Just as the Penticton Vees get settled with new players joining the roster and on a roll at home, they now hit the road for a long stretch.
“The way this season has gone, it is not unusual to have something to deal with adversity wise. Now we are on a run of six games on the road and get booted out of our rink for the curling tournament and don’t get to practice on own ice sheet, it’s all great. Honestly, at some point it became comical the number challenges we have faced and we think it is great. Why would we want anything to be easy?,” said Vees coach, general manager and president Fred Harbinson.
With the Scotties Tournament of Hearts taking over the South Okanagan Events Centre until Feb. 4, the Vees are practicing at the OHA rink and head to Vancouver Island this weekend for three games in three days. This coming just after they clinched a playoff spot, going 7-0-0-1 in January, and sit tied for first in the Interior Division with the Vernon Vipers (63 points each). The Wenatchee Wild are scratching on the doorstep just one point behind (62). Meaning this six game road swing comes at a vital point in the season.
“We are going to be playing in some difficult buildings, Powell River first then we have Merritt mid-week and Salmon Arm and Trail following that,” said Harbinson. “We said before last week when we went on our trip to Prince George that we needed to stay in the hunt after these two weeks. We made it through the first week and climbed up, now we have another week to go get through this tough stretch and stay within striking distance of first place. Right now we have a fighting chance to win the division, but probably four teams also have a chance right now. These next six games here on the road are critical to keep within that striking distance.”
The first step will be getting points against the Powell River Kings on Friday, who sit atop the Island division tied with the Victoria Grizzlies, who the Vees face in a 2 p.m. matinee game on Sunday. In between those games is a visit to the Cowichan Valley Capitals.
The Kings came out on top the last time they played the Vees with a 4-2 win at the SOEC. It was the first time they had ever won at the SOEC since it opened in 2008, and the first win in Penticton for the Kings franchise since 2004.
“We are just going to go in there with the mindset that we are going to play our best game. We are going to do all the details correctly and we are going to play hard,” said Vees forward Owen Sillinger.
Still there is nothing like the friendly confines of home ice. The Vees have a 18-3-1-2 record at the SOEC so far this year. On the road they are 11-6-1-1.
“For sure we want to play at home with our fans and the energy they bring makes it unbelievable, but I think we are a good road team as well. We play some good games in other teams barns,” said Sillinger. “We had a lot of moves in in January and finally got our team put together here and I think road trips kind of help with the team bonding so it will be good.”
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