The Penticton Vees and West Kelowna Warriors wasted little time in re-igniting their rivalry.
Things got heated in the Vees’ 4-3 exhibition win at the South Okanagan Events Centre. One incident involved Vees goalie Brendan Barry who took exception to Paul Lovsin sticking him in the face in the crease. Barry shoved him then began throwing punches while removing his mask. Both were ejected with 1:12 left in the first period and the Warriors leading 2-1.
Vees coach-general manager Fred Harbinson said things deteriorated following an undetected hit in the neutral zone earlier in the period.
“Guys are trying to, I guess, mark their territory. This is our building and we’re not going to allow teams to come in here and play around with us,” said Harbinson. “One of the things we have always had in the past, and we showed tonight, is if you want to be undisciplined, then we will find ways to score on the power play.”
The Vees’ first power play tally came off the stick of Tyson Jost, who wired a shot from a nice feed from Scott Conway, who finished with three points on the night, including a goal, which also came on the man advantage. The other Vees’ power-play goal came from rookie defenceman Griffin Mendel, who found a hole in Daniel Mannella at 9:30 of the second period. Overall, the Vees went two-for-11 on the man advantage, while the Warriors were two-for-five.
Despite the many heated exchanges, Harbinson liked the discipline his players showed at times and said they talked about that after the first period.
“We pride ourselves on being a real disciplined team,” he said. “One of the lowest penalized teams in the league year after year. I think it’s the only way that it works, this day and age the way the rules are called.”
Jost, the Vees’ captain, said there is a bit of bad blood between them, adding it was a tough game to get anything going.
“After every whistle there was a scrum. They are fun to be a part of. It’s a rivalry that we like to keep going. The Vees got a taste of that first hand. That’s something we want them to get a taste of. I think that’s good for our team.”
Above is the third jersey the Vees will wear this season.
The Vees bench boss liked the way his lines worked and the contributions of his younger players.
“(Desi) Burgart’s line there, with (Taylor) Ward and (Ben) Brar I thought were really good,” he said. “There was a lot of bright spots. I thought Sam Jones did a great job on the back end. Some of our young guys really stepped up.”
Easton Brodzinski was with Dixon Bowen and Demico Hannoun, Jason Lavalee with Owen Sillinger and Mitch Brooks, while Conway was with Jost and Chris Gerrie.
The Vees’ other goal was scored by Gerrie at 10:31 of the third.
Next up for the Vees is facing the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s Brooks Bandits on Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 6 p.m. at the SOEC.
It’s the first time the two clubs have faced each other in Penticton since 2012 when the Vees beat the Bandits to claim the last Doyle Cup championship between B.C./Alberta. After a pre-season exhibition tournament involving the Bandits and Vees fell through, Bandits coach Ryan Papaioannou asked Harbinson if they could come out.
“It’s good for us to get on the road and get our guys into some team building situations,” he said. “It’s always nice to travel out to B.C.”
In the past, the Bandits have gone to Trail to play in the Smoke Eaters pre-season tournament.
“I think this time of year it’s just about learning about your own guys. Kind of measuring your players against each other,” added Papaioannou. “If there is a team you are going to want to play an exhibition, that’s the team to play.”
Currently the Vees are the Canadian Junior Hockey League’s No.1 team in its pre-season rankings. Those rankings are based on the league team’s regular season results from last year as well as playoffs and initial recruiting efforts.
When asked about the rankings, Harbinson said, “We got a long ways to fall.”
Papaioannou said with the track record the Vees have and their recruiting, they are excited for the challenge.
“In terms of speed and skill, that’s the best group out there to play against,” he said.
Harbinson said the Bandits are a great organization. He also said it will be a good change from the usual teams they see in the BCHL.