Penticton Vees rookie Benjamin Brar hasn’t forgotten their opening season 4-2 loss to the Salmon Arm Silverbacks.
He remember it being a hard game.
“They bring out their best game if they are playing us,” said Brar, a Denver University commit for 2017-18.
The Vees intend to give the Silverbacks a battle in their second meeting at the Shaw Centre Friday, which starts a home and home set this weekend. It will be a battle between the top teams in the Interior Division.
“Probably the toughest series of the year is that home and home,” said Vees forward Chris Gerrie. “It’s going to be fun.”
In talking about what makes the Silverbacks (18-8-2-1) so good, Gerrie said it’s their depth throughout the lineup.
Offensively, Taro Hirose, committed to Michigan State, leads the team in points (37) in 29 games, while Ross Heidt has bulged the twine 19 times in 29 games to go with 32 points. He leads all Silverbacks in goals. Colton Thibault is the next top goalscorer with 15 goals in 29 games. On the blue line, Kodi Schwarz has 21 points in 29 games and Damian Chrcek leads with four goals, two of them on the power-play. And in goal, Angus Redmond has 14 wins in 23 games with two shutouts. His backup Brandon Kegler has a .931 save percentage. The Silverbacks also have faces Vees know in Josh Laframboise, who has 29 points in 28 games, Josh Blanchard with 10 goals and 27 points in 29 games, Mitch Newsome and former affiliate player Michael Winnitoy. At home the Silverbacks have won 10 of 17 games and eight of 12 on the road.
The Vees take on the Silverbacks without captain Tyson Jost and assistant captain Dante Fabbro, who earned a roster spot with Canada West for the World Junior A Challenge in Ontario. They are also without Demico Hannoun who has a broken left arm. To help ease the situation, Vees coach-GM Fred Harbinson pulled the trigger on a deal to land Darius Davidson from the Surrey Eagles for future considerations.
Hannoun, expected to be out six weeks, was placed on the 30-day injured reserve to make room for Davidson.
On Monday, Harbinson had told the Western News there was little options to make a trade to help them, especially with one card remaining. However on Tuesday, he found an option and landed the offensive power forward.
“Darius is a proven contributor on the offensive side of the game and his numbers reflect that,” said Harbinson in a team statement. “We feel his blend of skill and size will make him a very effective player at both ends of the ice.
“With the amount of injuries we’ve had in recent weeks, we felt this move made more and more sense going forward,” continued Harbinson, who sees a good fit with the power forward.
Davidson, 19, led the Eagles in scoring with 11 goals and 25 points through 30 games. He also led with four power-play goals. The six-foot-one, 195-pound winger had a breakout sophomore season a year ago with 25 goals and 51 points in 58 games.
The deal for the Eagles was part of a three-team trade that saw them acquire 19-year-old forward Rhett Wilcox from Cowichan Valley. Wilcox will join the Eagles immediately, and the deal will be completed in the off-season when the “future” assets come from Penticton.
“(The trade) brings us a number of great assets for the future – for the rest of the season and looking ahead to next year,” said Eagles coach Blaine Neufeld. “Penticton has been after Darius for awhile now, and we saw it as an opportunity for him and for our team moving forward.”
Though Davidson has one year of junior eligibility after this season, Neufeld – who says Davidson has drawn plenty of interest from college scouts – figures this will be his last year before he moves on to the NCAA ranks.
Davidson joined the Vees Wednesday and will make his debut on Friday. Vees fans can see the newest Vee on Dec. 12 when they host the Silverbacks at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
-Written with files from the Peace Arch News.
Vees notes: Former goalie Olivier Mantha bested the Michigan Tech Huskies 3-2 twice as the Anchorage Alaska Seawolves were outshot 66-45 in the weekend. The native of La Tuque, Que. stopped 32 shots Friday including 17 in the third period and followed up with 30 saves on Saturday as UAA improved to 5-4-1 in conference play and 8-6-2 overall. Mantha currently carries a 7-6-2 record, 2.63 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage. In the 2013-14 BCHL season with Penticton, Mantha posted a 17-9 mark with two shutouts while splitting duties with Hunter Miska.