Vees impress at Bauer BCHL Showcase

Young Penticton Vees squad shows hunger on puck with physical play

Watching the Penticton Vees pummel the Surrey Eagles 11-2 last weekend during the Bauer BCHL Showcase in Chilliwack gave me flashbacks to their RBC Cup-winning team.

I’m reluctant to make comparisons this early. Stacked teams such as that one Vees coach-general manager Fred Harbinson assembled don’t come around often. However, Vees co-captain Cody DePourcq told me prior to their exhibition game against the Merritt Centennials that similarities exist. One of them is with skill.

“There is obviously some things we need to improve,” he said. “Hard work is something that I think every team, if you want to make it far, you have to be able to be resilient. Never give up on plays. I think that’s what our team definitely has.”

I believe that quality is what helped the Vees win the RBC Cup.

Back to the showcase, the Vees’ match against Surrey was good to watch until the Vees found a way to tilt the advantage their way. After Matt Serratore scored on a breakaway, 16 seconds later, Cody DePourcq banged home a rebound past Eagles goalie Christian Short. The Vees then scored two more goals that period and five in the third. It was an easy first victory with Brendan Barry earning his first junior A win making 16 saves.

The Vees’ second game against the Alberni Valley Bulldogs was different. For one, the Bulldogs looked good themselves. They play a physical game with speed making for an entertaining match. The Vees fans who made the trip to Chilliwack may not have been pleased to see the Bulldogs chip away at the Vees’ 4-0 lead, but they never wavered in their support, cheering them on and shaking the cowbell as the Vees buckled down to hang on for a 4-3 win.

Vees coach-GM Fred Harbinson said the performance was a lesson for his team that they can’t let off the gas. Harbinson said taking a bad penalty at the end of the second gave the Bulldogs momentum.

“It was a good play on their part to get one right at the buzzer,” he said. “I thought we made some young mistakes in the third period.”

Harbinson added the Vees have a good team, but they will be pushed if they don’t have everyone showing up.

Vees co-captain Patrick Sexton said the group weathered the storm from the Bulldogs well. “We battled hard, we earned that win,” he said

The positives Sexton saw is they buried their chances and had good work ethic. He also felt the defence played outstanding, giving up five goals in two games.

“Everybody was pumped up to be coming out,” said Sexton, whose physical presence in the two games stood out as he laid out the opposition a few times. “I was ecstatic with how our defence played.”

So far the Vees are averaging 20 shots against. If teams want to come away with wins against the Vees, they are either going to have to make their shots count or find ways to fire more rubber at Barry and Hunter Miska. The Vees are averaging 45 shots a game so far. What I noticed about the Vees in the two games is they are hungry for the puck and are getting involved physically. Playing that way the entire season will go a long way into the playoffs, especially being physical. It was also hard not to be impressed by the performance of Tyson Jost, Lewis Zerter-Gossage and Liam Finlay. They combined for 16 points in two games.

While speaking with DePourcq, he said the chemistry of the group is unbelievable, especially how quickly they have come together.

“We have some great hockey players and some great people,” he said. “I think we have some hard workers. We have some experience with some of the older veterans.”

Sexton enters his fifth year of junior hockey, DePourcq is in his fourth and has an RBC Cup ring, Demico Hannoun enters his fourth season and has appeared in two RBC Cup tournaments with the Eagles and Vernon Vipers. Patrick Newell joined the Vees having won a United States Hockey League championship and Steen Cooper enters his fourth season.

That experience should go a long way for this group.

League notes: BCHL alumnus and former NHLer Steve Kariya was the honorary chairman of the third annual Bauer BCHL Showcase. Kariya, currently a scout with the New Jersey Devils, played the 1994-95 season with the Nanaimo Clippers, scoring 39 goals and 60 assists for 99 points. He is one of three Kariyas to play in the BCHL and go on to Maine, along with older brother Paul, a former Penticton Panther, and younger brother Martin. Kariya was part of the official puck drop and opening ceremonies Saturday night before the Chilliwack Chiefs-Powell River Kings game. Interior Divison teams won 10 games, losing once in regulation and overtime. Mainland Division teams, Chilliwack and Prince George, won twice, while Victoria was the only Island Division team to win, taking both their games.