PENTICTON VEE MITCH Meek ties up Trail Smoke Eater Ryan Moon during their BCHL tilt at the Cominco Arena in Trail on Jan. 28. Moon netted the winner in a 6-3 final. The Vees are in Merritt on Wednesday.

PENTICTON VEE MITCH Meek ties up Trail Smoke Eater Ryan Moon during their BCHL tilt at the Cominco Arena in Trail on Jan. 28. Moon netted the winner in a 6-3 final. The Vees are in Merritt on Wednesday.

BCHL: Vees look to get mentally stronger on the road

The Penticton Vees visit the Merritt Centennials with a focus on being mentally stronger.

Finishing 3-6-1 in January prompted the Penticton Vees to have a team meeting on Monday.

Vees coach-GM Fred Harbinson and the coaching staff talked to the players about how the past month went.

“It was only 30 days ago that we were a really mentally strong hockey club,” said Harbinson, whose club dropped seven spots to 19th in the latest Canadian Junior Hockey League rankings. “When you go through these moments, anybody can appreciate when you have tough times. Your mind wanders. You start waiting for the next bad thing to happen. That’s one of the things.”

Harbinson pointed out that in three of the six losses, they led in the third peirod. A 6-3 loss in Trail is the most recent. The other losses came to Salmon Arm and and another loss to Trail. Harbinson said different factors contribute to that. One being mentally believing and not sitting there waiting for something bad to happen as he put it.

“The physical part of what we have worked on is not as much as maybe what we have been trying to work on mentally with the group,” said Harbinson, whose team is fourth overall in the BCHL at 32-12-1-1.

The Vees defence has only had Gabe Bast for seven games, while James Miller has missed 21 games to injury and Griffin Mendel was not available for five games while he suited up for Team Canada West in the World Junior A Challenge and the recent CJHL Prospects game.

Removing three of the top four defencemen has forced the Vees staff to put defencemen in bigger roles. Harbinson said they eat up more minutes at this point in their career than maybe they are capable. He attributes that as part of the reason for losing games in the third period.

“Getting those guys slotted back where they belong allows them to be more productive and more comfortable in their game,” he said. “Playing against the guys they should be playing against, that’s more of it than anything.

“What its done on a positive, is it has given more playing time to other D-men,” continued Harbinson. “That’s going to make them stronger at the end of the year. Better as a team. Having to fight through adversity.”

The Vees travel to Merritt Wednesday and are 2-1-0 in the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena, where they lost on Jan.13.

READ MORE: VIDEO: Vees comeback falls short in Merritt

Vees captain Nicholas Jones said a gritty effort is required to win.

“It’s not going to be a skill game. Just get pucks to the net and get bodies to the net,” said Jones, who has five assists against the Centennials this season.

When it comes to the Vees’ road woes, Jones said they just have to put that behind them adding they have had good games in Merritt. Jones admitted the Centennials play a different game at home, where they are 9-10-4-1, compared to the road (9-9-4), saying they are “a very good home team.”

The Vees will now be without defenceman Mitch Meek for the remainder of the regular season with an upper body injury.

Mendel at CJHL Prospects Game

Griffin Mendel, who helped Team West defeat Team East 4-3 on Jan. 26, said it was “pretty fun” to play in the game.

“It’s always fun going to those type of events,” said Mendel, adding that seeing skill levels from other leagues is cool.

Players didn’t shy away from taking the body.

“Yeah, I got a few good hits in,” said Mendel, who did test skates before the game. “You want to go showcase yourselves. You are going to go play your own game.”