BCHL Fred Page Cup Final preview

Here we are on the final leg of the 2022-23 B.C. Hockey League season. This has been a crazy year for the BCHL from a fantastic regular season that saw Penticton only lose four games, to the success of the outdoor BCHL Prospects and All-Star games, and another wildly popular Road Show.

The BCHL has also had a fantastic and competitive Fred Page Cup playoffs with an exciting final series to come. the BCHL topped the season off with the announcement it was leaving Hockey Canada, which has brought in a lot of coverage of the league.

The Conference finals were two really good series. The Alberni Valley Bulldogs dispatched the underdog Chilliwack Chiefs in a four-game sweep, while the Penticton Vees finally lost a game to the Salmon Arm Silverbacks but still overcame it to make their second consecutive Fred Page Cup final.

BCHL Fred Page Cup Final

Penticton Vees (1) vs. Alberni Valley Bulldogs (3)

This year’s final is a first for Alberni Valley as the Bulldogs have never advanced this far in the BCHL post-season. It is business as usual for Penticton boss Fred Harbinson and the Vees as they make their second straight final and the seventh final in 16 years.

It is kind of a full-circle moment for Harbinson as he faces the team from his hometown of Port Alberni for the first time in the playoffs. The Vees continued their dominance over everyone, dispatching Salmon Arm in five games. As mentioned in my Interior Conference final preview, the Backs needed goalie Matthew Tovell to steal them a game to stay in the race and that’s exactly what happened in game four to keep them alive for a few more days.

The Bulldogs are in uncharted waters having not ever played for the Fred Page Cup in franchise history. Alberni Valley is running on a high after sweeping the Chiefs in the Coastal Conference final in a dominant performance. Even when the pressure was on, the Bulldogs always have a counterattack.

It is a team that can score when the momentum isn’t on its side, just like it did to clinch game four. The Chiefs had the pressure on but Ethan Bono scored with 29 seconds left in regulation to take the series for Alberni Valley. The Bulldogs might have an ace up their sleeve as head coach Joe Martin coached against the Vees several times during his eight seasons on the bench of the Merritt Centennials.

For the Bulldogs to capture their first Fred Page Cup in team history, they’ll have to contain Bradly and Josh Nadeau and have either Arnold Campbell or Hobie Hedquist steal them a game at the South Okanagan Events Centre. The Alberni Valley Multiplex will no doubt give them a boost. The Dog House was jam-packed, sold out for the two games in the Coastal Conference final, and will likely also be for the BCHL final series. Penticton will look to continue its scoring prowess, use a suffocating defensive game, and hope to make the lights go out on numerous occasions at the SOEC.

Prediction: Alberni Valley Bulldogs in seven games