The Vees Andre Ghantous comes around the net for a try on West Kelowna Warriors goalie Connor Hopkins during their match on December 21. Brennan Phillips/Western News

Vees open 2019 with home game against Salmon Arm tonight

The Penticton Vees are back at the SOEC Jan. 4 after a much-needed 10-day break

The Vees return to home ice tonight to take on the Salmon Arm Silverbacks and start the final 20-game stretch of the 2018-19 season.

The Vees’ last game was Dec. 22 with a 4-3 win over the West Kelowna Warriors. The teams traded goals in the first period, with Eric Linell scoring twice for the Vees, including one while shorthanded.

After extending their lead to 3-1 halfway through the second thanks to a goal from Andre Ghantous, the Warriors answered with a late power-play goal to make it a 3-2 game heading into the third period.

Lukas Sillinger scored for the third straight game with a power-play goal eight minutes into the period, but the Warriors scored just a minute and a half later to cut the lead to one.

Vees’ goalie Jack LaFontaine faced 22 shots over the first 40 minutes of the game, before weathering another 26 shots in the final period alone, turning aside 25 of them to hold the Warriors at bay for the 4-3 victory.

While the Vees had already cemented themselves at the top of the division heading into the Christmas break with a win on home ice against West Kelowna the previous night, Saturday’s victory gave Penticton a three-point cushion to begin 2019.

It’s been nearly two months since the Vees have seen the Silverbacks, a 4-2 Vees win on home ice Nov. 9. Tied 1-1 heading into the third, Ryan Sandelin scored twice and added an assist to lead the Vees to victory.

The Silverbacks will be without leading scorer Matthew Verboon, who is representing team Switzerland at the World Junior Championships in Vancouver. The Vees meanwhile are expecting to have more bodies back into the lineup as defenceman Peter Muzyka and forward Brendan Harrogate will return from injury. They missed 14 and eight games respectively.

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