COYOTES HAVE ONLY HANDFUL OF GAMES TO PREPARE FOR FIRST-ROUND PLAYOFF SHOWDOWN AGAINST PRINCETON POSSE
Posted on 07 February 2013 by Keith Lacey
The Osoyoos Coyotes now know they will be playing the Princeton Posse in the first round of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League playoffs two weeks down the road.
What is yet to be determined is whether the Coyotes will be able to secure home ice advantage in the opening round of the Okanagan Shuswap Division as they trail Princeton by four points with five games remaining in the regular season.
They play in Princeton on Friday, Feb. 15 in a game that should go a long way to determining which team finishes second in the division and gets home-ice advantage in the opening round of the playoffs and which team will begin the best-of-seven series on the road.
The Kelowna Chiefs have wrapped up first place in the division in impressive fashion as they have won nine-consecutive games.
“We’re four back with five games to go, so we’re obviously going to have to win all five and get a little bit of help with Princeton losing a couple,” said Coyotes head coach and general manager Ken Law. “That game in Princeton might be a huge one to determine who gets second place.”
The Coyotes continued their outstanding play of late as they played one of their best defensive games of the year to defeat a talented North Okanagan Knights, who have the second-best record in the entire KIJHL, by a score of 3-1 this past Saturday night at the Sun Bowl Arena.
The Coyotes now play four consecutive road games –starting Wednesday evening in Penticton, Friday in Columbia Valley and next weekend in Golden and Princeton – before wrapping up the regular season on home ice on Saturday, Feb. 16 against Summerland.
No matter which team gets home-ice advantage, the series against Princeton is shaping up to be a great one, said Law.
“You always want to have home-ice advantage in any playoff series, but we’ve been very good in their arena up in Princeton all season and they’ve played us very tough on our home ice all season,” he said. “It’s all going to boil down to which team plays a full 60 minutes and which team stays healthy.
“I’m still hoping we can stay on our roll and maybe steal second place from Princeton, but I’m not going to be too worried if we don’t. We do know we’re playing them in the playoffs and we’re going to have to start getting ready.”
His team’s commitment to solid defensive play continued against North Okanagan and is going to be the key to any success they might enjoy in the post-season, said Law.
“We’re playing so much better in our defensive zone than we were earlier in the season and it’s really paying dividends,” said Law. “I think all of the guys finally realize we have to be committed to taking care of the little things in our own zone or we’re not going to have any kind of playoff success.”
Against North Okanagan, there was no scoring in the first period. Coyotes goaltender Jessie Gordichuk was especially sharp as he stopped all 16 shots fired by the Knights in the opening 20 minutes.
Evan Last scored in the first minute of the second period to give the hometown team a 1-0 lead.
The turning point in the game came when Knights goaltender Dustin Nikkel tried to handle a puck on a power play four minutes into the second period. Nikkel tried to shoot the puck up the ice from the side of his net, but his pass landed right on the stick of Taylor Jordan who had an empty net to deposit the puck and give the Coyotes a 2-0 lead.
Brett Hawrys scored a shorthanded goal late in the second period to close the gap to 2-1.
Troy Maclise scored an insurance marker seven minutes into the final frame. Gordichuk was named the game’s first star as he stopped 38 of 39 shots he faced.