Sports

Kelowna Chiefs begin playoffs against top team in KIJHL Okanagan division

It's not your every day first round playoff series starting tonight between the Kelowna Chiefs and the Osoyoos Coyotes.

The first place Coyotes and the fourth place Chiefs meet for game one of their best-of-seven Kootenay International Junior Hockey League playoff series in Osoyoos tonight.

While the Chiefs did draw the top team in the Okanagan Division, the Kelowna squad finished just nine points behind Osoyoos in the division and the two teams split eight regular season games this season with both teams winning four times.

"We won three times on their ice so it's not a scary situation for us like it was last year when they were so much better than us," said head coach Ken Andrusiak, alluding to last year's second round playoff series between the two teams, which Osoyoos won in four straight games. "I think we match up pretty good. Our defense is pretty much the same and our top six forwards are pretty equal. The one difference is their power play is quite a bit better than ours so if we are taking stupid penalties they will make us pay."

Games one and two are tonight and Saturday in Osoyoos before the series shifts to the Rutland Arena on Monday and Tuesday nights.

After rotating their goalies equally this year, Connor Wilkinson will start between the pipes for Kelowna while on the injury front only rookie Brent Lashuk (lower body) was limping heading into the series and is a game time decision tonight.

The Chiefs will rely on the offensive scoring of Dane Rupert and Landon Andrusiak, the team's top two scorers. Rupert's 86 points was ninth in the league while Andrusiak put up 73 points in just 39 games after missing time due to injury.

The pair are among four 20-year-old veterans who are closing out their junior hockey careers. Josh McEwan and Shayne Welker are the other 20-year-olds.

"We have a lot of older guys and this is nothing new to them," said Andrusiak. "I think they are looking forward to it in the sense that they want to go out with a bang. It's the last kick at the can for them in junior so it means a lot to them."

With the series coming back to Rutland on Monday and Tuesday, the Chiefs are hoping for solid home crowds.

"I think we've developed a pretty good following in Rutland," he said. "The best thing about it is this series is probably going to go six or seven games. It's not a typical first round series. It should be really good."

Tickets are at the Chiefs office in Rutland Arena or call 250-862-8020.

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