The Penticton Vees haven’t been very hungry as of late.
It was evident in a 5-2 loss at home to the Merritt Centennials in front of 2,465 fans on Feb. 22. It was the same thing March 1 against the Trail Smoke Eaters, who are fighting for their playoff lives, and defeated the Vees 3-2 in the South Okanagan Events. That performance resulted in captain Troy Stecher saying there were “too many passengers.” Stecher said the Smoke Eaters were the more desperate team.
Assistant captain Wade Murphy said he thinks they were just too concerned about the standings. Now that they have clinched the Interior Division, Murphy said they need to just play their game. Next on their list is to defend the Ron Boileau Trophy as the best team in the BCHL. They are currently tied with the Victoria Grizzlies. Murphy said they will be motivated to accomplish that.
If Murphy is right, then there should be no reason to worry about how the Vees will perform in the playoffs. The right drive, hunger, determination, whatever word you want to use that it will take for this group to go deep in the playoffs will be there. Maybe Stecher will carry this team on his back as he made it clear he wants to win another national championship. The group can learn from him, Murphy, Cody DePourcq and Chad Katunar. Nic Renyard joined the Vees later in the playoffs last year.
It sounds as though their hunger to win has re-emerged from what Murphy said of their 5-4 victory over Trail in Cominco Arena March 2.
He said it was big. Having built a 4-1 lead, Brad McClure was the hero.
“We had to fight through adversity,” said Murphy. “Lucky we got the win”
Asked if any negative thoughts had crept in their mind as Trail snuck back in, Murphy said none at all.
“We had faith,” he said. “We outplayed them all game. We had the puck most of the time. Just had to keep it simple and do the right things and McClure had a great shot and a big goal.”
The important thing to take out of what Murphy said is they had faith. The worst thing that can happen to a team with the playoffs approaching is not having the belief.
Jedd Soleway factor
A boost for the Vees was the return of Jedd Soleway from a two-game suspension. Harbinson said the former Vernon Viper is a big part of the team because he does so many different things.
“He’s not a one-dimensional player,” said Harbinson. “It was a huge difference having him in the lineup.”
When asked if Soleway needs to be more careful with his physical approach as officials may watch him since it is his second suspension, Harbinson did say they had talked about that.
“He’s not a dirty player but you have to be under control of your body,” said Harbinson. “He has to be aware. We can’t be having hit from behind penalties. He has to play extremely hard, but he has to play within the rules.”
Soleway said he needs to be more careful in delivering hits and “not trying to be too stupid out there.”
If the Vees are going to have a deep playoff run they will need him. Since joining the Vees, Soleway has 14 goals and 28 points in 21 games. He’s the perfect power forward that should thrive in the playoffs.
Vees notes: Before the Vees can get jacked up about the playoffs, they have two important games in Vernon and Trail. Harbinson wants to see his team block more shots this weekend. He also wants to see his goalies play at the top of the crease more.
“It’s in our control if we win our two games as far as the Ron Boileau trophy,” said Harbinson.