The Penticton Vees finished the regular season playing playoff hockey.
That’s how Vees coach-general manager Fred Harbinson sees it after wrapping up a three-game road trip with two wins. The final one a 3-0 victory against the Chilliwack Chiefs with Mat Robson stopping 27 shots.
“It was very difficult to find open ice. Both teams did a good job of really pressuring the puck and not giving the puck carrier much time to make plays,” said Harbinson. “We just kept talking about sticking with the process … and we’ll wear them down to the point where we are going to make a play. That’s exactly what we did.”
Harbinson agreed that game gave him a glimpse of what the team can do in the playoffs, but he feels it has been that way all year.
“All these low scoring games, for most of the year,” said Harbinson, whose team is 14-7-0 in one-goal games. “You look over the last month here in February, playing teams like Victoria, Wenatchee, Chilliwack, West Kelowna always plays kind of a grinding-type game. We’ve fared really well against the top teams in the league.”
“We like where we’re at right now. We wish we could just keep playing,” continued Harbinson. “We will utilize this break to our advantage.”
The Vees have a plan until they return to the ice on March 17. While Harbinson wasn’t revealing the exact details, he said there would be a focus placed on a combination of skill development, regular team practices and team building. Things intended to keep things fresh. Harbinson said there is a fine line where they can’t back off too much so the players don’t get out of shape. At the same time, they can’t push too hard to where they are mentally drained from three weeks of straight practice. They will use the time to get some banged up players healthy. Duncan Campbell is taking advantage of the break to visit three U Sports (formerly Canadian Interuniversity Sport) schools. Having played for his hometown Brandon Wheat Kings, Campbell will use his WHL education package to go to school. Next week the Vees will get back into team specific work and possibly add things that the opposition hasn’t seen. Players will receive structured days off, but Harbinson said they can also use the time for the players to hit the weight room and add some strength. Harbinson encourages fans to get their playoff tickets.
“It’s been such an outstanding year as far as our attendance,” said Harbinson, as they averaged 2,990 fans. “Get their WCC tickets. We’re encouraging everybody to be wearing blue come playoffs. Start the whole paint the town blue for another year here.”