipers are very comfortable with both goaltenders they have in Halcrow and Blake Voth. Voth was the starter before Christmas and had the second best numbers only to Mike Garteig. I expected the difference in this series will come down to who out plays who in goal.
Will the third time be the charm for the Kings? Powell River is looking for their first Fred Page Cup and once more they will have to go through Vernon. The success they had in throughout regular season and up until this point of the playoffs shows that this year's squad could have the best chance at doing just that.
After a season with little or no adversity the Kings were tested in the first series against the Victoria Grizzlies. In a season where you win 46 of your 60 games you can be accustomed to things going your way. That wasn't the case in the second round match up as Powell River had to battle back from a 3-1 series deficit. It was a good test and a good response as this team did show the fire that was needed and won the series in seven.
In the Conference Finals the team was guilty of not always being mentally focused and not having that killer instinct that is needed to put teams away when you can. However, the team did save their best for last in a convincing game six win in Surrey. The Kings went on to 4-1 win and controlled the game from wire to wire. That type of performance in game six will need to be duplicated over this best of seven BCHL final.
Keys for the Kings vs. Vernon:
- They don't call it home ice advantage for nothing. The Kings will have a large crowd behind them for the two games and will need to take full advantage of that. The Vipers had the luxury of home ice last season and it can be the difference the longer this series goes on.
- Depth scoring sounds cliche but this will be crucial for the Kings. The Kings have had players step up throughout this playoff, however they will be counted on even more. Line matching and checking assignments will be stressed throughout the series. It's the players who can get their team a goal on the third and fourth lines.
- Special teams...surprise! The Kings and Vipers both have had their fair share of struggles on the power-play. The Kings have actually fared better scoring two more power-play goals and their man advantage is operating at four and a half percentage points higher. Making your opposition pay for taking penalties is key in any game, let alone a league final.
- Goaltending-This series will be decided by the masked men in the blue paint. The Kings have the leagues top netminder in MikeGarteig and Vernon has two capable starters at their disposal. Halcrow has been very sound in the Viper net and his team will need more of the same.