Connor Chartier turned 21 on Jan. 15, but received a great present two days later.
The former Spokane Chief ended a six-game goal drought by exploding for two goals and five points in a 6-3 win over the Trail Smoke Eaters at Cominco Arena on Jan. 17.
“Definitely a good belated present for sure,” said Chartier, who never put up five points in a game playing in the Western Hockey League. “That’s a high for my junior career.”
Chartier said it was a huge win for the team after losing 4-1 in Merritt the night before.
Chartier played with Lewis Zerter-Gossage, Cody DePourcq, Cam Amantea and Mitch Newsome against the Smoke Eaters. Defenceman Shayne Gwinner set him up for his first goal, while Zerter-Gossage and Newsome connected for his second.
One of the problems in the loss to Merritt was they didn’t go hard to the net enough. That wasn’t the case in Trail.
“He was one of those guys we said went to the net hard,” said Vees coach-general manager Fred Harbinson. “His first goal, a great second-effort opportunity. Any time a guy gets five points is pretty impressive.”
Chartier, who has scored in four of the 20 games he’s played as a Vee, first had a goal drought of eight games from Dec. 5 to Dec. 19. This latest one started on Jan. 2.
“After the break I kind of came in and I was playing all right. I wasn’t as happy as I wanted to be,” said Chartier, who scored 25 goals in 209 regular season games with the Chiefs. “I didn’t think I was producing enough. Having a night like that felt great.”
Chartier prides himself on playing a strong two-way game and doesn’t stray from that, but he wants to be able to contribute offensively. Things just weren’t going his way. He likes playing in the BCHL, and after not being sure what to expect, has been impressed with the talent.
“I can’t believe, still, how good of a league this is,” he said.
Chartier added the speed impresses him as does the skill of each player.
Harbinson said Chartier was already good before joining the Vees and since then hasn’t had many off nights. Harbinson likes Chartier’s maturity and said the Calgary native brings depth.
“He’s a very smart hockey player, intelligent on the ice, he’s versatile,” said Harbinson. “He’s been able to play in all different situations, from the power play to penalty killing. He has also played both wings.”
“He’s brought leadership, experience, character,” said DePourcq of Chartier, adding it was good to see him have a big night. “He’s been a great guy for us. It’s big to have him.”
Patrick Sexton, who shares co-captain duties with DePourcq, said Chartier’s experience in the WHL is key, especially with the younger players in the dressing room.
“He’s definitely a guy that those guys can lean on and learn from,” he said. “Fit right into our team right away.”
Vees notes: Winger Matthew Serratore is skating on his own and is likely to rejoin his teammates on the ice with a no- contact jersey later this week. Patrick Newell, who was out with an upper body injury for two games, returned to the lineup against the West Kelowna Warriors Tuesday. Miles Gendron, who received a two-game suspension for a blow-to-the-head major against the Centennials, Friday, missed his final game Tuesday.
Vees alumni Joey LaLeggia, who is among the voting candidates for the Hobey Baker Award as the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s best player, was named the National Collegiate Hockey Conference defenceman of the week. LaLeggia, 22, scored two goals and dished out two assists last weekend, helping the Denver University Pioneers capture a two-game sweep of the St. Cloud State University Huskies. In 20 games LaLeggia has eight goals and 20 points tying him for fifth place in the NCAA in scoring by a rearguard … Another former Vee, Olivier Mantha was selected as rookie of the week for the Western Collegiate Hockey Association. Mantha stopped 80 of 83 shots on the weekend backstopping the Seawolves’ two victories. The freshman from La Tuque, Qué. matched his career high with 46 saves Saturday night, allowing the Seawolves to escape with a 3-2, overtime win despite being outshot 48-16. With a .928 save percentage during his rookie campaign, Mantha is on pace to eclipse UAA’s single-season record of .921.