Vees’ Conti determined to develop big-game skills

Penticton power forward tries to emulate NHL heroes Nash and Lucic

Penticton Vees forward Anthony Conti

Imagine the combination of power forwards Milan Lucic of the Boston Bruins and New York Rangers offensive force Rick Nash combined into one.

That’s what Penticton Vees forward Anthony Conti wants to become.

Conti likes driving to the net and getting pucks there while utilizing the cycle game like Nash, which is why Conti wears No. 61.

“I have never seen a guy better … and he’s a big guy, right?” said Conti of Nash. “He’s got speed, which I’m hoping to get over time. He’s able to drive that net like no other. Then on the physical end, I want to be able to make hits and go like Lucic does. I watch him on the ice and the guy is a tank and I love it.”

Growing up in Vancouver, Conti used to watch Lucic when he played in the Western Hockey League for the Giants. The huge hits, sacrificing his body for the team and scoring goals rubbed off on Conti.

“He’s one of my favorite players also,” he said. “I want to be able to do what they do on the ice and that would be a dream come true.”

Conti is sixth in Vees scoring with eight goals and 18 points in 24 games. He scored the Vees’ lone goal in a 2-1 loss to the Coquitlam Express last Saturday. Conti said playing games with the Trail Smoke Eaters and Express, even with limited minutes, helped him understand junior A hockey.

“I’m happy that (Vees coach) Fred (Harbinson) gave me that chance. I have been able to produce for him,” said Conti.

In joining the Vees, Conti said the coaches wanted him to be a power forward like former captain Logan Johnston. A player who would go to the net and cause problems, but also bring some offence while also playing well in all zones.

“I’m getting better,” he said. “There is still a lot of work that needs to be done.”

Through most of the season, Conti has played with Max Coatta.

Coatta said that Conti is good down low with the puck after it’s chipped into the corner for him.

“He kind of draws the guy into him,” said Coatta. “He does a good job taking it to the net and creating a lot of chances for me and (Jack) Ramsey. It’s nice having him out there. He’s a pretty easy guy to play with.”

Coatta also described Conti as a vocal person. Conti chirps at the opposition at times when frustrated.

“He gets pretty fired up,” said Coatta.

Conti said he tends to be average to start a season then adapts to the speed and figures things out.

That’s when his game begins to pick up heading into the end of the season. In two playoffs with the Vancouver Northwest Giants, Conti had five goals and 14 points in 13 games.

On Monday, the Vees announced that captain Brad McClure had committed to the University of Minnesota State Mankato Mavericks for next fall. McClure was originally headed to Ferris State but changed his mind. McClure visited the University of Minnesota State more than a week ago and liked the facilities and coaching staff.

“I think everything they are doing, it’s moving in the right direction,” said McClure, who said there were a good number of colleges pursuing him. “It was a tough decision. I’m really happy with the decision I made. I’m really looking forward to the next four years.”

McClure, who is fourth overall in BCHL scoring with 17 goals and 33 points in 25 games, was lured by the chance to play a top-six forward role.

“That’s the biggest thing for me. I want to go in and play in college right away,” said McClure. “Obviously I have to earn that.”

McClure said that the Mavericks like how he shoots the puck and his speed down the wing.

“Brad has been an outstanding captain for us and an offensive threat every time he touches the ice,” said Harbinson in a team statement. “He will be a great addition for the Mavericks. ”

In joining the Mavericks, McClure will be re-united with former Vees teammate Sean Flanagan and join former Vees Bryce Gervais and Nic Buchanan.

Vees notes: The Vees two-game skid ended in West Kelowna Tuesday night with a 3-2 come from behind win. Jordan Masters scored twice in six minutes for the Warriors, but Vees defenceman Paul Stoykewych put the Vees within one with a power-play tally. McClure then set up Ben Dalpe, also on the power-play, to even the game at two. McClure then netted the winner 2:28 into the first period when he was setup by Conti. The Vees went two-for-four on the power-play.

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