Posted on 21 February 2013 by Keith Lacey
After 52 regular season games spread out over the past five months, the time has come for the Osoyoos Coyotes to play the games that matter most as their best-of-seven Kootenay International Junior Hockey League first-round playoff matchup against the Princeton Posse is ready to begin Friday night at the Sun Bowl Arena.
The Coyotes wrapped up the 2012-13 regular season with an impressive 4-1 victory over the Summerland Steam on Saturday night at the Sun Bowl Arena.
They finished the regular season with a record of 28-17-7 (overtime losses), good for 63 points. Princeton finished the regular season with a record of 34-16-2.
The Posse whipped the Coyotes last Friday night 7-2 in Princeton. The Posse jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first 10 minutes and led 5-0 midway through the second period as they skated to an easy win.
Despite that loss, the Coyotes have played very solid hockey for the most part since Christmas and match up well against the Posse in what promises to be a tough and physical series.
“The regular season is a dress rehearsal … this is the only hockey that really matters,” said Coyotes head coach and general manager Ken Law. “You build a team and install systems during the regular season all to get ready for the playoffs. This is when you show what you’re made of.”
The Coyotes will enter the series against Princeton as an underdog as they finished seven points behind them in the regular season. Princeton captured the season series between the two teams with five wins and three losses, but two of those wins came in overtime.
Even though Princeton will have home-ice advantage, the series will start in Osoyoos on Friday night because ice time wasn’t available in Princeton. Game two is set for Saturday night in Princeton, while game three will also be played in Princeton Monday night. The Coyotes will return home for game four next Tuesday night. Game five is set for next Thursday night in Princeton and game six would be held, if necessary in Osoyoos next Friday evening. If a seventh-and-deciding game is needed, it will be played in Princeton next Saturday night.
The Coyotes will have their work cut out for them to beat Princeton, but Law said his team is capable of beating any team in the league if they’re playing their best hockey.
“Princeton is a big squad that skates well and they have a lot of skilled players up front,” he said. “They also have an exceptional power play, so we’re going to have to play disciplined hockey and stay out of the penalty box.
“The key for us will be keeping them off stride because if you give them a lot of room and don’t play good defensive hockey, they have the ability to make you look silly.”
Because his team has solid skill throughout its lineup and excels on special teams, the key to success for the Coyotes will come when the game is played at full strength, said Law.
“I think the key to the series will be five-on-five,” said Law. “We are solid with the penalty kill and on the power-play, so I think that will sort of even itself out throughout the series. The team that wins this series will be the one that plays better at full strength.”
The Coyotes enter the playoffs with a healthy lineup, which is very important in the post-season, said Law.
“We’re going to have to healthy scratch a couple of guys every night, but they are still a big part of this team and we’ll need them if this is a long series,” he said. “I know the guys are excited to play playoff hockey. It should be fun.”
The decision on whether to start Jessie Gordichuk or Joey MacConnell in net for game one won’t be made until later in the week, said Law.
Both goaltenders have played very well down the stretch and the players are confident in both goalies heading into the playoffs, he said.
This has been a strange season in that the Coyotes got off to a torrid start going 12-2 and then were racked by injuries and poor play in winning only two of their next 15 games. The good news is they rebounded once again and have played pretty solid hockey for the better part of two months.
“We had to make some changes in terms of moving out guys who weren’t buying into our program,” he said.
His team is confident, but realizes Princeton is a very good club and are going to provide a formidable opponent, he said.