Penticton Vees
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PENTICTON VEES forward Brock Balson directs the puck to the net with Brad McClure, left, watching for a rebound. The Vees won the game in double-overtime 3-2 at the South Okanagan Events Centre on Saturday. The two teams will meet again on Friday at the South Surrey Arena.
Emanuel Sequeira/Western News

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Vees captain likes direction of team

Troy Stecher played overtime hero for the Penticton Vees on the weekend.

The Vees captain netted the 3-2 double overtime winner against the Surrey Eagles 55 seconds into the period on Jan. 5 on a breakaway as he fired a shot over Michael Santaguida's glove.

The Vees opened the scoring in the second period when Brad McClure was able to make Santaguida pay after mishandling the puck behind his net. Stecher gave the Vees a 2-0 lead midway through the third. However, former Vee Brady Shaw scored twice in a five-minute span to even things up.

Vees goalie Nic Renyard made 25 saves to earn his fifth victory of the season during Blockout the Lockout night at the South Okanagan Events Centre, which attracted 2,181 fans.

"I thought we played really well," said Stecher, the third highest scorer on the Vees with six goals and 32 points. "We played a good game on the road and then at home. It's unfortunate we didn't get four points or three, I think its a good step forward."

On Friday night in Merritt, the Vees tied the game at two early in the third, with Stecher helping set up the goal. The game appeared headed for overtime when Regan Soquila scored with less than two minutes remaining. The Centennials benefited from a bounce as the puck hopped from Renyard's stick over his shoulder to land in the net. The Centennials added a fourth into an empty net.

"He played really well. You can see he's a little more confident now," said Stecher of Renyard. "It's unfortunate with (Chad) Katunar with family issues back home. I think he's (Renyard) confident now because he doesn't have any pressure. He's playing really well and we're excited about that."

When talking about his own play, Stecher said he's feeling more confident, especially having trust in his mobility.

"I feel if I make a mistake, I'm still able to get back defensively," said Stecher, who has set a new career high with six goals in this BCHL season. "That's a big reason why I'm being successful offensively."

Being an undersized body (five-foot-11, 180 pounds), Stecher focused on improving his skating.

"I tried really hard in the summer and I think I did a good job," he said. "I think I'm getting results out of it."

The Vees are now on the road for their next five games starting in Surrey on Jan. 11. Having defeated the Eagles, Stecher said he feels they have an advantage over the home team.

"It's kind of playoff atmosphere. You kind of set it on your calendar as a home and home," he said. "You want to win both games."

Stecher said the Eagles played well considering they had come from Trail. He noticed the Eagles came hard at them and gave everything they had. Stecher also said their team is similar to them. The Vees captain feesl they are on the verge of being a great team.

"Both skate really well. They have some size up front and they are physical," he said. "We match up really well against them. It was a fun game to be a part of."

When the Vees take on the Eagles, they will have the benefit of having Jedd Soleway and Ryan Gropp back in the lineup. Soleway finished serving his two-game suspension for a hit-to-the-head. Stecher said Soleway adds size and strength to the Vees.

"Since he's come here he's been unbelievable," said Stecher of the six-foot-two, 208 pound forward with four goals and nine points in six games as a Vee. "He finishes every check and playing with (Wade) Murphy creates so much room for him. He wins keys draws in defensive zone."

With Gropp having returned from the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge playing with Team Pacific, the Vees captain figures the 16-year-old will have more confidence.

"He's the best 16-year-old I've ever seen play in this league since I've been around," said Stecher.

Gropp finished with two goals and three points in five games, while helping Team Pacific place fifth.

"It was an unbelievable experience," said Gropp, following Vees practice on Monday. "Just being around so many good players. The best players in their country."

Team Pacific won one game in regulation and three in overtime, while losing once in five games. Gropp said taking fifth wasn't the finish they wanted but said the record they earned wasn't bad.

"Every game was a battle," said Gropp. "Every game was fast-paced, physical. I thought I played pretty well. I was getting lots of ice time. The coaches put me in all different situations. I thought I responded well."

Having returned with confidence, Gropp is excited to get going with the Vees again.



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