Responsible, methodical and diligent.
It is the qualities of the Penticton Vees team that showed up on Saturday to defend their perfect record at the South Okanagan Events Centre beating BCHL rival Vernon Vipers 1-0.
On this night it was almost like the Vees defensive core took exception to all the attention put on the forwards goalscoring prowess.
“Our defencemen played great tonight. The Vipers were really trying to come down the boards but our D kept pushing them away and turning the pucks over to get them to our forwards,” said Vees goalie Hunter Miska.
Digging past the scoring leaders stats, the Vees are the best defensive club in the BCHL having given up just 24 goals this season. That is eight better than the next best team. Fittingly, it was a powerplay one-timer blast from defenceman Dante Fabbro’s stick that scored the game’s only goal.
“That goal, amazing,” said Miska. “That was a huge goal for us. He has been unbelievable. I couldn’t be happier having him play in front of me.”
The Vees blueliners made things especially difficult for the Vipers forwards cutting to the net. Good luck trying to get any type of shot off a rebound.
“Our defence are doing really well this year boxing out and not giving guys second opportunities,” said Miska. “They are giving me the first shot and I’m making the saves either in my body or sending a good rebound out and we turn the play over to the other end.”
Miska turned aside 29 shots enroute to the team’s ninth straight win. Most of the shots he faced came from outside the faceoff dot. The Vipers that did make it past the Vees defence to get a puck on net faced a focused netminder. Vipers leading goalscorer Thomas Aldworth found that out after dangling around the defence only to be stuffed by Miska’s outstretched left pad in the third period. There was also that second period highlight reel two-pad stack by Miska that negated one of the Vipers best scoring chances.
“Always got to have that little bit of flash in there. I saw the guy backdoor and I didn’t know if I was going to get my body over in time so I threw my pads over there. I’m confident doing that because I do it all the time in practice and it is starting to become a routine save for me,” he said.
Miska made it look so easy. All part of his plan. One that includes a routine from moving his glove hand in the air quickly as he skates to the net at the start of the period to a meticulous stretching habit when he gets to his crease.
“It’s a routine I do to get my hand-eye co-ordination going. It helps me focus. I do it every period and it has worked so far,” said Miska who has posted two shutouts this season.
Much to the delight of Vees coach Fred Harbinson, who couldn’t be happier with his defensive core.
“Our goaltending and attention to detail on the defensive side is winning us a lot of games right now. It’s a mindset of how we want to play here. We don’t play in one direction. We play just as hard, sometimes harder going back to our net,” he said.
Amongst the excitement of a gritty win over the Vipers, Harbinson earned his 300th career win with the Vees. He answered in typical fashion when asked about the milestone. Brushing off any accolades, Harbinson turned the attention to the players and Vees organization.
“It’s hard to believe I have been here for seven season. I never stayed anywhere longer than five years prior to coming here. When you hit a milestone like this it is about more than one person. It is the organization, the players and that is why I enjoy coaching here,” he said.
The Vees now have a 6-0 record at home. They face the Salmon Arm Silverbacks on Sunday.
– Vees co-captain Cody DePourcq returned to the lineup against the Vipers. DePourcq left the Oct. 8 game with an upper-body injury.
– The Vipers are dealing with multiple suspensions after a fracas with the West Kelowna Warriors last weekend. Ryley Booth still has to sit out one more game and Brandon Egli and Riley Brandt’s suspensions are still under appeal. Head Coach Mark Ferner served his one-game ban Friday night.