Heading into Tuesday’s game the Vees were riding the crest of a three-game winning streak while the Warriors were hoping to bounce back after their eight-game win streak was snapped by the Interior Division leading Merritt Centennials Sunday. The Warriors ended up with the win on Tuesday 3-1.
Earlier in the season, Oct. 19, Warriors netminder Brock Baier stopped all but 54 shots en route to a 3-2 win in West Kelowna and eight days later at home Penticton watched a two-goal lead evaporate in a 5-3 loss.
Prior to the game Tuesday, Penticton and West Kelowna each had 29 points, two back of the Centennials, Penticton having one and two games in hand respectively.
Only nine points separates first and seventh place teams in the standings.
“In our division right now it’s a lot like the National Hockey League, any points on a given night — one or two points — is very important you can see yourself win a game and you’re at the top of the standings and see yourself lose a game and you can be very close to the bottom,” said Vees head coach Fred Harbinson. “For me it’s more about playing the right way, rather than winning streaks because if you do play the right way, you’ll get more points than not.”
The team was only expecting to dress five defensemen Tuesday with Connor Hutchison out of commission after being hurt in Saturday’s home-ice win over Trail.
However, good news on the injury front was the scheduled return Tuesday of left winger Drew Elser who missed the last 13 games after suffering a broken jaw against Vernon in October.
Also expected back in the line up was Cole Shepard who had been away at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge as a member of Team Canada. He finished out his campaign with Team Canada Red earning four assists in six games. Team Canada Red just fell short of a bronze medal, losing to Sweden 4-3 in a shootout.
“There’s a lot of energy in that young man,” said Harbinson about Shepard.
Brendan Harrogate should also be back by the weekend after being hurt last weekend and Lucas Sillinger’s return could be in a couple of weeks.
November is one of the Vees busiest months of the year with a total of 13 games, including three in each of the next three weeks.
“That takes its toll more on the 47-year-old coach than on them, they’re young enough to handle it,” laughed Harbinson.
Next up after Wednesday will be the Island Division leading Victoria Grizzlies who are in town Saturday for a 7 p.m. start at the SOEC which is also anti-bullying night.
Between Nov. 21 and 24 Penticton will play Surrey twice and Coquitlam once.
They will round out the month with away games in Wenatchee Nov. 28, Trail Nov. 30 with a home against Trail on Dec. 1.