Having two valuable assets between the pipes, the Penticton Vees have taken full advantage.
Hunter Miska and Olivier Mantha share the goaltending duties, and it’s paying off for the Vees who are 14-5-1-2, good for third in the Interior Division, with games in hand on the first and second-place teams.
“I just think we have two really good goaltenders,” said Vees coach Fred Harbinson. “There is no point wasting one of them sitting on the bench the whole year.”
Harbinson also feels it’s important for them to keep pushing each other. He views the competition as healthy.
“With the exception of a couple nights here and there, I think both guys have given us a chance to win,” he said.
Miska and Mantha have had their tough nights in net, Mantha more recently as the Vees lost 5-3 to the Nanaimo Clippers last Saturday.
“Obviously that wasn’t my best game,” said Mantha, who allowed four goals on 16 shots. “The way we played that game, we should have won. I take part of the blame.”
Mantha admitted it’s hard sharing the crease, but said there is a positive side to it.
“I think that for me (it’s) working harder in practice if you want to earn our net,” said Mantha, who hasn’t been in this situation before. “I think it makes us better goalies. I want to play every game, that’s for sure. I know it won’t work that way this year, but I’m ready to fight for that net.”
Mantha has respect for his netminding partner saying that Miska “is a really good goalie.”
“He wants to play as much as I want to play,” he said. “We need to push each other.”
After 22 games, the duo is second and fourth in goal-against average (Miska at 2.18 and Mantha, 2.44). Mantha is eighth in the league with eight wins.
The net isn’t the only thing the goalies share. They also live together and get along well.
“He’s so funny, honestly,” he said of Miska.
The two enjoy watching movies and going for walks near their billet home.
On Wednesday, Mantha will watch Miska take on the Vernon Vipers. Miska was in net for a 3-1 loss to Vernon on Sept. 25.
Mantha faced the Vipers the last time both teams met, making 22 saves in a 6-5 win on Oct. 25 in the South Okanagan Events Centre. Miska said the last time the Vees faced the Vipers (in Vernon), the team didn’t really show up. He added the Vees need to get more shots and follow up on rebounds. As for what he has to deal with, Miska said the Vipers know how to get to the net and “crash the net hard.”
“I just try to get a good rebound. First shot get it in the corner. Keep it away from the other guys sticks,” he said. “Makes it simpler for me and my defence so they can get another rush down the ice.”
In facing the Vipers, Harbinson said they are playing a big team that can skate.
On Monday, the Vees had a light 40-minute skate. On Tuesday, they focused on special teams.
While the Vees lost to the Clippers, one of the positives was Riley Alferd scoring his first BCHL goal in 22 games.
“It felt great. It just hadn’t been happening,” said Alferd, who tallied five goals and 11 points in 55 games with the Muskegon Lumberjacks in the USHL last season. “Sometimes that’s just how it is.”
“It was nice for him,” said Harbinson.
“For Riley, he had been playing so well. Nice to see him get that monkey off his back.”
While the Vees are looking to get two points from the Vipers, a fan will be leaving the game with a car during college and hospitality industry night.
Tickets for a 2000 Chevrolet Cavalier from Huber Banister Chevrolet will be sold for $2 during the game. Proceeds are going to the School District 67 breakfast program.
“We wanted to do something exciting for the Vees,” said Huber Banister Chevrolet Penticton owner Ken Huber. “Someone will drive the car home that night. No gimmicks, no little hole to shoot a puck through. Someone is driving a car home after the game, guaranteed.”
Tickets to any seat in the SOEC are $5. There will be other specials as well as the Vees want to make it an affordable fun night and top it off with a really unique giveaway.
Vees notes: The Vees rolled out an unconventional season ticket pricing structure by dropping season ticket prices in half during the summer.
The result is the team announcing that attendance is up 24 per cent over last season.
In 2012/13, the Vees attracted 14,609 fans in their first nine home games, for an average of 1,623.
This season, after nine games, they have attracted 19,574 for an average of 2,175. Harbinson said he believes they are icing an exciting product.
“Guys play hard every night. I think the fans are coming out and supporting it,” he said. “We’re making the building a fun place to go on a Friday or Saturday. Hopefully this Wednesday.”