The Penticton Quiznos midget Tier 2 Vees had their hopes of back-to-back provincial championships dashed by Smithers Monday.
Lance Vaillancourt’s team lost 3-2 to Smithers and went into their final game Tuesday night against Vancouver wanting to finish on a high note.
“You want to win your last game,” said Vaillancourt, adding that was the message he gave his team.
The coach also wanted his group to put in the same effort as they did in the loss to Smithers.
“It was an excellent game. Our boys played really well,” said Vaillancourt. “We took the game to them early in the first. Probably our best game of the year.”
Having lost to Smithers 6-0 earlier in the season in a Kelowna tournament, Vaillancourt said, “it gives you an idea of the growth that we’ve achieved over the course of the year.”
The Vees simply wanted to follow an 8-3 loss to Greater Trail on Sunday with a better showing. Vaillancourt said his players felt they were competitive and added they would like to have the Trail game back.
“That’s a tough place to be. You’re in your home town, the opening ceremonies, and I’m very proud of the way the team has carried themselves, representing our community,” said Vaillancourt. “They have done a remarkable job. It’s about that as much as anything else.”
Following the loss to Smithers, Vaillancourt said, people approached him and said had they played against Trail like they did against Smithers, it would have been a better game.
Vaillancourt picked Kelowna to win the championship. In their first game against Prince George, Kelowna won 7-2, then handed Ridge Meadows a 7-3 loss Monday morning. Vancouver and Kelowna were the only teams at 2-0 heading into Tuesday afternoon action.
“I have said all along from the moment we started our season that Kelowna would be the benchmark,” said Vaillancourt, adding that they have several returning players being guided by the same coach. “It wouldn’t surprise me if Kelowna won. That just says something to the hockey in the Okanagan.”
The Vees ended their season bowing to Vancouver Spirit 5-0.
It was the final round robin game for the two teams Tuesday night in the B.C. Hockey championship. The two teams met last year for the provincial championship with Penticton winning in West Kelowna.
Vaillancourt said his team played well. A five-minute penalty for checking from behind made it tough for the Vees to battle back. Vaillancourt said he didn’t feel it was a 5-0 game as his team trailed 2-0 going into the final period.
“That five minute penalty just took the wind out of our sails,” he said. “I thought the boys did really well in keeping their composure. They did a good job in terms of representing their community.”
The Spirit was able to blow the game open scoring all three third period goals on the power play. Vaillancourt said it was tough to create offense since the Spirit played a very structured game. In the last half of the game, the Vees only managed a few scoring chances.
Forward Spencer Hook said part of that was due to the Spirits’ ability to move the play up ice quickly, adding they have a good transition game.
“Their d-men were doing really good today,” he said.
“I think we tried as hard as we could,” said Vees captain Liam Hutcheson.
Forward Jesse Keylock said they played hard.
“I think they are a bit more skilled than last year,” he said.
For Hutcheson, Keylock and Hook, it was their final minor hockey game.
“It’s kind of sad,” said Hutcheson, who is excited to possibly make the jump to the junior B level with the Osoyoos Coyotes after playing with the team as an affiliate player.
Keylock said he’s going to miss it while Hook said it was pretty emotional.
“It was kind of nice to play in front of the home crowd,” said Hook.
Along with Keylock and Hook, Dennis Zoeller were the returning players from last year’s provincial championship team.
Semifinal games are Wednesday at 8 and 11 a.m. at Memorial Arena. The third-place game is at 5 p.m. and the championship will be played at 8 p.m.
In other provincial action, Penticton’s Sherwood Trophy peewee Tier 2 Vees opened the provincial championship with a 7-4 win over Greater Trail in Juan de Fuca on Vancouver Island. With 1:38 remaining in the game, the Vees scored three goals. In their second game, the Vees lost to Williams Lake 5-3. The Vees shutout Juan de Fuca 5-0 in their final round robin game Tuesday, then lost to 6-2 to the Burnaby Winter Club in the semifinal. They face the winner of Williams Lake and Campbell River for third. The Murray GM bantam Tier 2 Vees opened their provincial championship in Mission with a 3-3 tie against the North Shore Winter Club. Josh Maser scored twice, while brother Tyler added a single. Matts Bratton made 18 saves. In a 6-0 win over Greater Trail, Cairo Rogers scored twice, while Morey Babakaiff, Liam McLaren, Josh Maser and Manny Bahniwal also scored. Alyck Coombes stopped 11 for the shutout. The Vees earned another shutout in a 6-0 win over Saanich Tuesday morning. Their next game is Wednesday at 11 a.m.
In Okanagan Mainline Amateur Hockey Association recreation playoff action, the Penticton peewee Game Action Photo Raptors won the District Super League in Clearwater. The Raptors defeated the Lumby stars 5-4.