At this time last year, the Penticton Vees had pushed their BCHL-record win streak to 25 games.
Right now they are enjoying a four-game ride. Facing the Vernon Vipers Friday night at 7 p.m., and the West Kelowna Warriors Saturday at 5 p.m., Vees coach-GM Fred Harbinson said the only other teams in the league to have six-game winning streaks this season are themselves, Prince George and Chilliwack. Harbinson said the Vernon Vipers, who won two of three games on their Island road trip, are fighting for a playoff spot as they trail the Salmon Arm SilverBacks by six points.
“We have two great home games here,” said Harbinson. “It should be some very good hockey.”
The Vees are fresh off their Island road trip which ended with them doubling up the Coquitlam Express 6-3 on Sunday afternoon. The Vees started in Powell River and earned a 5-4 overtime win. Bryan Sinz potted the winner. On Saturday in Alberni Valley, the Vees won 6-3. After Ryan Gropp’s goal in the second period tied things at two, Cam Amantea and Michael Rebry gave the Vees a 4-2 lead. Hunter Stewart inched the Bulldogs closer until newcomer John Siemer scored an empty net goal. Added insurance came from Rebry, who tallied his second of the game.
Against the Express, Siemer struck against his former team potting the winner a minute into the final frame. His goal came 25 seconds after Bradley Ryan scored for the Express.
Harbinson, who set a Penticton Vees franchise record with 245 wins, said his team played good hockey in arenas where wins are hard to come by.
“Especially in Powell River and Alberni, we gutted it out. Third game in three days in Coquitlam yesterday,” said Harbinson of the weekend.
Tired legs were never a problem for the Vees who spread out their ice time. Chad Katunar and Nic Renyard both played. Katunar helped the Vees earn just their third win when trailing after two periods. Against the Bulldogs, Renyard earned the win after relieving Katunar, who allowed two goals on three shots. Renyard started against the Express, but couldn’t continue as he became ill during the second intermission. Katunar played the third period.
Offensively, the Vees had 10 players score 17 goals in the three games. Harbinson said that is important this time of year.
“If you’re only getting one or two guys scoring, if you shut those guys down, you’re done,” he said. “Scoring is coming from all different directions. It builds confidence.”
Impressing Harbinson during the weekend was his players never panicking.
“Every time we got scored on we seemed to respond,” he said. “We would have a real good shift after a goal that we scored or a goal scored against, that’s always a good sign.”
In Powell River, Harbinson said a franchise record for wins as a coach surpassing Bryant Perrier, who had 242 wins in 420 games over seven seasons. To get that victory, the Vees had to pull their goalie to tie, then won in overtime.
“That one was special to me. It was kind of nice because we got the all-time wins record in a place where we won the bc championship a year ago,” said Harbinson. “It means a lot in the fact, that obviously we have had success as a team. It’s not a personal thing. I have surrounded myself with good players and coaches and scouts.”
Vees captain Troy Stecher said collecting six points was huge. The players see it as a big step forward and one they hope to use as motivation.
“Everyone contributed in a positive way,” said Stecher. “I think that’s really key down the final stretch here.”
Stecher on Siemer: “He’s been great. Played in the league last year and you can tell he has a bit of a veteran presence. He has an offensive touch. We’re excited about having him on the team. He will only get better and better with confidence as he gels closer to the team. He played really well this weekend.”
Stecher on balanced scoring: “You need your third and fourth lines contributing. It makes it easier for our top line guys. They don’t feel much pressure to put the puck in the net.”