The Penticton Vees, Canada’s best junior A hockey team, could be an unstoppable force come playoffs.
The Vees, now 46-6-0-1, disappointed the Trail Smoke Eaters a few times last weekend. Twice the Smoke Eaters had one-goal leads that were erased with late period goals. The equalizer by defenceman Dante Fabbro came with 3.6 seconds left in the second period. Smoke Eaters goalie Bailey MacBurnie was helpless as the puck changed directions a few times before getting past him. The Vees then put three past him in the third period. In their last five games, the Vees have outscored their opponents 14-0 in the third period.
Comebacks have become habit for the Vees lately. Powell River, Victoria and Alberni Valley are the most recent victims. Victoria was worse. They allowed a 5-1 lead to slip away to lose 7-5. They visit the Vees at the South Okanagan Events Centre on Feb. 20 so there is no doubt that loss won’t be out of mind.
The Vees ability to come back in games gives them another weapon. It gives them the belief and confidence they can overcome a deficit. Don’t get me wrong, there are limits to what you can come back from. Vees coach-general manager Fred Harbinson said after the win over Victoria, he doesn’t want to see his team fall behind like that, but at the same time, he hopes that builds character for his players.
Captain Tyson Jost looks at it as a learning lesson for him and his teammates.
I said before this team will be scary once they are healthy, which they are getting close. Gabe Bast is expected to be cleared for contact next week and could be ready to play games the final weekend of the season. Defenceman Domenic Masellis is also out with a lower body injury.
With the ability to erase deficits, teams will think again about getting too excited about owning a lead. Alberni Valley was up 2-0 heading into the last half of the third period.
The question teams will have to ask themselves is how do you beat the team in the nation?
Maybe things change for the Vees and their ability to come back in games in the playoffs. In that comeback against the Grizzlies, Conway said they had nothing to lose and played what he thought was their best period of the season.
Playing with a nothing to lose mentality can be just as scary.
Emanuel Sequeira is the sports editor of the Penticton Western News.