On paper, a first-round match-up between the Osoyoos Coyotes and North Okanagan Knights is a foregone conclusion.
On paper, come this time next week, the Coyotes should be riding a 16-game wining streak and be well-rested awaiting the winner of the Summerland-Kelowna series.
“On paper doesn’t really count,” says Coyotes head coach Ken Law. ‘That’s why we play the games.”
Really, Coach? The “paper” looks pretty solid.
The Knights come into the playoffs on a bit of a slide. They’ve lost nine of the last 11 games they’ve played, their two wins over that period coming against the lowly Princeton Posse.
Conversely, the Coyotes enter the post-season riding the wave of a 12-game winning streak. They haven’t lost since January 20, when they dropped a — oh, wait a minute — 4-2 decision at home to the Knights.
Well, how about this, then: the Coyotes finished almost 50 points ahead of the fourth-place Knights. North Okanagan managed just 14 wins over their 52-game season — but, uh, well look at this, two of those wins came against Osoyoos.
This season, no KIJHL team beat the Coyotes twice, except North Okanagan — both times at the Sun Bowl. They also managed a tie.
We get your point, Coach.
Law is confident his team will take this first round series, but wouldn’t be surprised if it takes more than four or five games.”
“We were 5-2 and 1 against them this year,” he said. “They’re not as skilled as us, but they have a good work ethic. They’re really do belong in the playoffs.”
The Knights also have a solid goaltender in Daniel Paul, an intangible known to change the face of a playoff series.
“Paul in net is a big difference for them.,” says Law. “If you hit him in the chest with the puck, he’s not going to give it up. We have to get him moving side to side.
“We have to learn to get through him and at the same time we have to deal with a team that works extremely hard.”
Ironically, it was that loss to the Knights on January 20 that Law says has made his group the team it is today.
“We gave them that game ourselves in the third; we thought we had won it already,” he explains. “It was a great learning experience for us because we didn’t take a game off after that.
“The guys now understand the value of working a full 60 (minutes).”
The first two games of the series go tonight and tomorrow at the Sun Bowl. Games Three and Four are scheduled for Friday and Saturday in Armstrong.
If necessary, Game Five would be in Osoyoos next Monday, with additional games slated for March 1 in Armstrong and March 2 at the Sun Bowl.