Training camp frustrations from learning an adjusted system have faded from the Penticton Vees.
Fresh off sweeping their fourth straight Bauer BCHL Showcase, the Vees used this week to prepare to host the Merritt Centennials (3-4-0) at the South Okanagan Events Centre on Friday at 7 p.m., then hit the road for Prince George to take on the Spruce Kings (1-4-0-1) at the Coliseum on Saturday.
“It’s been good,” said Vees coach-general manager Fred Harbinson, whose team is ranked 12th by the Canadian Junior Hockey League. “Since the first few periods of the pre-season and the regular season in Salmon Arm, since then on we’ve been good. Obviously we want to get some more secondary scoring, that has been slightly spread around. We want to get more consistent with that.”
Scott Conway leads with five goals, while Easton Brodzinski and captain Tyson Jost are hot on his heels with four each. After that, eight players are tied with one goal and the rest of the roster has none.
Harbinson and his staff have a few things up their sleeve they want to add to their systems.
“There will be some different layers to our game,” said Harbinson. “It’s going to be fun to play at home. It’s our first Friday night at home. Hopefully everyone is out excited to watch.”
Jost, who made the Players to Watch list by NHL Central Scouting, along with teammate Dante Fabbro, likes what he sees from this group.
“We’re growing as a team. You could see it first hand as we’re putting together a lot of wins,” he said. “We’re looking forward to this weekend here.”
What excites Jost about the Vees is that they are a skilled squad.
“If we keep doing the little things, it’s going to get better and better,” said Jost, committed to the University of North Dakota next fall. “Guys supporting each other, have each other’s back — it builds a band of brothers.”
Coming in with the Centennials is Penticton product Tyrell Buckley and Osoyoos’ Tyler Holz, who was traded to the Centennials by the Vees during the Showcase. Harbinson said having “seven outstanding defenceman,” he left it up to Holz to decide where he wanted to go.
“There was a couple of teams that had interest,” said Harbinson. “He thought Merritt would be a good opportunity. Hopefully it works out for him there. For us, you got Sam Jones who didn’t play last weekend who has been outstanding. He looked great in practice. Has been working his butt off. It’s going to be hard enough getting seven guys involved, never mind eight.”
The Centennials earned a split in Chilliwack defeating Surrey 5-3 then took a 6-0 pounding by Nanaimo. Holz collected an assist against Surrey. The Centennials also recently signed former Kamloops Blazers goalie Coke Kehler of Altona, Man. In adding Kehler, the Centennials released Anthony Pupplo. The Spruce Kings also earned a split last weekend, doubling up Trail 6-3 then losing 2-1 in overtime against Victoria. Corey Hoffman and Jake LeBrun lead the Spruce Kings with two goals and three points.
On Tuesday, the Spruce Kings traded for Jarod Hovde from the Spruce Grove Saints for future considerations.
Ice chips: With the recent moves the Vees have made, they have one roster spot available and are carrying 12 forwards. After being No.1 in the Canadian Junior Hockey League pre-season rankings, the Vees are now No. 12. The top BCHL team is the Wenatchee Wild at No. 4. The Cowichan Valley Capitals received an honourable mention. The rankings are produced with the International Scouting Services and are based upon a variety of factors, including the league in which the team plays, winning percentage, win-loss record, total points accumulated, goals-for versus goals-against ratio, etc.