Pining to be on the ice and under the bright lights of the South Okanagan Events Centre, Chris Klack had to settle for being huddled over the glow of a screen as he tuned into Penticton Vees games via the internet.
It was a long 63 days, to say the least — both for the Vees and one of their top forwards, who was out with an injury to his shoulder for that duration.
“I wanted to make sure I came back when I was ready and comfortable to play my style of game. I didn’t want to come in tiptoeing. I wanted to dive right in. Forechecking, hitting and shutting down the game defensively and offensively for the guys.”
The forward spent over a month of that time at home in Ontario while he was rehabbing his shoulder injury sustained during a practice on Nov. 8, 2017. Some of it was spent like most hockey fans, cheering and yelling at the screen, checking social media and getting updates from the BCHL app.
“That is pretty much exactly it. It was more of a fan perspective for me this past while. I was cheering on the guys from the sidelines these past two months,” said Klack. “I was more nervous because sitting there you can’t help the guys, you can’t contribute or be a part of the outcome of a game. It was definitely a different perspective. I’m usually right in there in the mid-season grind; instead I’m sitting at home doing rehab.”
Accordingly his return has been a kick-in-the-door and stomp-right-in effort, two goals and two assists in his first three outings. Plunked on to the top line with centre Owen Sillinger and right-winger Wyatt Sloboshan, the trio of 20-year-olds are starting to build some chemistry. A bit strange for a team that is beleaguered by injuries this season (including the most recent Taylor Ward), leaving most players counting the number of times they have lined up with the same people on one hand.
“As veteran guys we have been able to build up chemistry quick and are really reading off each other right now because we didn’t even practice together that week,” said Klack. Sloboshan, who joined the Vees from the WHL conveniently at the same time Klack came back, is at a point-per-game click with three assists in his first three games with the Vees.
Here are the four goals from last night's win over the Prince George Spruce Kings pic.twitter.com/ksTVpBStX0
— Penticton Vees (@PentictonVees) January 19, 2018
Having played almost his whole hockey career on the prairies, barring a year with the Okanagan Hockey Academy, Sloboshan was making a go of it in the WHL. However, he had a mountain to climb as clubs only can carry three 20-year-olds leaving him the odd-man out. Over the Rockies sat a new opportunity with the Vees.
“I wanted to come to a winning organization. These first few games I needed to make an impression. First impressions are huge and I want to help the offence as much as I can so we can get on a run here,” said Sloboshan.
So far, so good.
“I think he is a hard-nosed guy that works hard in the corners, makes plays and has a really good shot,” said Klack. “He is going to be a huge player for us in the upcoming months and another guy that can produce for us.”
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