The Penticton Vees went 3-2-1 with Tyson Jost and Dante Fabbro out of their lineup in December.
There were splits with the Salmon Arm Silverbacks and West Kelowna Warriors, along with a tie against the Alberni Valley Bulldogs. The Vernon Vipers let an opportunity slide to collect two points. They got torched by Scott Conway for four points. Instead of scoring the overtime clincher like he has developed a reputation for, Mr. OT set up Chris Gerrie to put the dagger in the snakes.
“We’re always close with Pen; we can’t seem to close it out,” Viper leading scorer Odeen Tufto told the Vernon Morning Star. “I think it’s the little things. Last time, we played against Pen, we got into penalty trouble and this time, there’s two minutes left and we’re up by one and we take a penalty and they score. It’s the details. They’re a smart team and they know not to do that and they got in our heads and got a power-play off it. That’s the reason they tied it and won in overtime on a good play.”
It is easy to think or say how did these teams not take advantage of this Vees lineu? But Tufto’s comments say a lot. On the one side, you have a team that knows the key pieces are not available, on the other side, you have a Vees squad that is motivated and eager to prove they can win without two projected first round 2016 NHL draft picks, very talented defenceman and forwards.
It speaks to the depth of the Vees, who slipped to third in the Canadian Junior Hockey League rankings, and solid help from their affiliate players.
Fred Harbinson, the architect of this powerhouse, said in an interview following their 3-2 win over the Warriors on Dec. 19 that he’d like to see a team at any level missing a third of their lineup do what they were able to. Harbinson said everyone did well and competed in their final game of 2015.
Once the calendar flips to 2016, the Vees will get back Seamus Donohue and Dixon Bowen, while Demico Hannoun’s hand still requires more time to heal and Gabe Bast is still unknown.
I wonder if other BCHL teams have started imagining what it will be like to face a healthy Vees roster? I do and the possibilities are scary. I posed this question with Vees forward Easton Brodzinski and Conway. No surprise, Brodzinski said it will be nice to have everyone back. It’s only happened for about six games. Bast has missed the most time, playing in six games. When I told Brodzinski it could be pretty scary, he agreed.
“It’s a pretty deadly lineup if you ask me,” he said.
“We’re going to be a damn good team,” said Conway. “We’re going to be hard to beat. We are going to have so much skill up front and on the back end. Teams won’t know what to do when they play us.”
Go Canada Go
It’s that time again. Get your Canada jerseys on, paint your faces and be ready for the ride of cheering on our nation’s best under-20 players as they go for gold in Helsinki, Finland starting on Boxing Day.
It’s hard not to get excited about this tournament. Penticton Vees captain Tyson Jost might have said it best when we talked about his World Junior A Challenge gold medal win.
“How can you not watch the world juniors?” he said. “It’s one of the best tournaments out there. I’ll be cheering on Canada there.”
Canada opens the tournament against rival U.S.A. What a way to start. In a recent issue of The Hockey News, the fans issue, attending the WJC was among the must-do things on its list. I experienced it in 2011 when it was co-hosted by Edmonton/Calgary and had a blast. I got to experience the Molson Canada House in Calgary, which had various games for fans to try as well as a lounge area. There were also former Canadian players on hand to sign memorabilia.
There is something about this tournament that makes it a must-watch. In recent years I have found myself taking a bit of interest in the other teams, mainly because of the Vancouver Canucks prospects. As I cheer on Canada, I can watch Jake Virtanen take on a bigger role, while Brock Boeser of the Fighting Hawks will be on Team U.S.A. I hope he does well, just not against Canada.
Good luck, Canada!
Emanuel Sequeira will be wearing his Canadian jersey and is the sports editor for the Penticton Western News.