The 2011 KIJHL finals start tonight in the Desert, as the high-flying, expansion Osoyoos Coyotes welcome the Rebels to Sun Bowl Arena for a pair of games this weekend.
It's the Rebels' first trip to the championship series since 1996. The club, which has been in the KIJHL since 1976 (save a 2-year RMJHL hiatus in the late '90s), has just three championships to their credit, the most recent coming over Sicamous 15 years ago.
The Coyotes, meanwhile, have been a favourite to come out of the Okanagan Conference since these two clubs last met in late November. The 'Yotes lost only twice in regulation time all season and posted the league's best record.
How They Got Here: The Rebels posted 5-game series wins over the Spokane Braves and Beaver Valley Nitehawks before dispatching the Cyclone Taylor Cup host Fernie Ghostriders in 6 games in the Kootenay Conference final. Osoyoos swept both Penticton and Kelowna before winning the Okanagan Conference final in 6 games against the Revelstoke Grizzlies.
Last Meeting: The two teams have only met once, a 7-3 Coyotes home win on November 26, 2010. 16 year-old Carter Rigby, who has spent the playoffs with the BCHL's Penticton Vees, scored a hat-trick while Ryan Aynsley chipped in a pair for Castlegar.
Our Opponent: What's not to like about the Coyotes. 2 regulation-time losses all season, the league's #3 and #4 scorers in Thierry Martine and Stefan Jensen, top goaltender Kyle Laslo, top coach Ken Law, top rookie Shane Hanna, and a strong supporting cast make Osoyoos the cream of the Okanagan Conference crop. Martine continues to lead the way this post-season with 21 points, while 18 year-old centreman Taylor House and Colorado import C.J. Kort are in a two-way tie for second with 14 points each. 16 year-old Hanna is arguably the top '94-born d-man in the league (though Kelowna's Turner Lawson, Kimberley's Bryce Perpelitz and Fernie's Kade Pilton all deserve a mention as well). Laslo has a positively Fort Knox-like 1.60 GAA and .940 save percentage in the playoffs to go along with his 7 regular-season shutouts.
Broadcast Info: Jon Zacks has the call on Mountain FM for those of you in the West Kootenay (listen online here too). Osoyoos' crew has the webcast call beginning at 7:35 PM.
Out of League Update: The VIJHL finals between Victoria and Peninsula will go to a seventh game tomorrow afternoon. The Cougars led the Panthers 3-1 in the series before Peninsula clawed their way back. Game 1 of the PIJHL finals went the Richmond Sockeyes' way last night. They defeated the Abbotsford Pilots 3-1.
Bits & Bites: Beaver Valley's Dallas Calvin has been practising with the WHL's Kamloops Blazers this week. This after he signed with the club, who was eliminated from playoff contention last night (for only the second time in the franchise's 30-year history according to Gregg Drinnan's Taking Note. Grand Forks has tabbed play-by-play man and city councillor Michael Wirischagin as their new president. He takes over from Jason Odland. The Bruins will continue to accept applications for their vacant head-coaching position until the end of the month.