Jordan Bellerive’s first career BCHL goal was a big one.
It helped the Penticton Vees defeat the Trail Smoke Eaters 3-1 at the South Okanagan Events Centre Wednesday night.
“It’s pretty exciting,” said Bellerive, an affiliate player from the Okanagan Hockey Academy prep white midget team. “To get the first one under the belt, to make it a game-winner it’s obviously even better.”
Heading into the dressing room with a 2-0 lead after the first period, the 15-year-old found the puck taped up in his stall after Vees co-captain Patrick Sexton grabbed it.
“It’s a pretty cool feeling, obviously it’s memorable,” said Bellerive, who played a big part in the Vees’ 24th win in 29 games this season.
The North Vancouver product received a warm reception from his teammates as loud cheers could be heard from the dressing room.
“They were all really good about it, trying to make me feel welcome here,” said Bellerive. “They make me feel like a part of the team. I can’t thank them enough. They really treat me great.”
“He’s a heck of a player. He doesn’t lack anything,” said Vees assistant captain Jack Ramsey, who opened the scoring 20 seconds in, but initially had his goal waved off by the referee as it exited the net as quickly as it went in. “He competes and he’s a physical force out there for being so young. He’s a really good player.”
The five-foot-nine, 180 pound winger made an impression on Vees coach-general manager Fred Harbinson.
“He’s really poised with the puck. He acts a lot older than he is,” he said.”Great play by (Mitch) Newsome to find him in the high slot.”
Bellerive said he watched Newsome drive wide to the net, while he arrived late. Seeing three Smoke Eaters go low, he stayed high.
“I just kind of closed my eyes and shot,” said Bellerive, who has sniped 21 goals along with 11 assists in 21 games. “It was a little bit surreal feeling. I kind of dreamed about this one for a while so it felt really good.”
With him potting the winner, the Vees gave him a round of applause.
“Not just his goal, but his overall play,” added Ramsey. “He stands out there. He plays a strong game so that’s huge when you can come in the lineup and do that.”
Putting the dagger in the Smoke Eaters was Dakota Conroy who finished a feed by Connor Chartier at 5:46 of the third to give the Vees a 3-0 lead. Smoke Eater Griffyn Martin shattered Hunter Miska’s shut out bid when he blasted a shot past the Vees net minder from the blue line.
After a disappointing loss to the West Kelowna Warriors Nov. 29, Ramsey said he felt the Vees played a complete game.
“Going into the third period with that lead, similar to the other night, we followed through and we played 20 minutes,” he said. “We really played a team game tonight.”
On his goal, Ramsey was asked if the hockey gods were making up for the goal call that went against them versus the Warriors.
“I don’t know. If you believe in the hockey gods,” he said. “It was a good bounce to me in the first 20 seconds. It was a really good way to start the game.”
Harbinson said they took care of their own end a lot better.
“I thought our guys responded to practice the other day,” he said. “I thought they responded to the game plan well tonight. Now we move forward and get ready for Friday.”
This weekend the Vees travel to Vernon to take on the Vipers (16-7-1-2), then host the Powell River Kings (13-7-0-6) Saturday.
Vernon gave up two late powerplay goals and an empty netter in a 4-2 loss to the Vees three weeks ago at The Big Wheel. The Vees earlier posted 3-1 and 1-0 wins over the Vipers.
“I think we have to prepare like we do for any other team, but realize that Penticton are a lot more dangerous on the powerplay,” said Viper assistant coach Kevin Kraus to the Vernon Morning Star.
“We have to be discplined, but if we do get in the box, our penalty kill has to be solid. The guys know they can compete with Penticton. We have to play a full 60 minutes and not take any shifts off.”
Vees notes: The University of Minnesota Golden Gophers announced Wednesday their early signing class. Five prospects put their name on the dotted line for national letters of intent to play, including Vees forward Jack Ramsey. The Chanhassen, Minn., product is excited to join the Gophers next fall.
“It’s been a dream since I was a little kid,” said Ramsey, whose sister Rachel plays for the women’s hockey team. “To play for the Gophers it’s the hometown. I live 20 minutes away from the rink. It’s pretty big.”