Might as well play the best team first.
The Bakersfield Condors visit the Victoria Salmon Kings for game one tonight of their Kelly Cup ECHL playoffs.
Game 1 of the best-of-five series is 7:05 p.m. at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre.
Game 2 is Tuesday night, 7:05 p.m.
Bakersfield enter the playoffs with 13 wins in their final 15 games, including a streak of 11 wins in a row. Meanwhile the Salmon Kings lost two of their final three to the Alaska Aces.
Then again, the playoffs are all about survival, so knocking out the Western Conference’s hottest team (Bakersfield) in round one could be the ideal way to start a run for the cup.
On Monday afternoon the Salmon Kings released their official playoff roster. Some surprising inclusions and exclusions made the list of 20 active players and four reserve spots.
No surprises as Pete Vandermeer is left off the roster. The lost leader has been notably absent in recent months since he started the season as the team captain.
Taking up the leadership role in Vandermeer’s absence has been leading scorer Rob Hennigar and stay-at-home defenceman Derick Martin.
While Hennigar has had plenty of help with veterans Milan Gajic, Adam Taylor, Kiel McLeod, Chad Painchaud and Matt Sidall in the forward group, Martin is setting the tone for a pair of playoff-destined rookies.
Matt Cowie and Cam Ritchie bring a combined total of 14 pro games to the postseason dance.
Ritchie, who joined the team out of Princeton, leads the way with nine games so far.
“We’ve been mostly paired with veterans though I skated with (Matt) Cowie (Friday),” Ritchie said.
It’s a funny thing, the pro game. In his final two seasons with Princeton in the NCAA, Ritchie scored only one goal.
The 24-year-old scored his second goal in nine games with the Salmon Kings on Friday (April 1), 30 seconds into their 3-1 win over the Alaska Aces.
“I didn’t know a whole lot about this team but there’s been a few Princeton guys who’ve come through here before so I knew it was a good place to play,” he said.
What made Ritchie’s goal on Friday more special were the events of his day preceding the game. It started on a plane heading back from New Jersey at 4:30 a.m. pacific time.
The civil engineering student had made a quick trip to Princeton to present his thesis, a redesign of the structural engineering system of the 100 storey John Hancock Centre in Chicago.
“I’m still not finished but it’s going well.”
Klassen, who signed on the weekend from the University of Alberta Golden Bears, has just one pro game to his name, Saturday’s 4-1 loss to the Aces.
Salmon Kings’ active roster: Josh Aspenlind (F); Chad Klassen (F); Derick Martin (D); Cam Ritchie (D); Ryan Turek (D); Geoff Waugh (D); Jeff Caister (D); Matt Cowie (D); Rick Cleaver (F); Ryan Dingle (F); Milan Gajic (F); Rob Hennigar (F); Tommy Maxwell (F); Kiel McLeod (F); Chad Painchaud (F); David Shantz (G); Matt Siddall (F); Jimmy Spratt (G); Adam Taylor (F).
Salmon Kings’ reserve list: Gord Burnett (D); Matt Butcher (F); Derek Couture (AHL); Ryan MacMurchy (AHL).