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Rivalry reignites as Penticton Vees, Salmon Arm set for 3rd-round battle

Vees coach promises ‘an outstanding divisional final’ starting Friday at SOEC
The Penticton Vees won all five meetings with the Salmon Arm Silverbacks in 2022-2023. (Jack Murray photo)

On the heels of winning 24 playoff games in a row and earning a spot in the Interior Conference Finals, Fred Harbinson’s message to his players is simple: don’t take anything for granted.

The Penticton Vees’ head coach, general manager and president will lead the team Friday, April 28, into another third-round appearance, when Salmon Arm Silverbacks come to the South Okanagan Events Centre for Game No. 1.

It’s a B.C. Hockey League playoff rivalry that hasn’t been ignited since 2013 — a first-round series that ended with the Vees victorious.

During the league’s 2011 postseason, Salmon Arm booked a spot in the Fred Page Cup Finals when they downed Penticton in five games.

Since then, the Silverbacks haven’t been back to the Interior Conference Finals.

Penticton, on the other hand, has won four BCHL Championships in 12 years.

“I’ve been trying to explain to our guys, don’t take anything for granted,” Harbinson told the Western News ahead of Friday’s Game No. 1. “The fact that you’re in the final four is very special, don’t let anyone diminish it.”

Penticton will look Friday to record its 25th straight playoff win, dating back to the team’s Fred Page Cup-winning run last May.

Harbinson’s squad completed sweeps of the Trail Smoke Eaters and Wenatchee Wild to earn a spot in this year’s conference finals.

With a new opponent, though, comes fresh challenges.

“They got probably five or six forwards that can really make plays, they got lots of talent,” Harbinson, who recorded his 600th win as a BCHL head coach this season, said when asked of the Silverbacks. “They play hard without the puck…their special teams have really taken off in the playoffs and they got a goaltender who’s 20 years old and has experience.”

Penticton won all five meetings with Salmon Arm in 2022-2023, including a 4-2 victory in the regular-season finale on March 26.

Since that loss, the Silverbacks have earned series triumphs over the Prince George Spruce Kings and Vernon Vipers, en route to an 8-1 playoff record.

In its last victory on home ice, a series-clinching effort against Vernon, Salmon Arm’s Shaw Centre recorded its highest attendance in 15 years, according to team representatives.

“The (Silverbacks) are going to be really jacked up,” Harbinson said. “We need to have that same excitement and emotion in this position.”

“It should make for an outstanding divisional final.”

READ MORE: Penticton Vees, Salmon Arm Silverbacks to meet for BCHL’s Interior Conference title