For the tenth consecutive year, the Vancouver Giants are heading to the post-season.
The Western Hockey League playoffs begin Friday, 7:30 p.m. at the Pacific Coliseum when the Giants host the Spokane Chiefs in a best-of-seven series.
Vancouver clinched home ice advantage and finished fourth overall, just a single point ahead of the Chiefs. The Giants handed Spokane two losses in two meetings this season, winning 3-2 in a shootout in October and then edging the Chiefs 2-1 on the road in February.
In a release this week, the Vancouver junior hockey club highlighted these match-ups for the first-round series between the Giants and the Chiefs.
Don vs. Don
Both head coaches have ample experience and are arguably two of the best to ever coach in the WHL.
Vancouver Giants bench boss Don Hay is the third winningest coach in WHL history with 556 regular season wins. He is a three-time WHL Champion and a three-time Memorial Cup Champion as a head coach, a two-time WHL Coach of the Year, and a member of the BC Hockey Hall of Fame.
He is currently tied for the most playoff wins in WHL history with former coach and general manager of the Portland Winterhawks Ken Hodge who has 101 post-season wins.
Spokane Chiefs head coach Don Nachbaur is sixths on the all-time wins list in the WHL with 513 career wins with Seattle, Tri-City and Spokane.
He is a three-time WHL Coach of the Year, but has never led his team to the WHL final. Twice he has lost out in Conference Finals. He is 15th all-time in career playoff wins with 52.
Brendan vs. Brenden
A key match up in this series will be the head-to-head battle between each team's top player.
Vancouver Giants forward Brendan Gallagher is coming off his third-straight 40-plus goal season, leading the Giants with 41 goals and 77 points.
It has been a big year for the 19-year-old who was signed by the Montreal Canadiens in November and helped Canada win a bronze medal at the 2012 World Junior Hockey Championships.
Chiefs blueliner Brenden Kichton was the only defenceman to lead his team in scoring this year. He led all defencemen in scoring in the WHL with 57 assists and 74 points.
Last year he was selected in the fifth round of the NHL Entry Draft by the New York Islanders and was a final cut for Team Canada at this year's World Junior Championships.
Kramer vs. Vannieuwenhuizen
When it comes to tough customers, this series boast two of the more willing combatants in the league.
Giants defenceman Wes Vannieuwenhuizen is in his second full season with the Giants and has turned into a reliable blueliner, who this year chipped in with three goals and 10 points.
He also had 18 fighting majors this season and 36 over the last two years.
Darren Kramer made a name for himself last year, his first year in the WHL, for recording 46 fighting majors. This year he had another 26 fights.
The 20-year-old can hurt the Giants offensively as well and registered 20 goals and 40 points in 71 games this year with the Chiefs.
A sixth round pick of the Ottawa Senators in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Kramer is also the Chiefs team captain.
Morrison vs. ??
It's hard to imagine where the Vancouver Giants might have been without Adam Morrison.
Acquired from Saskatoon in October, the 20-year-old turned into a bonafide No. 1 goaltender, earning a three-year entry level contract with the Boston Bruins.
Morrison played 57 games with the Giants and Blades, finishing the regular season with a record of 36-17-2-1, a goals against average of 2.82 and save percentage of .899.
Now in his fourth and final year in the WHL, this will be Morrison's first taste of the post season.
Who will be the starter for the Chiefs remains up in the air. Mac Engel and Eric Williams split the final eight games of the regular season for the Chiefs.
Engel was 28-19-1-3 on the year with a 2.69 goals against average and a .893 save percentage. Williams, who was acquired from Prince Albert just before the trade deadline, had a combined record of 16-21-4-2 with a 3.78 goals against average and a .878 save percentage. He played three games in the playoffs last year with the Raiders, who lost in six games in the opening round to Saskatoon.
WHL Western Conference Quarterfinal best-of-seven series schedule
Games in Vancouver are hosted at the Pacific Coliseum.
Game 1 - Friday March 23, 7:30 p.m. in Vancouver
Game 2 - Saturday March 24, 7:00 p.m. in Vancouver
Game 3 - Tuesday March 27, 7:05 p.m. in Spokane
Game 4 - Wednesday March 28, 7:05 p.m. in Spokane
Game 5 - Friday March 30, 7:30 p.m. at the in Vancouver
Game 6 - Sunday April 1, 6:00 p.m. in Spokane
Game 7 - Wednesday April 4, 7:00 p.m. in Vancouver
For more information, visit vancouvergiants.com.