Coming home with four points from the BCHL Bauer Showcase in Chilliwack made the Penticton Vees happy.
They’re even happier about how they did it.
“I thought that we played really hard. Both games I thought our compete level and our tempo of play was real high,” said Vees coach Fred Harbinson.
They opened with a 2-1 win over the Victoria Grizzlies as Ryan Gropp potted the winner late in the second period. On Saturday, the Vees edged the Alberni Valley Bulldogs 3-2. That game finished closer after the Vees were assessed two minor penalties within 30 seconds of each other.
“We had the game in hand 3-1 and had two questionable calls late in the game on us to give them a 5-on-3 goal,” said Harbinson, who liked how his players limited Victoria to 23 shots and the Bulldogs to 18. “Our guys hung tight. Their goaltender (Brad Rebagliati, 39 saves) kept them in the game.”
In that match, Gropp opened the scoring and was supported with goals from Travis Blanleil and Max Coatta, with his first BCHL goal. Harbinson said there were several positives from the weekend. One that he talked about was how the players got better from the opening game.
“That’s always a good sign,” he said. “I think just the familiarity of playing another game. Game one playing on the smaller ice sheet. Victoria was a heck of a team, too. The idea is to everyday feel a little more comfortable out there and understand your systems. I think that’s kind of what happened.”
Vees captain Brad McClure said everyone is adapting to the systems well. He liked their ability to adapt to the new things that they have learned.
“You can notice a big difference in the second game opposed to the first,” said McClure, who tallied a goal and assist during the weekend. “How much better we were I thought.”
When it came to the play of his line with Gropp and Ben Dalpe, he said they performed well.
“Dalpes (brother of former Vee Zac Dalpe) had a good adjustment to the league there,” he said. “Gropper, he’s a good player. He’s fun to play with.”
Harbinson said everyone’s job is to keep pucks out of the net, while being able to produce.
“They clearly did that, a couple power play goals,” said Harbinson. “They are coming together real well.”
Harbinson said its the coaching staff’s job to find balance in the scoring with other lines and work on that started Monday.
While at the Showcase, Harbinson and his staff watched the other games to get a sense of the league, while also networking with college coaches.
“I think it’s going to be as usual a real tough conference,” said Harbinson. “A tough league.”
Harbinson, also the Vees’ general manager, said 16-year-old defenceman Jarod Hilderman has made a verbal commitment to the University of Minnesota Duluth. There are several attributes in which the Bulldogs like about the 6-foot-1, Kamsack, Sask., product who joined the team from the Notre Dame program in Wilcox, Sask.
“Coming from midget AA last year, kind of an unknown. There is just so much upside with him,” said Harbinson. “With his offensive instincts, skating ability. Once again another player that competes at a high level.”
In a team statement, Hilderman said he has followed UMD for quite some time said it is a perfect fit for his family.
“Most importantly, I have family nearby and they will be able to closely follow the team when I enter the program in three years,” said Hilderman, who also followed a handful of other schools. In 31 games last season, Hilderman had 10 goals and 30 points along with 73 penalty minutes.
Other Vees players have also received offers from colleges and are in the midst of making a decision.