Vees finding their identity

The Penticton Vees are understanding how their coaches want them to play as they strive to win a BCHL championship.

Identity.

Following a 6-0 win over the Alberni Valley Bulldogs Jan. 14, Penticton Vees coach-GM Fred Harbinson said it has been a process trying to get the players to understand what kind of team they are.

“We play hard in our own end. We’re good in the neutral zone,” said Harbinson. “Sometimes we want to be real fancy in the offensive zone. It just doesn’t work for us.”

Playing with a blue collar approach in the offensive zone works best to Harbinson. An example of that is when Jamie Armstrong screened the goalie while Mitch Meek blasted home a shot from the point. When they do that, they are successful. Harbinson talked about how they make things hard for goalies when they one-time shots with bodies at the net.

“Even in the National Hockey League, those kind of shots go in when you have traffic,” he said.

“I think that’s a big part of my game. I’m a pretty big body (six-foot-one, 190 pounds),” said Armstrong. “I like to play a hard-nosed style. Just get my butt in front of the net. Screen goalies and try to get my stick on the puck.”

Harbinson also feels they have the right forward combinations. He liked what the lines did against the Bulldogs.

The Nicholas Jones line with Duncan Campbell and Chris Klack produced two goals. They also got a goal from the  Armstrong-Matt Gosiewski-Taylor Ward trio.

“Everything kind of meshed together a lot better that’s for sure,” he said.

Vees forward Ryley Risling, who skated alongside Jared Nash and Ty Amonte, said they are getting better each day.

“It is going to make you a better player as yourself and as the team grows, I think we’re going to be a really good team,” said Risling, who will join Robert Morris University next fall.

With no games scheduled during the week, Risling said practices have been high paced, but they have also used it to refine small details and get more coaching. In learning the systems, he said each player has to be willing to do what it takes to win within their roles.

“It’s a part of the culture here and guys accept that,” said Risling, who has 13 goals and 23 points in 41 games.

READ MORE: BCHL: Vees Risling commits to NCAA Colonials

Risling said the team’s depth is huge and the players are performing how they need to. If they continue that gives them the chance to win a championship, which is their goal.

Armstrong, who joined the Vees prior to the Christmas break, said Harbinson has been good with helping him learn the system and adjust to the BCHL. The Warwick, R.I. product said as long as you are competing and playing hard, the structure will come.

“I think he (Harbinson) is a big believer in that,” said Armstrong, who has two goals and five points in eight games.

Armstrong enjoyed playing with Gosiewski and Ward because of their smarts and are a good fit.

“I feel like my line and myself has done a pretty good job,” said Armstrong. “I think everyone is one the same page. I think that’s a good thing heading into the later part of the season.”

On Saturday, the Vees host the West Kelowna Warriors, who they defeated 4-2 on Jan. 11. Armstrong said the defending RBC Cup champs play hard and he’s expecting another battle.

“They come ready to compete every game,” he said.

Vees notes: The Vees next win in the South Okanagan Events Centre will be their 200th. Defenceman James Miller is still out with an upper body injury. Harbinson is hopeful to have him back next week. Defenceman Gabe Bast needs to play two more games to reach five with the Surrey Knights junior B team. Once he does that, he will be eligible to return to the Vees after being put on a junior B card. Forwards Owen Sillinger and Taylor Ward will play their 100th regular season game Saturday. James de Haas (2012-13) is among four BCHL players up for the Senior Class award recognizing student-athletes who for their excellence on an off the ice, CLASS stands for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School.  De Haas captains Clarkson University and leads the teams defence corps with 4-8-12 this season. The former Vee standout has 21-35-57 in 135 NCAA games. He is a two-time ECAC hockey all-academic team member and was selected by the Detroit Red Wings in the sixth round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.