Vancouver Victory look to postseason opener in Eugene

Junior hockey team is confident entering best-of-three series

By Paul Danzer, Columbian community sports reporter

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A roller-coaster regular season behind them, the Vancouver Victory hope for more success in the second season.

The junior hockey team faces the Eugene Generals in a best-of-3 playoff series this weekend. The winner will advance to the Northern Pacific Hockey League semifinals, which begin next week.

The series with Eugene begins at 7:35 p.m. Friday in Eugene and the teams play again Saturday night in Eugene. If they split the first two games, the decisive third game will be at 1 p.m. Sunday at Mountain View Ice Arena in Vancouver.

“If we don’t win the first round I’ll be disappointed, Victory coach John Nogatch said. “We’re a better team than they are. We’re deeper, got more speed. If we do our thing we’ll be OK.”

Eugene won five of the eight regular-season games between the teams, and two of those were overtime wins. The Generals and Victory split two games last weekend at Mountain View Ice Arena.

Vancouver finished fifth in the seven-team NORPAC, while Eugene tied for third place with Yellowstone. Still, Nogatch said his team has advantages if it plays to its strength.

“I think we’ve got better speed than they do,” Nogatch said. “Our forwards match up pretty well against their defensemen. If we can use our speed, play strong on (defense) and get pucks on net, we can be successful.”

Vancouver’s firepower isn’t what it was a month ago. Avik Bordak, the top scorer in the league, left the team to join New Mexico of the North American Hockey League. It’s a step up for the Brush Prairie resident, which is part of the developmental process in junior hockey, Nogatch noted.

Also gone is Elijah Bordak. The youngest of the three Bordak brothers is sidelined by a back injury.

To be successful against Eugene, Vancouver must get pucks on net and work for rebound chances, according to assistant coach Anthony Libonati.

“I’m excited about the matchup because I definitely think it’s a team we can beat,” Libonati said. “We need to be strong on the puck and drive to the net hard, so that when we get opportunities we can bury them.”