Vees prepare for Round 2

Colton Davies

After a decisive sweep in the opening round of the BCHL playoffs against the Coquitlam Express, the Penticton Vees are preparing to face the Trail Smoke Eaters in the second round.

The Vees and Smokies haven't met in the postseason since they played in the first round in 2005 — a series Penticton won four games to two.

"This is going to be an exciting matchup ... for the fans it should be a new and exciting playoff series and I know for our guys we're looking forward to it," Vees head coach, general manager and president Fred Harbinson said.

Trail was atop the BCHL standings early in the season but slipped from the perch as the year went on. Nonetheless, they finished with a 32-21-4-1 record and 69 points — the most wins and points they've had in 11 seasons.

The Vees, who finished the year atop the league standings with a 40-12-3-3 record, won four out of six games in their season series with the Smokies.

Harbinson said his team will be confident, but also pointed out Smokies forward Kale Howarth didn't play in some of the team's matchups.

Howarth was a fifth-round NHL draft pick last June, and he has 121 points in 95 games over the past two seasons. 

As for Trail's team as a whole, "they're one of the more explosive offensive teams," Harbinson said. "So your details away from the puck are going to be real important."

Both clubs swept their first-round series and will have nine days off before the series begins with games at the South Okanagan Events Centre on Mar. 16 and 17. 

Trail, the fourth-seeded team in the Interior division, swept away the fifth-seeded West Kelowna Warriors, outscoring them 23-10 in those games.

The Vees outscored the eighth-seeded Express 20-6 in their series. Harbinson gave Coquitlam credit for their series, pointing out a pair of 2-1 wins for Penticton.

"In the end we got to see a couple big wins in between tight ones. The tight ones are the game we'll have to draw on going into the next round."

Depth was apparent in the Vees goal scoring in the first round, as 10 different players had one or more goals. Harbinson said the impact of players up and down the lineup stretched beyond that, however.

"At different points, there was a blocked shot here, a great clear from somebody else, a big save. There was a little bit of everything and that's what you need this time of year."

The other Interior division second-round series will have the Vernon Vipers meeting the Wenatchee Wild, as both of those teams swept their first round series as well.

Four more first round series still need to be decided, and all will be wrapped up by Sunday at the latest. 

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