A strong work ethic and a willingness to compete will be a must during Penticton Vees training camp.
“Expectations as far as compete level and work ethic has always got to be at a premium,” said Vees coach-general manager Fred Harbinson. “I think so far watching our conditioning camp, the guys that we have here, have put in a lot of work over the summer.”
Of the 48 who attended the prep camp that wrapped up Monday, 40 will move on to training camp, which begins Thursday and finishes Saturday. Harbinson wants to see the players force the coaching staff to make tough decisions.
“It’s going to be real competitive,” he said.
The Vees have changed the format of their training camp. On Thursday, Friday and Saturday they will play their own exhibition games. The first one will be at 6 p.m., then on Friday there will be one at 9:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. A final game will be Saturday at 10:30 a.m. Exit interviews will be conducted in the afternoon.
The Vees will also have game skates in the morning to go over systems. The Vees decided to go with that format since they play just two exhibition games. The first is against the West Kelowna Warriors on Aug. 30 at 7 p.m. in the South Okanagan Events Centre and the second versus the Wenatchee Wild, Saturday at 5 p.m. in the SOEC.
Heading into camp, at forward, the Vees have Cody DePourcq and Wade Murphy as returnees, plus last year’s affiliates Dexter Dancs, Alex Jewell and
Also, former Warrior Travis Blanleil as well as Sam Mellor, Louie Nanne, Bradley McClure, Mike Rebry, Ryan Gropp, Evan Anderson and Zach Stepan. On defence, there is Troy Stecher, who was named captain, James De Haas, Robert Mann and Noah Henry.
Between the pipes will be Chad Katunar, Nic Renyard and Brett Hextall’s brother Jeff, who will be attending prep school this season.
Katunar and Renyard have history together having played major midget for the South Island Thunderbirds in Victoria two years ago.
When asked if any players, who the Vees haven’t announced publicly, could beat known players for a roster spot, Harbinson said players have to work hard and earn a spot.
“With only four returners, there is plenty of opportunity,” said Harbinson. “The best players are going to continue on and the best players are going to play. We owe it to our fans and our organization to try to put the best team together.”
The focus during camp is to make sure the team is as well-rounded as possible.
“We were last year. We could skate, we could play hard, we could play in the corners,” said Harbinson. “We had a diverse defence core with good goaltending. We just want to make sure we’re not a one-dimensional team.”
Katunar, who returned home to Victoria following the RBC Cup win, relaxed for a month with family and friends, then resumed his training in Victoria to be ready for a larger role.
His focus has been on angles and positioning as he worked with Angelo Maggio of Langley. He’s determined to have a strong start.
“I don’t really feel pressure. I’m a pretty relaxed guy,” said Katunar, 19. “Last year was a great experience for me. It wasn’t a good thing that (Michael) Garteig got hurt. I never wish an injury on a teammate, but it was an excellent experience for me to be able to take that starting role, especially at a crucial time for our team. It was extremely valuable for me. I’ve learned a lot and those lessons will carry on and serve me well this year.”
The improvements in his game also revolve around reading plays better.
He said the experience he gained during the playoffs helped him adjust to the BCHL.
“It’s really true what they say, it does take some adjusting,” said Katunar, who has fully recovered from pulling muscles in his leg during Game 1 of the Doyle Cup. “The jump to junior A is a big one. Now my job is to buckle down and be the guy.”