The Penticton Vees doubled up the Trail Smoke Eaters 6-3 for their 30th win of the season Wednesday.
Vees coach Fred Harbinson found a simply joy in the win.
“That we got two points,” said Harbinson, with a chuckle as his team maintains first-place in the BCHL’s Interior Division by two points.”Losing the last couple of games, things were a little down. We were able to score some goals.”
Score they did, with three coming on the power play on seven chances courtesy of a group consisting of captain Brad McClure, Shane McColgan, Erik Benoit, Brett Beauvais and Jarod Hilderman. Harbinson said the changed look on the power play resulted in some success.
After the Vees opened the scoring 3:33 into the opening frame as Benoit setup McClure, who lifted a backhand past Smoke Eaters goalie Dustin Nikkel, the Vees captain then set up Beauvais 10 minutes later. McColgan started the play by dishing the puck to McClure down low. With some slick stick handling, McClure needled a cross-crease pass to Beauvais, who made no mistake banging home the puck into the gaping goal. The assist for McClure was his first of four on the night.
Benoit got in on the act four minutes later striking on the power play. McClure passed the puck to McColgan, who snuck a feed in front of Nikkel, who couldn’t deny Benoit parked alone in front. The Vees’ third power play tally was scored by Jack Ramsay in the third period, as he redirected a McClure feed from inside the blue line over Nikkel to make it 6-1.
Harbinson said in their losses, he felt the players were pressing a bit too much. That resulted in them missing the net.
“Even if we had to take something off our shot, we found a way to get shots on,” he said. “Create scrambles.”
The Vees other goals came from rebound plays. Benoit waited patiently near the net when Cody DePourcq’s shot eventually made its way towards him. Benoit was quick to pounce on the loose puck. Matt Serratore took advantage of a dump in as he snuck his shot between the outstretched goalie and the post.
“Winning those battles I think in front of the net is pretty key,” said Benoit. “I think we did a lot of that tonight. Shoot from up top and just get lots of traffic in front. We battled our way through.”
Benoit said using their speed allowed them to make time and space for plays.
“We have to use our speed. We have to make sure we beat their D to pucks all the time,” said Benoit, who enjoyed a three-point night. “Create those battles in the corners. When we come out with the puck, we’re going to get a scoring chance out of it.”
Benoit had nothing but praise for his new linemates.
“Brad’s a great player. He’s quick, he’s got a great shot. He sees the ice well,” said Benoit, who has 14 points in 12 games as a Vee. “Same with DePourcq. He’s a great centreman. I’m just lost for words. They are two amazing players.”
Next up for the Vees are the SilverBacks.
After losing to them five times in a row, defenceman Paul Stoykewych said with a laugh, “we don’t like Salmon Arm.”
“Especially losing two of the last three in our building is unacceptable for this organization,” he said. “We’re really looking forward to Friday.”
Doubts about being able to beat the SilverBacks hasn’t creeped into the Vees’ minds.
“We just have to execute. Outwork them and it will happen,” he said, adding they have to work to improve their battle level and hate for other teams. “We’re going to stick together no matter what happens. Even again if we don’t win Friday, it’s still a long season. We might see them in the playoffs. It’s going to be a battle.”
Vees forward Steen Cooper said the SilverBacks are a hard team to play against.
“They have some skill. They have that leading scorer, which isn’t the biggest problem,” he said. “It’s just a will to compete against them. They are just out competing us every night.”
Cooper added it’s important the group stays together.
“When you start losing, things aren’t going your way, you like to separate,” he said. “You don’t have a great attitude obviously losing. Staying together and being there for one another. Building off the loss and trying to make the relationship stronger as a team. Off the ice is more important than you would think. I think it’s important that you get good laughs in. If you can build off the ice, it will transfer on the ice.”
Check www.pentictonwesternnews.com for Vees coverage from the weekend.
Vees notes: The BCHL Five Hole for Food Challenge will be at the SOEC today. The challenge encourages fans around the league to best their rival communities by donating the most food on their event nights, which will be held throughout the season.
“Food banks and the families that rely on them are in need of donations at all times, not just the holidays,” said BCHL communications director Brent Mutis. “By capitalizing on the natural rivalries that exist between our teams, we hope to generate increasing donations as we proceed to make a real difference in each community.”