BCHL: Depth key to Vees early success

Penticton Vees coach Fred Harbinson credits roster depth and players stepping up to team success.

PENTICTON VEES captain Nic Jones blasts through Nanaimo Clippers’ Shawn Guison and Matt Creamer. Jones is among the Vees leaders in game-winning goals with two on the season.

PENTICTON VEES captain Nic Jones blasts through Nanaimo Clippers’ Shawn Guison and Matt Creamer. Jones is among the Vees leaders in game-winning goals with two on the season.

Penticton Vees coach-general manager Fred Harbinson credits roster depth to his team’s early season success.

The Vees, at No. 9 in the Canadian Junior Hockey League rankings, are 11-2-0. Harbinson admitted he didn’t foresee his team having that kind of a start to the BCHL season.

The flexibility to roll four lines and six defenceman has allowed the Vees to get off to the start they have, putting them five points ahead of the second-place Merritt Centennials in the Interior Division. They are first overall in the BCHL, one point ahead of Wenatchee, who has two games in hand.

“I think tonight (Saturday, Oct. 15) we had a few guys that didn’t play very well,” said Harbinson, following a 3-0 loss to the Nanaimo Clippers at the South Okanagan Events Centre that snapped a nine-game winning streak. “That’s usually been our advantage. We’ve had some different guys on different nights step up.”

READ MORE: Vees picked to finish first in Interior Division

Grant Cruikshank leads the Vees with 10 goals in 13 games, good for third in the league, while Owen Sillinger is second on the team with six goals, followed by Ty Amonte and Ryley Risling with five each, then captain Nicholas Jones rounds out the top five with four goals. Of Jones’ four goals, two have been winners. Risling and Taylor Ward have also scored two winners. Other winning goals have been scored by Amonte, Chris Klack, Mitch Meek and Sillinger. The Vees have been without defenceman Gabe Bast since the first game of the season where he got injured against the Powell River Kings.

In goal, Mathew Robson has nine wins, while rookie Nolan Hildebrand has two.

In their 13 games, the Vees have scored the first goal nine times. They have led or been tied entering the third period nine times.

Jones said after the loss to the Clippers that they didn’t play very well and called their first period the worst opening period they have had all season. They led 10-6 in shots, yet headed into the intermission trailing 1-0 after having missed a few good chances. Jones said it was frustrating to generate the chances and not capitalize.

“We were trying to get a little too fancy at times,” said Jones. “They won a lot of battles. We were really soft in the first period. They took it to us in the first.”

To Jones it’s a matter of getting back to working hard and winning battles. There was a lesson learned.

“It doesn’t matter how we were rolling, if you’re not working hard, you’re not going to win games in this league,” he said.

The Vees have outshot their opponents 11 times.