By all accounts, the first round of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League playoffs is going to be a serious nail biter.
Princeton faces Summerland in a best of seven series that begins with two home games this Friday and Saturday night.
“It’s a super tight matchup,” said coach Mark McNaughton. “If both teams are going to play their best games I think this could be a really long series and one that both teams are going to definitely show up for and put a tonne of effort into.”
Princeton finished second in the Okanagan division’s regular season with 60 points, nine points behind first place Kelowna and 11 points ahead of Summerland.
However the two clubs and fought competitively all year.
Princeton managed three wins, two regulation losses and one overtime loss against Summerland, overall scoring 24 goals to the Steam’s 22.
“I think this is probably one of the best first round match ups that our league has to offer.”
McNaughton said he believes the Posse has an edge over Summerland in the net.
“Our goal tending tandem of Jaysen MacLean and Scott Bird really gives us a competitive advantage over a lot of teams in our league. If they continue to play the way they have that gives us a huge boost.”
A disciplined and quick moving defense will be key to success during the series.
“That’s something that I think in the last five games has really come into focus for us…Summerland, they have got some really strong offensive weapons. If we are going to win the series we need to shut them down.”
Last Saturday the Posse beat Summerland 6-3 in its last regular season contest.
The Posse’s second-place division finish reflects the team’s best performance in eight years.
“It was a little disappointing to not finish at the top of the division but we have climbed to another plateau. Reaching that 60 point mark was a big step.”
The team’s success is a “culmination” of a couple of seasons, said McNaughton.
“I think when we look at the big picture it does take time to develop players and develop a team identity. We really feel like what we saw on the ice is the product we wanted to get to, becoming a fast team and a skilled team and team that is exciting to watch.”
Posse president Randy McLean is thrilled with the team’s results, and he’s looking forward to the playoffs.
“It’s been eight years since the Posse hockey club has attained such a lofty position in the year end standings. To the players and coaching staff, congratulations on this regular season’s achievements. You have shown that a superior program can make even the smallest market team capable of success,” he said.
“Let the playoffs begin and know that you have a hard working board, a myriad of volunteers and an entire community behind you.”
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