Expect another tough battle between the Penticton Vees and Trail Smoke Eaters at the South Okanagan Events Centre Wednesday.
“We’ve had a lot of tight games with these guys. We lost a game in their building,” said Harbinson, whose team is second overall in the BCHL. “We’ve had a couple of overtime games here. It’s easy to get up for Vernon on Saturday, but you have to get up for Trail now. There is no time to wait.”
The Vees (29-6-1-0) have taken two of the three meetings so far in their BCHL season series. The last a 4-3 overtime victory where Grant Cruikshank put Trail (17-17-4-0) down for good.
“We’ve been working a lot off our d-zone coverage and just, they have got one line there that can definitely create damage in the offensive zone and off the rush,” said Vees coach Fred Harbinson. “Just a couple little things that we wanted to tidy up in our own end. Hopefully we will be ready to execute it tomorrow.”
The Vees want to start 2017 the same way they finished 2016, with a win. On Dec. 30, the Vees defeated the Merritt Centennials 4-2 in front of 3,222 fans. The Vees led 3-0 and wound up with a 4-2 decision. Cruikshank’s 25th goal of the season ended up as the winner.
The Vees added strength and experience to their forward line with the addition of a Western Hockey League veteran. The team has swapped forward Ty Barnstable for the Canadian Junior Hockey League playing rights to Taylor Sanheim from the Portage Terriers in a trade announced Monday.
“Taylor is a hard-nosed, physical player, who brings plenty of experience with him and we feel those elements will help solidify our forward group as we gear up for what hopefully will be a long playoff run,” said Harbinson in a press release.
Sanheim, 20, spent parts of the last three seasons in the WHL with the Calgary Hitmen, tallying 12 goals and 51 points in 132 career regular season games, along with 168 penalty minutes. He also played in another 22 playoff games with the Hitmen, and helped them into the WHL 2015 finals. Before landing in the WHL, Sanheim played in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League, splitting his time between Portage and the Dauphin Kings. In 53 games he had 15 goals and 28 points in the 2013-14 season.
To make room for Sanheim on the roster, the Vees put 20-year-old defenceman Gabe Bast on a Junior B card, as he will affiliate with the Surrey Knights of the Pacific International Junior Hockey League. Bast has been limited to just six games this season due to upper and lower-body injuries.
Harbinson said trading a player of Barnstable’s quality wasn’t easy. He was acquired by the Vees in June 2016.
“Ty had done everything we asked of him and he was a very popular teammate during his time here, and that speaks to his character and maturity. He’s going to an excellent program in Portage and we wish him all the best with the Terriers.”
In 34 games with the Vees, Barnstable had four goals and nine points, to go along with 10 penalty minutes. Harbinson said Sanheim will not play on Wednesday. Defenceman Kenny Johnson was suspended for four games by the BCHL as of Dec. 17 after receiving a major penalty for a blow to the head.
In other player news, Harbinson said with their final card, they are looking to add Sam Rossini, who was injured in an exhibition game against the Vernon Vipers. If that happens, the Vees will put Greg Brydon onto an Okanagan Hockey Academy card. Adding Rossini is more of an “insurance policy”. Harbinson said Rossini will start skating around Jan. 10 but he’s still quite a ways before contact.
“Greg has been outstanding for us. We definitely want to keep him as part of the mix,” said Harbinson. “We’re really happy with how greg has played. He is part of the picture for next year. Happy how that has turned out.”
Vees notes: Alumni Tyson Jost and Dante Fabbro will play in the World Junior Championship semifinal with Canada against Sweden at 4:30 p.m. PST.