Battle of the BCHL’s Best goes Friday

Friday, might be the most anticipated regular season game this season for the Penticton Vees. Penticton (45-3-0-1) hosts the Nanaimo Clippers (35-12-3-0) at the South Okanagan Events Centre, a rematch of the 2022 Fred Page Cup Final.

Last May, the Vees captured their 13th Fred Page Cup championship, sweeping the Clippers in the best-of-seven final. In total, 24 players are back from last season’s BCHL championship series, 14 on the Vees, 10 on Nanaimo. As the saying goes, familiarity breeds contempt.

In sports, you often hear or read about a “championship hangover,” a slow start for the defending champions or even the two teams that met in the league final the previous year. That certainly doesn’t apply to these two teams. Penticton started the season on a 24-game win streak that finally came to an end on December 9th. The Vees are 21-2-0-1 since. Nanaimo came out of the blocks winning 12 of their first 14 games and really never looked back. The Clippers have had the poll position in the Coastal Conference for the majority of the regular season. After their 12-2 start, they were 23-4-1-0 at the Christmas Break. Nanaimo has had a few bumps along the way, posting a 12-8-2-0 mark since December 30th.

Both rosters boast plenty of firepower. Penticton’s roster includes the top three scorers in the BCHL in Bradly Nadeau (102 PTS), Josh Nadeau (98 PTS), and Aydar Suniev (81 PTS). Nanaimo boasts five players in the top 15 in the BCHL scoring race. Kai Daniells sits fifth (65 PTS), Brody Waters (56 PTS), Ethan Mistry (53 PTS), and Jake Hewitt (51 PTS). Friday’s game features eight of the top 15 scorers in the league. Penticton’s Suniev is the top Rookie scorer in the league and Nanaimo’s Mistry leads all BCHL defencemen in points.

Goaltending is a strength for both teams. Penticton is led by 19-year-old Luca Di Pasquo. The Michigan product leads the BCHL in wins (32), goals-against average (1.66), and is fourth in save percentage (.924). His four shutouts rank him third. Nanaimo crease duties have been shoulder by 20-year-old Aidan Campbell. The former Erie Otters’ netminder has put together an impressive season. Campbell leads the BCHL in saves and is third in minutes played (2239). He’s second only to Di Pasquo in wins and his .915 save percentage is 8th-best in the league.

The game features 28 players that are committed to an NCAA Division l program. Penticton has a BCHL-leading 18 commitments, Nanaimo 10.

Games aren’t played on paper, but all signs point to Friday being a “must see” game at the SOEC. Tickets are available at the Valley First box office or online by clicking HERE.