A look at the BCHL playoff bracket

As the BC Hockey League season comes to the final games of the season, many teams have clinched a spot in the Fred Page Cup playoffs already. Let’s have a look at the potential matchups we could see in the first round of the playoffs.

This bracket is as the standings sit on Mar. 14.

Interior Conference

The Interior Conference is, for the most part, set with the eight teams that will compete in the playoffs. The Merritt Centennials only have three wins and are mathematically eliminated from the post-season dance. The bracket is set with who will compete for the Interior crown but the seeding could flip flop in the final month.

Either Penticton and Salmon Arm could be the number one seed in the Interior while Trail and Wenatchee could finish as either the seventh or eighth seeds. The teams from three to six could do the same as they are all tight together with a few percentage points separating each team.

(1) Penticton Vees vs. (8) Trail Smoke Eaters

Penticton has a considerable advantage over the Smoke Eaters. The Vees have won all the meetings so far this season with one more to come this month.

However, don’t sleep on Trail. Even though the Smoke Eaters are the considerable underdogs, the Vees can’t take Trail lightly or Penticton could end up with a similar result as 2019 when it fell in five games to the Cowichan Valley Capitals in the first round.

(2) Salmon Arm Silverbacks vs. (7) Wenatchee Wild

Similar to the Vees, the Silverbacks have a big advantage over the Wild. The great equalizer in this series is the travel as the Backs would have to head down to Wenatchee for a minimum of two games.

Salmon Arm holds a 4-0 lead in the season series with one game between the two clubs remaining. The Silverbacks’ victories include a three-game set in Wenatchee back in November in which Salmon Arm won all three while outscoring the Wild 13-4.

(3) West Kelowna Warriors vs. (6) Vernon Vipers

West Kelowna is on a hot streak coming into the playoffs, moving up to the third position ahead of the Spruce Kings. The Warriors would get the Vipers in the first round.

The six-time national champions are not one to sleep on either as they have the pedigree to go all the way as they did in 2019 as the number four seed. The Warriors lead the season series 2-1 with one more to play.

(4) Prince George Spruce Kings vs. (5) Cranbrook Bucks

The Spruce Kings are the longest-reigning Fred Page Cup champions in BCHL history. PG will finally get a chance to defend its first championship this year and as of now, the Spruce Kings would get the expansion Bucks in the first round.

Prince George has already claimed the season series 3-2 over Cranbrook. The Bucks are a big surprise this year, sitting fifth in their first full season. Of the four potential first round matchups in the Interior, this one will be tightly contested and could go the full distance.

Coastal Conference

The Coastal Conference is almost set. The Alberni Valley Bulldogs most likely have wrapped up first place in the Coastal barring losing the rest of their games. Langley should be the number two seed.

The number three seed is still up for grabs as the Chiefs can still catch the Clippers with near-perfect remaining games and help from Victoria and Coquitlam. The Clippers need three wins in their remaining four games or the Chiefs to lose two of their remaining five games to clinch the third seed. The Chiefs hold the season series over the Clippers and ultimately the tiebreaker.

The most interesting battle is for the final spot in the playoffs with Powell River and Cowichan Valley. The two are in a heated neck-in-neck that could come down to the final game of the season for each team.

It’s a tough test for both teams. Cowichan needs Chilliwack, Langley, and Coquitlam to keep Powell River pointless in its final three games, while also trying to get points off of Victoria and Nanaimo in the Caps’ final two games.

Coquitlam has locked up the seven seed and Surrey the sixth.

(1) Alberni Valley Bulldogs vs. (8) Powell River Kings

The Bulldogs have been on a tear in the Coastal Conference for the last few months, jostling with the Rivermen for the top spot. AV is arguably the bounce-back team of the year, finishing fourth in the Island Division in 2019 and being swept by Victoria in the first round.

The Kings are in a heated battle with the Capitals for the final playoff spot, which could work in Powell River’s favour heading into the playoffs. The Dogs won the season series 6-2 but the games were really close with six of the eight decided by one goal.

(2) Langley Rivermen vs (7) Coquitlam Express

The Rivermen was the best team in the Coastal Conference for much of the season. The Express has the ability to make a run, which is exactly what it did in 2014 in a march to the Fred Page Cup. Langley won the season series 7-3 but Coquitlam had the Rivermen’s number of late, winning the final two games of the season series.

The Rivermen have not had the same success in the playoffs as they have in the regular season, only getting past the first round in 2014 before being beat by Coquitlam in the Mainland Division final. The last playoff series the Rivermen played stings even more, as Langley blew a 3-0 lead on Chilliwack, which came back and won in seven games.

(3) Nanaimo Clippers vs (6) Surrey Eagles

The Clippers are looking for their first Fred Page Cup since 2007. The Eagles are looking for their first since 2013. This is an intriguing match-up. The Clippers and Eagles each of funky arenas as the Eagles have the big ice surface and the Clippers have the small intimate rink.

The Eagles and Clippers tied the season series 3-3 with each team gaining two wins on the road and a win on home ice. This takes away the home-ice advantage that the Clippers would have in this series.

(4) Chilliwack Chiefs vs (5) Victoria Grizzlies

This is the most evenly matched series out of all eight. It’s a rematch of the 2017 Coastal Conference finals, which was the infamous forgotten jersey series where Victoria forgot their jerseys on their trip to Chilliwack after games one and two.

The Grizzlies had Chilliwack’s number this season, winning the season series 3-0. This could be a fun and interesting series.