(ISN) – The BCHL champion Penticton Vees are set to begin play against the Brooks Bandits in the 2012 Doyle Cup beginning Friday night.

After the recent dominance of the BCHL by the Vernon Vipers and the same in the AJHL by the Spruce Grove Saints, 2012 brings some fresh faces to the Doyle Cup.

The Penticton Vees represent the BCHL this year but were last in the Doyle Cup in 2008. Their opponent, the Brooks Bandits, are making the franchise’s first showing in the series since joining the AJHL in 1999.

Both clubs led their leagues in goals-for in the regular season. Brooks has maintained a 4.00 goals-per-game standard in the postseason after putting up a 4.55 average through 60 regular-season games. The Vees, who scored at a 5.57 GPG average in the regular season have won tighter games in the playoffs and have averaged 3.47 in 15 postseason games.

“They’re known as a high-scoring team,” said Brooks Bulletin sports reporter Bruce Parker of the Bandits. “They have the league scoring leader (Matt Wilkins, 99 points); they can put the puck in the net.”

The same would be said of the Vees. The difference may be that Penticton has shown a lockdown defensive ability as well. While they haven’t scored at the same rate in the playoffs as they did in the regular season, they’ve actually improved in goals-against going from a 2.22 average in the regular season to a 1.80 number in the playoffs.

“I get the sense that the teams are very similar,” said Penticton Western news sports reporter Emanuel Sequeira. “It’s like trying to figure out how to beat yourself. I talked to (players) this morning and I get the sense that they’re very excited for this series.”

It’s understandable. The Vees haven’t played in a week after closing out the Powell River Kings in four games to win the Fred Page Cup. Brooks defeated the Fort McMurray Oil Barons in six games to get to the Doyle.

Brooks’ top line consists of Wilkins, Cam MacLise and former Alberni Valley Bulldog Dylan Nowakowski, who was BCHL Player of the Week back on Oct. 3. He had six goals and 16 assists in 15 games after going to the Bandits on Jan. 9.

“He’s made a huge difference,” said Parker. “He’s a slick passer playing on the number-one line.”

This has been the best season the Bandits have put together in club history but, like the Vees, the Doyle Cup is just part of the equation.

“The coaches and players have their eyes on the RBC Cup,” said Parker. “They’re looking at the big picture as opposed to a piece of the picture.”

Parker says the MacLise-Wilkins-Nowakowski trio will be key as will blueliners David Watt, Chris Muscoby and Matt Tyson.

For the Vees, even some highly skilled players manage to fly under the radar due the team’s depth. But one player in particular might be especially motivated.

“I think Bryce Gervais might have a good start here,” said Sequeira. “He’s from Battlefords, Sask. and he said there will be almost 30 friends and family at the game, many who haven’t seen him play before. Another guy is Logan Johnston; he always plays his best in the playoffs.”

The town of Brooks, population 14,000, is expected to support their team big time with rumours of a sellout already swirling for Friday night.

They should be in for an entertaining set of games.

Doyle Cup Schedule

  • Game 1: Friday, April 20, Penticton Vees @ Brooks Bandits
  • Game 2: Saturday, April 21, Penticton Vees @ Brooks Bandits
  • Game 3: Sunday, April 22 (If first two games split) Penticton Vees @ Brooks Bandits
  • Game 3: Tuesday, April 24 (If first two games swept) Brooks Bandits @ Penticton Vees
  • Game 4: Wednesday, April 25 Brooks Bandits @ Penticton Vees
  • Game 5: Thursday, April 26 (If first two games split) Brooks Bandits @ Penticton Vees
  • Game 5: Friday, April 27* (If first two games swept) Brooks Bandits @ Penticton Vees
  • Game 6: Saturday, April 28* Brooks Bandits @ VPenticton Vees
  • Game 7: Sunday, April 29* Brooks Bandits @ Penticton Vees
  • *If Necessary