The Trail Smoke Eaters visit the Penticton Vees Wednesday and Fred Harbinson expects them to be hungry.
The Smoke Eaters (2-5-0) come into the South Okanagan Events Centre on a three-game losing skid and the Vees’ coach-general manager figures they want a win to jump start their season.
“They have been off to a bit of a slow start. I think they have a decent amount of veteran type players on their team,” said Harbinson. “They know the task at hand coming into our building.”
The Vees have won both there games at home this season and have lost just 30 in regulation since they started playing in the SOEC. Harbinson added that the Vees have started to establish the way they like to play at home.
“We played with a lot of intensity and speed,” said Harbinson, adding they want to maintain that against the Smoke Eaters, then the West Kelowna Warriors on Friday. “We want to continue with that, make it difficult for teams to take points out of here.”
Harbinson said the Smoke Eaters have played them tough in the past. Vees assistant captain and defenceman Dante Fabbro added to that saying they are not a team to take a night off against.
“It’s definitely going to be a good game for us. It will be a good character game for our team in ways that guys will need to step up,” said Fabbro, who is ranked eighth by ISS Hockey for the 2016 NHL Entry draft, while teammate Tyson Jost is at 18. “We just kind of want to focus every day and kind of treat every game like it’s a championship game.”
The Vees are coming off a 5-2 win over the Spruce Kings in Prince George. Harbinson was proud of his group for staying focused after heading up north early Saturday morning.
“It was definitely a pretty big win for us. I thought the guys played well,” said Fabbro. “We were a little shaky at the start. Maybe some nerves and bus legs. They are a hard working team.”
In that game, Jason Lavallee’s first BCHL goal was the winner scored at 13:25 of the second period. Fabbro opened the scoring, while Dixon Bowen scored twice and Benjamin Brar scored the Vees’ fifth goal, his first in the BCHL. Zachary Driscoll made 22 saves for his first win.
In other news, Vees rookie Owen Sillinger, son of retired NHLer Mike Sillinger, accomplished his dream of accepting a scholarship to play for the Arizona State University Sun Devils. He and the Vees announced it on Oct. 5.
“I’m just very excited for the whole thing. Arizona State has always been one of my dream schools growing up in Arizona,” said Sillinger. “My dad played for the Coyotes (2003-04). I wouldn’t want to go to any other college other than Arizona State.”
Another reason Sillinger chose the Sun Devils is because he is close to coach Greg Powers. When it was announced the Sun Devils would join the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Division 1 in 2017-18, when Sillinger is scheduled to play, that was the biggest clincher for him. Arizona State was granted Division l status last November.
“Owen has come in and has had an immediate impact with our hockey club,” said Harbinson in a team statement, adding that Sillinger will be a great fit for Arizona State. “Owen has the makeup to be a great NCAA player, and ASU definitely got better with his addition.”
Sillinger, 18, has two goals and four points in eight games. The Regina, Sask., native scored his first career BCHL goal on Sept. 18 in Surrey in the Vees 6-2 win. Last spring, Sillinger captained his hometown Pat Canadians to the national midget championship, the Telus Cup, in Quebec. There he was named the tournament’s top scorer and MVP after finishing with six goals and 17 points in seven games.
Vees notes: Harbinson, who is also the Vees’ president said they are a few weeks away from submitting their proposal to win the bid for next year’s Western Canada Cup. One area he stressed important on for their bid is attendance to Vees games. “Getting big crowds right now would be important to try to secure votes when the other governors look at the different aspects right now. That’s a big piece of it,” said Harbinson. “Hopefully we continue to draw well over the next few weeks before that bid goes in.” After two games, the Vees have attracted 4,573 fans for an average of 2,287. The Chilliwack Chiefs are right behind averaging 2,254. Harbinson said winning the bid would be great for more than just hockey as it would have an economic impact on the city. The winning bid will be announced on Nov.14.
“It would be great for the organization, great for the fans, it’s kind of the next step in our organizations process,” he said.