BCHL Final: Favored Penticton Vees face tall order beating Nanaimo Clippers’ Cooper Black

Clippers’ 6-foot-8 goaltender and his Penticton counterpart Kaeden Lane share the league lead in playoff goals against average, both at a paltry 1.54

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Goals will likely be at a premium when the best-of-seven BC Hockey League championship series starts Friday between the Penticton Vees and the Nanaimo Clippers.

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The Clippers are 12-0 in the playoffs, sweeping their three Coastal Conference rounds. Cooper Black, their strapping 6-foot-8 goaltender, has a 1.54 goals against average, a .953 save percentage and three shutouts in the Nanaimo net.

The Vees went 12-1 to capture the Interior Conference, ripping off a dozen straight wins after losing their Round 1 opener to the Trail Smoke Eaters. Penticton’s Kaeden Lane also has a 1.54 goals against average average, along with a .939 save percentage and one shutout.

The next best goals against average in these BCHL playoffs is the 1.98 put forth by Hobie Hedquist, whose Alberni Valley Bulldogs lost in the second round to the Langley Rivermen. Langley lost to Nanaimo in the conference finals. Nanaimo beat the Surrey Eagles and the Chilliwack Chiefs in their first two rounds.

After winning out over Trail, Penticton defeated the Prince George Spruce Kings and then the West Kelowna Warriors. The Vees, with a 43-8-1-2 regular season record for 89 points, were the top team overall in the BCHL this season.

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Black, 20, is a Dartmouth College commit. The towering 217 pounder from Alpena, Mich., was 24-7-1-0, with a 2.62 goals against average, a .924 save percentage and two shutouts in the regular season for the Clippers (33-17-3-1) , who finished third in the Coastal and sixth in the BCHL in league play.

Lane, 20, is a Northern Michigan commit. The 5-foot-11, 170 pounder from Burnaby was 28-3-2-0, with a 2.07 goals against average, .910 save percentage and six shutouts for the Vees (43-8-1-2), who finished atop both the Interior and the BCHL overall in league play.

Black made 44 stops and Lane turned away 16 in the lone meeting this year between the Clippers and a Vees, a 7-3 Penticton win in Nanaimo on Nov. 5. The BCHL scrapped all out-of-conference games on Nov. 30 due to travel concerns brought about by flooding around the province.

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There are four players with a league-best 19 points so far in the playoffs. They include Nanaimo forwards Sean Donaldson (12-7) and Penticton forwards Josh Nadeau (10-9) and Luc Wilson (6-13). Salmon Arm Silverbacks forward Noah Serdachny (6-13) rounds out the quartet.

Fred Page Cup: BCHL Final

(All games at 7 p.m. starts)

friday at Penticton

saturday at Penticton

tuesday at Nanaimo

wednesday at Nanaimo

May 20 at Penticton (if necessary)

May 22 at Nanaimo (if necessary)

May 24 at Penticton (if necessary)

Penticton’s power play has connected at 31.0 per cent (18-of-58) in the playoffs, while its penalty killing is at 90 per cent (four goals against, 40 opportunities). Nanaimo’s power play is at 14.7 per cent (5-of-34) and the penalty kill comes in at 83.8 per cent (six goals against, 37 opportunities).

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This is the first Fred Page Cup final since the 2018-19 season, when the Spruce Kings swept the Vernon Vipers to claim the title. The 2019-20 playoffs were called off due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the teams played only 20-game seasons based on five pods for 2020-21.

The BCHL champion won’t move on and try for the Centennial Cup national title this time around. The BCHL pulled out of the Canadian Junior Hockey League, the umbrella group that oversees the Centennial Cup, in April 2021.

The CJHL was founded in 1993. There had been rumors over the years about the BCHL departing the 10-league organization and going on its own. Among their reasons for leaving is that the BCHL wanted less restrictive rules on play transfers and the CJHL wouldn’t oblige.

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Parting ways with the CJHL did allow the BCHL to spread out its season and finish it later. This year’s Centennial Cup, which is in Estevan, Sask., starts next Thursday. In the past, the BCHL champion would have another round of playoffs against either the Alberta champion or in a tournament in a bid to qualify for the Centennial Cup.

Vernon has won the most Centennial Cup titles with six. Going into next week, BCHL teams have won four of the past 10 while finishing second another two times.

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