The last time the Penticton Vees and Trail Smoke Eaters met, it was in Cominco Arena Sept. 14 and the visitors weren’t friendly.
The Vees blew the doors open in Trail with a 7-0 win. At that time the Smoke Eaters were coached by Bill Birks. He has been replaced by Nick Deschenes.
Nearly 40 points separate the Vees (20-7-1-3) and Smoke Eaters (7-22-2-1). Despite the Smoke Eaters’ record, Vees coach Fred Harbinson still respects their opponent they host tonight at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
“They are a team that has struggled to win games, but I think in their last eight games, I think almost every one of them with the exception of one, not counting empty net goals, have been one-goal games,” said Harbinson. “They are right on the verge. To get themselves feeling good would be to come in here and grab a win.”
Harbinson said they need to get a jump on the Smoke Eaters and not fall behind.
“Their new coach I’m sure is trying to instill his ways of doing things,” said Harbinson.
Riding a four-game win streak, Harbinson would love a win against the Smoke Eaters before heading off for a three-game trip that starts in Chilliwack, then takes the Vees to Cowichan Valley and Victoria.
Vees captain Brad McClure wants to see he and his teammates continue their roll. However, he knows the Smoke Eaters are going to be hungry.
“Everyone always wants to beat our team in our building,” he said.
The Vees earned their fourth straight win Dec. 7, 7-1, against the Surrey Eagles. Olivier Mantha was in goal for the Vees making 31 saves for the win.
“I think I played well, especially on Wednesday, not a lot of shots,” said Mantha, who made 20 saves in a 4-1 win against the Merritt Centennials last week. “I managed to control my rebounds.”
Mantha has also liked how the team has played. Against Surrey, Mantha said they used their speed.
“We played really well especially in our own end,” he said.
Since being acquired on Dec. 1, Steen Cooper has a goal and four points in three games. He’s made an impression on Harbinson.
“I think he’s been outstanding,” said Harbinson. “Moving (Ben) Dalpe to the wing, they built quick chemistry. They have scored huge goals this past week.”
Harbinson said Cooper has also fit into different areas playing on the penalty kill and power play.
“He has made us way deeper with our four lines,” added Harbinson. “He has fit right in the room.”
“He’s really good. He’s a good strong centreman,” added McClure. “He’s a good playmaker. He’s been playing really well. Fun to play with, too.”
Vees notes: Another car will be given away in support of School District 67’s breakfast program. This time fans can give themselves a chance to win a 2002 Pontiac Aztec courtesy of Michelle Jamieson of Royal LePage by purchasing a raffle ticket for $2.
“We were thrilled and overwhelmed by the response of our fans and the money raised for the SD #67 Breakfast Program,” said Harbinson. “Thanks to Ken Huber of Huber Bannister Chevrolet for donating the Cavalier. That first giveaway was such a success; we look forward to giving away another car to one lucky fan.”
Keep the magnet from the “Bottoms Up” beverage cup for $10 in free slot or table match play at the Penticton Lake City Casino.