An 11-2 drubbing of the Surrey Eagles to start the BCHL season is a distant memory for the Penticton Vees.
“We have already talked with our group. That game is way in the past,” said Vees coach-general manager Fred Harbinson. “If we go in thinking it’s going to be an easy game, we will find ourselves on the wrong end of it in a hurry.”
The Eagles (3-8-0-3) come to the South Okanagan Events Centre Wednesday for the first of their home-and-home series with the Vees, on a three-game skid. Take away their 8-2 loss against Nanaimo on Sunday, the Eagles have been involved in three one-goal games in their last four. One of them an overtime win against the Langley Rivermen.
“They have had a lot of good games, a lot of tight games,” said Harbinson. “They have great goaltending.”
Offensively, the Eagles have Ben Vikich, Ty Westgard and Joseph Drapluk tied for the team lead with five goals, accounting for nearly 50 per cent of the scoring. Chase McMurphy and Darius Davidson are close behind with four each.
Wednesday’s game will be the first of seven for the Vees without rookies Tyson Jost and Dante Fabbro. They are playing in the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in Sarnia-Lambton, Ont., from Oct. 31 to Nov. 8 with Fabbro on Canada Team Red and Jost on Canada Team White.
Vees co-captain Cody DePourcq returned to the lineup last weekend after being out with an upper body injury that forced him to miss five games. Harbinson said the Vees other co-captain Patty Sexton is close to returning as he began skating on Monday and may be back in the lineup later in the week. In the meantime, the Vees have a handful of affiliate players skating and the coaching staff will determine which players to use and which games they will play.
“We’re going to be ready to go,” said Harbinson. “The next two weeks are going to be a lot of hockey. A lot of tough games.”
Harbinson agreed that with Jost and Fabbro away, that it gives other players a chance to step up.
The Vees are on a 10-game winning streak, which includes recent victories in Prince George (3-2 in overtime), 1-0 over Vernon and 3-1 in Salmon Arm on Sunday. The Vees play bumped their standing in the Canadian Junior Hockey League rankings from No. 3 to two.
“I think we have been competing extremely hard. Playing at a fast pace,” said Harbinson. “Last week what I was really surprised with was how much energy our guys showed in the third game in four days. With all the travel (included a trip to Prince George). We need that energy level again tomorrow (Wednesday) night.”
In Salmon Arm on Sunday, Harbinson said from the opening period his team was “pretty dominating.”
Harbinson added that the last three games were character wins.
“Strong performance at home by the players against Vernon,” he said.
Amongst the excitement of a gritty win over the Vipers, Harbinson earned his 300th career win with the Vees. He answered in typical fashion when asked about the milestone. Brushing off any accolades, Harbinson turned the attention to the players and Vees organization.
“It’s hard to believe I have been here for seven seasons. I never stayed anywhere longer than five years prior to coming here,” said Harbinson, who is the all-time wins leader among Penticton junior A coaches. “When you hit a milestone like this, it is about more than one person. It is the organization, the players and that is why I enjoy coaching here.”
Vees notes: Twenty-year-old forward Dakota Conroy’s BCHL-CHL list rights and future considerations were acquired from the Vernon Vipers for forward Liam Finlay on Oct. 28. Conroy has played 212 games in the Western Hockey League for the Brandon Wheat Kings, Victoria Royals and Prince Albert Raiders collecting 137 points, including eight games this season with the Raiders according to Eliteprospects.com. The Edmonton, Alta., native had a goal and an assist. In 10 games with the Vees this season, Finlay had a goal and four assists … Former Vee and current University of North Dakota sophomore defenceman Troy Stecher has been named National Collegiate Hockey Conference Defenceman of the Week after his four-point series against Providence last weekend, the university announced Monday. Stecher collected two assists in each game against the fifth-ranked Friars, helping lead UND to a 6-1 win on Friday and a 2-2 overtime tie on Saturday. Stecher also keyed a UND penalty killing unit that went 8-for-8 on Friday and 14-for-15 on the weekend. In six games this season, Stecher is tied for the team lead in assists with six and plus/minus (plus-4).