Most stats nuts drool over a player’s goals and points. I should know, for some reason I’ve always loved checking out players’ offensive totals.
As I was glancing over the Penticton Vees’ stats, one caught my eye about forward Erik Benoit. Since playing his first game Jan. 3 against the Merritt Centennials, he hasn’t accumulated a single penalty minute. I could be jinxing him in that area by writing this. That number is impressive because of the style that Benoit plays. Vees coach Fred Harbinson said it was interesting because Benoit finishes a lot of checks.
Anyone who has watched him play knows he goes to the front of the net to cause havoc, gets involved physically and chips in offensively.
“I’m usually not the one to take very many penalties,” said Benoit, who had 76 penalty minutes in 213 Western Hockey League games. “I try to stay clean and in between the whistles.”
Vees captain Brad McClure, who has been playing on a line with Benoit, said he’s a good player who uses his speed. “He’s got skill. He makes pretty good plays,” said McClure.
When talking about Benoit’s discipline to avoid going to the sin bin, McClure said he’s a smart hockey player.
“It’s nice to bring a guy like that in,” the captain said, adding that Benoit fits their system, their style of play pretty well.
Benoit, who has six goals and 14 points in 16 games, said everything has been going well for him since joining the Vees. He was named player of the month for January after recording four goals and 11 points in 10 games. He was happy to be recognized like that while trying to help the Vees win games.
“I think I have adjusted well to the level and calibre of hockey,” he said. “It’s quite similar to what I was used to. I haven’t really seen much change in my game.”
Another important thing going his way is he’s having fun again, admitting he stopped having fun in the WHL.
“It’s been a great time here. This whole organization is just royalty for us,” he said. “I’m just very privileged to be here. I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”
Benoit does anything within the rules to help the Vees, even if it means taking abuse in front of the net on the power play. Benoit isn’t sure if he’s surprised about his offensive output.
“It’s definitely a nice surprise,” said Benoit, who put up 88 points in the WHL.
When conversation returned to penalties, he admits he doesn’t like taking hooking calls, which usually comes from players trying to slow their opponent down when not skating.
“I feel pretty ashamed when it happens,” said Benoit.
He also said he won’t retaliate with his stick. That’s important because come playoff time, no coach likes it when their players take selfish penalties.
Vees notes: A yellow ribbon with #DIFJ (Do It For Jamie) is on the back of the Vees’ helmets. Vees equipment manager Brendon Kerr came up with the saying. Harbinson said it’s for team pastor Jamie Weberg, who was diagnosed with a form of bone cancer. “He’s got a young family. He’s been working with our team the last three years. Been a huge part of the Vees family.” The Vees are also planning on doing a fundraiser during their game against the Trail Smoke Eaters next Friday to support Weberg’s family.
“He’s a great guy. It’s sad because here’s a guy that does everything the right way,” said Harbinson. “He does a lot of things for other people. That’s why we need to try to give back to him and his family. He has three little kids, a great wife. He’s going to give a good fight. We’re going to be there to fight along with him.”