Vees finally have competition for roster spots
On the sidelines
The days of being a shoe-in on the Penticton Vees roster this season is over.
Barring any unforeseen injury or suspension that is. Vees coach-GM Fred Harbinson is likely knocking on wood.
Vees forward Michael Rebry completed his five-game suspension and returned to the lineup against the Merritt Centennials on Saturday. The Clear Creek, Ont., product helped the Vees whoop the Cowichan Valley Capitals 7-1 win. Rebry earned an assist as he and John Siemer set up Brad McClure, who pocketed his team-leading 25th goal of the season. Harbinson agreed that Rebry’s return alters the look of his lines.
“It puts a lot of good competition up front,” said Harbinson, who made Jordan McCallum and Jordan Boultbee healthy scratches. “It will be the same when we get Brayden Park healthy here real quick. It will put competition on the back end. (Nic) Renyard played well tonight. (We) Have competition in goal which is always good come the end of the season here. You have to compete and battle and execute the game plan to stay in the lineup.”
Once Park recovers from his lower body injury, who can he force Harbinson to pull out to give him ice time? Same goes for McCallum and Boultbee. Should the Vees not have to deal with anymore injuries, at least not the kind you can’t play through, the only thing that will get that trio into the lineup is one of their teammates not playing well enough consistently or working hard. The other variable to come into play is Harbinson liking what either can bring to the lineup against a certain opponent that can’t be ignored.
There are likely many Vees fans who believe their team can enjoy a long playoff run, however, isn’t there still some mystery when all the pieces haven’t been in there? That can start to disappear at least among the forward lines. Harbinson said Rebry played really well. He definitely didn’t stand out for the wrong reasons.
“He’s another guy that can win face-offs,” said Harbinson. “Strong through the middle. I thought he had a really good return.”
Murphy said Rebry, who has 17 goals and 32 points in 29 games, is a big part of the team.
“He is great defensively,” said Murphy. “A big (six-foot-two, 195-pound) power forward. Really nice to have him back in the lineup. Pretty tough for him sitting five games. He fit right in and played good.”
During Sunday’s blowout against the Capitals, Harbinson said they had four lines battling. He also liked that his defence kept pucks away from the net. The Capitals finished with 16 directed at Renyard. His counterpart in Patrick Spano dealt with 45 shots. Murphy said they played hard and the key was just pressuring the Capitals.
Murphy said he felt they played hard during a 3-2 loss to the Centennials. He also said if they played the same on Sunday as they did on Saturday that they would beat Cowichan Valley.
Harbinson and Murphy also stressed the importance of this Friday’s upcoming game with the Centennials.
“It’s like a four-point game,” said Murphy.
“Hopefully everybody gets excited about it,” said Harbinson. “Top two teams. Another battle here at home.”
The Vees have a six point lead on Merritt. However, the Centennials have two games in hand as both strive to clinch first in the Interior Division.
Vees notes: When it came to facing former teammate Grant Nicholson, now with the Capitals, Murphy said there was no trash talk.
“I talked to him a couple times in the face-off,” said Murphy. “I’m really good buddies with him. We just kind of joked around on the ice.” Murphy said it was different playing against a guy he won an RBC Cup with. “He is always in your face. It’s weird playing against him instead of being on his team.”