Penticton, BC- The Penticton Vees will face the Merritt Centennials in the Interior Conference Final starting Tuesday, March 27th at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
The two teams last met in the playoffs in 2010, the Vees sweeping the Centennials in four games in the opening round of the Fred Page Cup playoffs. This is a rematch of the 2001 Interior Final, the Centennials sweeping the then Penticton Panthers in four games. This marks the seventh meeting in the post-season between the two teams; the Vees winning two of the last three series.
The Vees advanced after beating the Chilliwack Chiefs in six games in the opening round. Penticton took the last two games (4-2 & 4-0) of the series to clinch a spot in the final four. Joey Benik leads all Vees in playoff scoring with four goals and eight points, closely followed by Wade Murphy (4-3-7) and Mario Lucia (3-3-6). Chad Katunar was the goaltender of record in all six games, posting a 4-1-0-1 record, with a 1.64 goals-against average and a .936 save-percentage, to go along with one shutout.
The Merritt Centennials are one of the hottest teams in the BCHL; dating back to the regular season, the Cents’ have won seven games in a row, including a four game sweep of the Prince George Spruce Kings in their Interior Conference Semi-Final series. Merritt finished second in the Interior Conference in the regular season, fashioning together a 34-18-2-6 record for 76 points. Evan Stack leads the Centennials in playoff scoring with three goals and five points; rounding out the top three is Chad Brears (1-3-4) and Regan Soquila (0-4-4). Lino Chimienti started and won all four games against the Spruce Kings, while sporting a league best 1.47 goal-against average and .949 save-percentage.
The Vees won seven of eight regular season meetings against the Centennials but Merritt has the distinction of the only team in the regular season to take points away from the SOEC. Merritt handed the Vees their only home ice loss on November 5th, a 3-2 overtime setback. Also the Cents’ also picked up a single point in a 5-4 overtime loss on October 29th.
Playoff Series Schedule
Game 1 Mar 27th (SOEC)
Game 2 Mar 28th (SOEC)
Ø Game 3 Mar 30th (Nicola Valley Arena)
Ø Game 4 Mar 31st (Nicola Valley Arena)
Game 5** April 2nd (SOEC)
Game 6** April 3rd (Nicola Valley Arena)
Game 7** April 5th (SOEC)
Ø 7:30pm start
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