A season of frustrations for the Penticton Lakers recently got worse.
During a 7-1 win against the Chase Heat on Dec. 9 at the South Okanagan Events Centre, Lakers leading scorer Kale Erickson was assessed a match penalty and has since been suspended until April 30. Before being ejected, Erickson played a large role in the win by scoring a natural hat trick and adding an assist.
Brian Harrison, junior B director for B.C. Hockey and responsible for discipline on major infractions, said he’s been dealing with the case since it took place. Harrison watched the video which showed the first part of what took place between Erickson and the Heat player.
With video not showing everything, Harrison conducted interviews with the official and both players to help with his decision.
Harrison said Erickson slashed the Heat player, which removed the visor from his helmet. The player was then cross-checked in the face. A fight followed.
“It (cross checks) was not as severe as the slash,” said Harrison. “We’re talking about substantial damage to the mouth. He (Erickson) is remorseful for what happened. He is still responsible for controlling his stick. He has to be held accountable. It’s difficult to make these kinds of decisions.”
Harrison stressed the importance of removing violence from the game. He added that everyone involved with the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League has done a great job to improve it.
“I feel bad for both parties,” said Harrison, adding this is the first time he has dealt with Erickson.
Lakers coach Robert Dirk had no comment other than agreeing it’s a massive blow to his team losing its best player.
Bill Ohlhausen, president of the KIJHL, said it’s a “very serious offence.”
“It’s most important that we stop the checks to the head and check from behind in all cases,” he said.
On the ice, after losing 10 straight games, the Lakers then won two of three games and headed into the Christmas break losing to the Kelowna Chiefs 3-1 then earning a 2-2 draw against the Summerland Steam.
Ryan Carson scored the lone goal against the Chiefs. Nick Landry scored with four minutes remaining in the second period to erase a 2-0 Steam lead and help the Lakers earn a point. The Lakers are 16 points behind the Steam for the final playoff berth in the Okanagan Division. The Steam have one game in hand. The Lakers return to action on Saturday when they travel to Osoyoos to take on the Coyotes. The Coyotes are third in the division (19-14-0-3) with 41 points, six ahead of the Steam.