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58 games later and the Penticton Vees are set to open the 2014 Fred Page Cup Playoffs at home. The Vees host the Merritt Centennials tonight at the SOEC in Game 1 of their Interior Division Semi-Final series.
The Vees come in as the number one seed in the Interior, as they captured their third consecutive regular season division title last weekend. This marks the third time in franchise history the Vees have won three consecutive regular season division pennants. They won three straight from 1984-1986 under the Knights moniker and won three in a row from 2006-2008.
The Centennials’ clinched the fourth and final playoff spot in the Interior in their second to last game of the regular season, when the trounced the Salmon Arm Silverbacks 5-1 last Wednesday. Merritt comes into the post-season winners of three straight and six of their last 10 games.
The Vees finished with 11 more points and five more wins than the Cents’ in the regular season. The two teams met seven times in the regular season, the Vees winning four of the seven and they picked up points in all but one of those meetings. The Vees were 4-1-1-1 against the Cents’ this season, whereas Merritt posted a 2-4-1-0 record against the Vees; Merritt won the last meeting of the season 2-1, back on January 17th.
Fans shouldn’t expect a ton of scoring in this series, as these two were the top defensive teams in the division and both ranked in the top six in the BCHL. The Vees allowed the fewest goals against and had the best goals-against average in the BCHL; Merritt was ranked sixth-best in both categories. How stingy were the Vees? Well, they allowed just 137 goals this season, 18 fewer than the next best team.
The backbone of any good defense is goaltending and both teams are solidified between the pipes. The Vees two goaltenders won the Wally Forslund trophy, as the BCHL’s top goaltending tandem. Olivier Mantha and Hunter Miska combined for the best goals-against average in the BCHL, with a 2.27 in 58 games. The two finished in the top three for goals against, Miska owning a 2.26 average in 34 games; Mantha compiling a 2.27 mark in 28 appearances.
Merritt’s Devin Kero was no slouch either, as he checked-in with .918 save percentage in 40 games which was fourth-best in the BCHL. Kero finished with a 19-15-4-1 record this season and had a sparkling .945 save-percentage against the Vees in four appearances.
Despite two stingy defenses, both teams have players who can bulge the twine. The Vees had a 40-goal man in Brad McClure, who ended up fourth in the BCHL scoring race, with 41 goals and 80 points in 58 games. Nic Pierog (31) and Cody DePourcq (20) were the only others to break the 20-goal barrier for the Vees. The Vees had seven players collect 30 or more points and Brett Beauvais (13-45-58) and Pierog (31-18-49) round out the top three in regular season team scoring.
Merritt’s offense came by committee this year, as they had only two players hit the 20-goal plateau. Scott Patterson led the Cents’ in goal-scoring with 27 goals but Diego Cuglietta led the team in points with 56. Jeff Wight was the only other Cents’ player to score over 20-goals this season, as he had 22 and 49 points.
This is the fourth post-season meeting between these two teams since 2005. The Vees have won the previous three encounters and are 12-1 against Merritt in the playoffs in the last nine years. They last met in 2012, with the Vees dispatching the Cents’ in five games in the Interior Conference Final, en route to their 2012 RBC Cup Championship.
Scoring vs. MER:
McClure 4-6-10 Benoit 1-3-4 Stoykewych 1-0-1
Beauvais 3-5-8 DePourcq 2-1-3 Alferd 0-1-1
Blanleil 2-4-6 Coatta 0-2-2 Coulombe 0-1-1
Dalpe 1-4-5 Rygus 0-2-2 Hilderman 0-1-1
Cooper 2-2-4 Serratore 0-2-2 Pierog 0-1-1
Ramsey 2-2-4 Amantea 1-0-1 Sexton 0-1-1
McClure: 5 game point streak (5-4-9)
Last 5 Games:
Record: 4-1-0-0 (19 GF, 12 GA)
PP: 7/19 (36.84%)
PK: 11/15 (73.33%)
Since Trade Deadline: 11-7-0-1
Vees Post-Christmas Record: 12-7-1-1 (13-8-0-2 post-Christmas break last season)
Scoring: 3 goals in each of the last 3 games
Goals: McClure (41) (2nd in BCHL)
Assists: Beauvais (45) (5th in BCHL)
Points: McClure (80) (4th in BCHL)
PIMs: Sexton (66) (T-31st in BCHL)
PPG: McClure (13) (2nd in BCHL)
PPA: Beauvais (25) (2nd in BCHL)
SHG: Pierog (3) (T-5th in BCHL)
Scoring vs. PEN:
Cuglietta 2-3-5 Nachbaur 2-0-2 Clifford 0-1-1
Poulsen 2-3-5 Patterson 2-0-2 Gould 0-1-1
Pare 0-4-4 Tracey 2-0-2 Kaila 0-1-1
Johnson 1-2-3 Martin 1-1-2 Williams 0-1-1
Neil 1-2-3 Oakes 0-2-2
Wight 1-2-3 Schaefer 0-2-2
Schaefer: 4 game point streak (2-3-5)
Cuglietta: 3 game point streak (1-6-7)
Pare: 3 game point streak (2-3-5)
Clifford: 3 game point streak (2-1-3)
Last 5 Games:
Record: 3-2-0-0 (18 GF, 12 GA)
PP: 6/22 (27.27%)
PK: 17/20 (85.00%)
PP: Goals in the last 2 games
Post-Christmas Record: 12-8-2-0 (13-6-1-4 last season)
Defense: 2 goals allowed in the last 2 games (1 in each of them)
Goals: Patterson (27) (T-14th in BCHL)
Assists: Cuglietta (37) (T-14th in BCHL)
Points: Cuglietta (56) (24th in BCHL)
PIMs: Kaila (71) (T-22nd in BCHL)
PPG: Cuglietta/Patterson/Wight (7) (T-18th in BCHL)
PPA: Pare (10) (T-30th in BCHL)
SHG: Cuglietta (3) (T-5th in BCHL)