Cody DePourcq looks at the Penticton Vees’ 2011-12 RBC Cup championship banner a lot.
While it’s a motivator for him to chase his second national championship starting Tuesday at the South Okanagan Events Centre at 7 p.m., his teammates have gotten that from something else.
“I know when the guys come over to my house, they want to check the ring out,” said DePourcq, the Vees co-captain, adding that they wouldn’t touch it. “Hopefully that gives them motivation. I want another one and I know this team wants one too.”
That’s the only thing the Vees know for sure since their opening round opponent is still a mystery. The Merritt Centennials and Salmon Arm Silverbacks are trying to fight off the West Kelowna Warriors for the final two playoff positions. All three teams are tied with 64 points, with the Centennials and Silverbacks having two games in hand.
When it comes to preparing, the Vees’ coaching staff isn’t doing anything different. Vees coach-general manager Fred Harbinson, a finalist for the BCHL’s Joe Tennant Memorial Trophy as coach of the year, said he and assistant coaches Nick Fuher and Steve Cawley will touch on all systems.
The staffs know what to expect from Merritt since the teams played at the SOEC on Feb. 20 with the Vees winning 4-1, then the Vees will see Salmon Arm Saturday. On Tuesday, Harbinson went to West Kelowna and watched the Warriors pick up a 4-3 overtime win over the Trail Smoke Eaters. On Sunday, the Vees will put the finishing touches on preparation.
“This time of year you are ready to play,” he said. “I think the energy level and the excitement of playing in the playoffs is right around the corner.”
Rookie defenceman Dante Fabbro is excited to see the crowd and how the team reacts to the high pressure situations. He has noticed the speed and physical play around the league increase over the past month.
“Everyone has played a little bit of playoff hockey now and kind of getting the taste of that,” said Fabbro.
“I think we have another gear, you guys just watch,” added Fabbro, who is healthy and ready to go after missing most of last weekend’s action with an upper body injury for precautionary reasons.
The players aren’t the only ones Harbinson wants in playoff mode. He wants to see it from the fans. Harbinson remembers the poor crowds from the start of last season’s playoffs with less than 1,500 spectators at both games.
“We just can’t afford that. We need to get everybody involved right away,” said Harbinson. “That becomes intimidating for the other teams. It’s something that nobody can take for granted, we’re making the playoffs again.”
Game 2 at the SOEC is Wednesday at 7 p.m. Game five (if necessary) will be March 9 and game seven (if necessary) will be on March 11.
Ice chips: The Okanagan Rockets announced that alumni and Vees rookie goalie Brendan Barry has earned an National Collegiate Athletic Association Division 1 commitment from the Clarkson University Gold Knights for the 2017-18 season. Barry led the Rockets to the 2013 Telus Cup in Moose Jaw Sask. after a sensational first season with the club. With the Vees, Barry is 10-2-0-0 record in his rookie season.
“We are extremely proud of Brendan and it’s nice to see the on-ice work he has put in over the years pay off,” said Rockets general manager David Michaud in a team statement. “Brendan is just the second 1997 goalie in Canada to receive a commitment, and the first in western Canada, so that should put things in perspective on just how special it is for a 17-year-old goaltender to receive this commitment.”
“Brendan has had a tremendous track record, leading his midget team to a Telus Cup and has now strung together an outstanding rookie season as part of the best goaltending tandem in the BCHL,” said Harbinson in a team statement, adding that they look forward to having Barry for two more seasons.
“We will continue to help develop Brendan’s game … and he will be a great addition to the Clarkson program in 2017.”
Clarkson University is located in Potsdam, New York. The Golden Knights hockey program is one of the oldest in college hockey as it dates back to 1921. The Golden Knights have made 20 NCAA tournament appearances, and have reached the Frozen Four seven times.