Line juggling went well for the Penticton Vees on the weekend as they collected four points with wins over Vernon and Cowichan Valley.
Heading into the weekend, Vees coach-general manager Fred Harbinson and his staff weren’t sure what they would do with Tyson Jost and Patrick Newell. Jost had been playing well with Demico Hannoun and Lewis Zerter-Gossage prior to leaving for the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, and Newell lit up in Jost’s place.
In a 4-2 win over the Vipers in Vernon Friday, the trio scored the tying goal on a power play tally by Hannoun. In a 4-1 win against the Capitals at the South Okanagan Events Centre Saturday, Hannoun and Patrick Sexton setup Newell.
“On Friday night we had to shorten our bench a little bit, kind of mixed and matched things as we went,” said Harbinson. “Saturday is a process with a lot of chances and it took us a while to break through.”
There will be more line juggling as the Vees, ranked third in the Canadian Junior Hockey League, welcomed Connor Chartier and Dakota Conroy, who each bring four years of Western Hockey League experience to the mix. Chartier, a former Spokane Chief, was acquired in a deal that sent Joshua Laframboise to the Salmon Arm Silverbacks. The Vees also welcomed Conroy, who they picked up for Liam Finlay. Conroy’s 30-day suspension for leaving the Prince Albert Raiders is over. He was cleared to practice Tuesday and will be cleared to play on Friday.
Dakota Conroy below
While the Vees have had a strong first half with their young group, the coaching staff felt the need to beef up the roster with veterans, boosting their 20-year-old count from three to five. In dealing Laframboise, he was in the same situation as Finlay in wanting a larger role. The Silverbacks were also interested in him.
“I don’t fault them for that at all,” said Harbinson. “Liam is taking advantage of bigger role in Vernon. It’s up to Josh to do the same there.”
Prior to the start of the season, Vees co-captain Cody DePourcq liked the veteran experience they possessed.
“Now we have tons of experience,” said DePourcq smiled.
DePourcq said the timing of getting Chartier and Conroy is good as it allows them plenty of time to develop chemistry with the group.
“I think it’s a good next step for me,” said Chartier, who brings 224 WHL regular and playoff game experience. “They have a great winning record. Hopefully I can be a part of it.
Chartier, who had a career high 14 goals and 32 points in 72 games with the Chiefs in 2013-14, looks forward to helping the Vees reach the RBC Cup.
“I bring some leadership, contribute offensively,” said Chartier, a Calgary native. “Defensively I’m a pretty sound player.”
Conroy, who has played 226 WHL regular season and playoff games, sees joining the Vees as a new opportunity.
“I’m excited to hit the ice with the boys,” said Conroy, who scored a career high 30 goals and 61 points in 66 games for the Raiders last season. “I’ve been bagging myself a little bit here trying to get in better shape.”
Conroy watched the Vees win against the Capitals and feels they have a good, young squad.
“I’d just like to go out on a winning note,” he said.
On Wednesday, Vees fans will get their first look at Chartier when they host the Langley Rivermen at 7 p.m. Harbinson said the Rivermen are a big team that likes to play a hard nosed game.
“At times a little nasty, which is good,” said Harbinson. “It will be a good challenge for us.”
“We’re expecting a skilled group to come in,” said DePourcq. “It’s going to be a fun game.”
Vees notes: Alumni Curtis McKenzie scored his first NHL goal on Sunday against the Chicago Blackhawks. McKenzie, who wears No.11, played 15 minutes, two seconds in the 6-2 win. McKenzie tied the game at one after Duncan Keith gave the Hawks a 1-0 lead. McKenzie has now played seven NHL games this season. He debuted with the Stars on Oct. 18 against the Philadelphia Flyers … University of Denver standout Joey Laleggia (Vees 2009-2011) was named the National Collegiate Hockey Conference Defensive Player of the Week Monday. Laleggia was the eighth defencemen in Pioneer history to reach 100 career points, as he had a goal and three points in Denver’s 8-1 thumping of Colorado College … Minnesota State-Mankato junior Bryce Gervais (Vees 2011-2012) is tied for first in goal scoring in NCAA Division 1 men’s hockey. Gervais has nine goals in 10 games for the Mavericks, ranked ninth in both national polls. Gervais is the top scoring player in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.