The Penticton Vees showed up as advertised to EC Red Bull Salzburg coach Matt Curley.
The Vees, No. 2 in the Canadian Junior Hockey League rankings, cruised to a 6-1 win over Salzburg at the South Okanagan Events Centre Wednesday night.
“That’s a really nice hockey team they have,” said Curley, as the club’s battled in a physical and speedy affair part of a BCHL-Red Bull Salzburg four-game tour that started with an 8-6 win in West Kelowna Monday. “It was a good challenge for us. We’re glad to have the opportunity.”
Vees forward Scott Conway lifted the crowd of 1,673 to its feet 1:17 into the opening frame when he banged home a centring pass by Easton Brodzinski. Later on, Brodzinski had a chance to make it 2-0 but failed to convert. Salzburg nearly hit the scoresheet when a shot squeezed through Zach Driscoll, but rolled past the post.
The second period opened up offensively, but it was the Vees who executed. Vees forward Luke Voltin kick started it when he buried a behind-the-back, no-look pass from Nicolas Jones past Mark Vlahovic.
“That pass was pretty unreal,” said Vees captain Tyson Jost. “It was pretty special to watch.”
The Vees added two more goals in the first six minutes. Affiliate player Cassidy Bowes made it 3-0 when he finished off a play by Conway. Skating into the Salzburg zone, Conway took a feed and dragged the puck between his legs and in the same motion, dished a backhand pass over to Bowes, who tapped it in. Forty-five seconds later, Voltin buried his second goal after Darius Davidson was denied at the crease. Voltin pounced on the rebound.
“It was unreal,” said Voltin of his two-goal performance. “Just to put two in was a lot of fun. It was two nice passes from my teammates that set it up.”
Salzburg finally cracked Driscoll with 11:37 remaining in the period to make it 4-1 as Maximilian Egger redirected a shot. Egger said they played well in the Vees zone. Teammate Phillipp Lindner aimed for his stick when shooting the puck and Egger was able to deflect it.
Egger pumped his fist in relief. He also felt a comeback could be possible as they had some chances. Salzburg had seen Driscoll before when he was in the United States Hockey League.
“He was not that good here. A lot of free bounces,” said Egger of Driscoll, who finished with 26 saves. “We have to go harder to the net.”
The Vees added one more goal that period by Conway, who tipped a point shot. In the third period, Griffin Mendel blasted a shot past Vlahovic from the point.
“I thought we started a little on our heels,” said Curley. “I don’t know if our guys were a little intimidated. We’re happy with the first. In the second period I thought we let it get away from us a little bit. We responded there with a goal to make it 4-1. We hit a post the next shift. it could have changed the tide. We ended up taking a penalty and giving up a goal (to Conway). At that point it kind of slipped away from us. We were happy with our guys effort.”
Curley added that getting the competition they are is the reason they were excited about coming over. It allows the players to measure themselves. Curley said his players stuck to it and didn’t give up.
“It’s a very good hockey team. They play so smart,” said Eggers. “They always bring the puck to the net. They always move the puck very quickly. Beat us always with speed.”
Jost said playing Salzburg was awesome and that they are a good team.
“They are fast. It was a fun game,” he said. “They had a quick transition game. They had a lot of skill too. It was a cool experience.”
Now the Vees get ready to host Chilliwack on Friday at 7 p.m., then travel to Wenatchee to play the Wild for the final time in the regular season. Chilliwack is first in the Mainland Division with a record of 27-8-4-1. The Wild are right behind them at 24-13-2-3.