There was no rest for the Penticton Vees on Thanksgiving Monday with a tilt with the rival Vernon Vipers approaching.
“They made us work that turkey off,” said Vees assistant captain Steen Cooper. “It was a good week of practice that’s for sure.”
Taking on the Vipers at Kal Tire Place in Vernon, the Vees are putting their five-game winning streak on the line, while the Vipers have won their last three.
The returning Vees have motivation going into Friday’s tilt with last year’s Game 7 playoff loss is still fresh.
“For the guys returning they remember it,” said Cooper. “The new guys know about it and they know about how us and Vernon are huge rivals. There is still a little bit of a bitterness between the two teams. We can’t wait to get out there and restore this rivalry.”
Cooper said the Vees to pick up a win, they need to stick to their style of play.
As soon as they get away from that, things go wrong. Cooper added it’s a matter of keeping things simple. One thing he likes in the Vees current role is the chemistry.
“I think we have really gelled as team. I think we are playing more of a team game,” said Cooper. “Every line is coming together.”
For Demico Hannoun, it’s his first trip back to Vernon since being traded by the Vipers during the off-season. Hannoun, who recently switched his number from 48 to 21, said it’s going to be a good test.
“They are a pretty physical team. We can’t let them push us around,” said Hannoun, whose favourite player growing up is retired NHLer Peter Forsberg, who also wore 21. “We have to take it to them. Get pucks deep. Cycle it.”
The Vipers are second in the Interior Division, five points behind the Vees. Vipers coach Mark Ferner knows what to expect from the Vees after watching them pick apart West Kelowna and said they are solid defensively and have some dynamic rookies.
“We’ll be making sure our compete level is there for the weekend. There’s too much swinging away from the puck for my liking,” Ferner told the Vernon Morning Star. “Guys are sniffing offensively and they think if they get a point, it makes them a good hockey player. I told them after Friday’s game that winning is like deodorant; it just covers up the stink.”
On Saturday, the Vees return to the South Okanagan Events Centre to host the Victoria Grizzlies at 6 p.m.
Cooper said they are usually a quick squad and one of the better teams in the BCHL so it should make for an exciting game. Victoria sits third in the Island Division with a 4-3-0-1 record.
Their leading scorer is Garrett Forster and Brett Gruber with four goals each, while Dane Gibson leading the team in points with 10.