With one more game to go in the regular season, the Penticton Vees (40-12-2-3) secured a seventh BC Hockey League Interior Division title with a 5-1 thrashing of the visiting Wenatchee Wild (37-16-4-1) Saturday.
Dakota Boutin was a one-man wrecking crew for the winners scoring twice and adding a pair of helpers with the Vees firing four unanswered goals in the final 40 minutes.
“We missed him (Boutin) a few weeks back. He just gives us so much depth through the middle of the ice. He can kill penalties, he’s good on the power plays, he’s big and physical. He was great out there tonight,” said Vee’s head coach and GM Fred Harbinson after the game. “Wednesday night, when I was outside the locker room I could hear the guys saying the right things and tonight I could hear them saying the right things. It wasn’t lip service. As soon as the puck dropped they were ready to do the right thing, absolute smart hockey.
“We just played with a lot of passion in our game and we wanted this game real bad.”
The Vees have one more game Sunday at home (2 p.m.) against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks.
They currently have 85 points, two ahead of the Vernon Vipers (39-14-1-4) who finished their regular season Saturday with an 8-3 pounding of the Trail Smoke Easters.
The Wild wound up with 79 points for the season.
The Vees and Wild traded goals in the first period with Luke Reid scoring his second of the season from the point at 5:40 with Boutin assisting. Wenatchee’s Murphy Stratton tied the game with less than three minutes to play in the period.
Jackson Keane, Boutin and Cassidy Bowes on a power player put Penticton in front to stay in the middle frame.
Boutin’s 20th of the season at 6:23 of the third was all she wrote for the visitors who had lost to the Vipers 4-3 the night before in Vernon.
Adam Scheel was stellar between the pipes again stopping all but one of the 28 Wenatchee shots, including all 12 in the final frame.
“When we made a mistake he was there,” said Harbinson.
The win was especially gratifying for the head coach after injuries earlier in the season devastated the roster but he felt his team’s play was a testament to their determination.
“You don’t focus on certain things at the beginning of the year, but who doesn’t want to win an Interior championship and doesn’t want to win the President’s Cup? If you don’t, you don’t have a competitive bone in your body,” said Harbinson. “But when we saw it was a reality, you could see the guys really wanted it. I thought they played with a lot of heart, a lot of emotion.”
Team awards will be presented after Sunday’s game. Attendance Saturday was just over 3,600.