Earning the Gongshow Player of the Week by the British Columbia Hockey League became a dressing room joke for the Penticton Vees.
Louie Nanne is the lone player to earn the honour as he was named for the week ending March 31.
Vees captain Troy Stecher said they joked about it, considering the season they have had and the performances some players have put on. The Vees have earned honourable mentions eight times, four times for Nanne as the team had a few multiple nominations in the same week. Stecher described Nanne as a tremendous skater with offensive touch, who also plays a strong defensive game as he’s willing to block shots.
“You know we were due I guess,” said Vees coach-GM Fred Harbinson. “Louie has been great all playoffs. Well deserved.”
When asked if anything has changed in Nanne’s play from the first round, Harbinson said no.
“He was outstanding in the first round,” said Harbinson of Nanne, who led the Vees with a goal and six points after the first round. “He has just gotten better and better every month. He is playing his best hockey at the right time.”
In a release by the Vees, Nanne had three points in two wins against the West Kelowna Warriors in Games 1 and 2 of the Interior Conference Final last weekend. In Game 1, Nanne notched a goal and an assist and was named second star in the Vees 6-4 come-from-behind victory. One night later, the Edina, Minnesota product scored the eventual game-winner in the Vees 5-1 victory. The Minnesota Wild draft pick added to his totals Monday night with two goals in the Vees 5-4 double overtime triumph.
Speaking of the triumph, Vees goalie Chad Katunar skated around Royal LePage Place in West Kelowna and screamed with his stick and glove in the air to a large Vees contingent that night. The defending B.C. championship goalie was visibly pumped as his team overcame a 4-2 deficit to take a commanding 3-0 series lead in the Interior Conference final.
The look on his face was a stark contrast to his emotions after giving up the 2-2 goal after which Vees captain Troy Stecher had a few words with him.
“I just told him be confident,” said Stecher. “He has stolen us so many hockey games. I told him, you’ve done your job. Those are both our fault.”
Knowing Katunar can handle honest feedback, Stecher simply gave him some reassurance.
“I could tell he was a little pissed off with the way those goals resulted,” said Stecher. “I just told him to stay positive and that we were gonna win this hockey game. He came through big for us tonight.”
Katunar was especially strong in the final six minutes of the second with the Warriors leading 4-2. He stuffed the Warriors on a 2-on-1 with his right pad, then made a few more important saves. The Warriors also missed the net on a glorious chance.
The Vees opened the scoring three minutes in when Wade Murphy set up Louie Nanne, who then struck again as he beat Warriors goalie Tyler Briggs high glove side. After the Warriors struck for four consecutive goals, Brock Balson scored a huge power play goal for the Vees midway through the third. In front of the crease and from his knees, he was able to shovel a backhand past Briggs. With 50 seconds remaining, Brad McClure, who missed most of the second period after a hard hit, scored after they battled hard in front of the Warriors net.
When it came to his winner, Balson said he just jumped into the open ice and yelled for the puck.
“(Travis Blanleil) he made a pretty good pass,” said Balson. “I have no idea how much space there was. I think I blacked out there and just shot it (over the blocker). That’s usually where I shoot. I was just glad it was over. Get some rest for tomorrow.”
The Vees, who were outshot 58-49 in Game 3, can take the Interior Conference championship with a win tonight in West Kelowna. For more coverage on the Vees check www.pentictonwesternnews.com and Friday’s issue.