Come out flying is what the Penticton Vees co-captain Patrick Sexton expects of his teammates Friday at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
“We’re going to be ready to go. Show this town we mean business this year,” said Sexton as the puck drops on their tilt with the 3-1-0 Salmon Arm Silverbacks at 7 p.m. “We’re looking for an RBC Cup. We want to start that off on the right foot.”
The Vees dressing room is buzzing with excitement, especially the new players, who haven’t played in front of large crowds.
“It’s exciting, even I’m getting goose bumps talking about it,” said Sexton. “Hopefully we can pack the barn. I would love to see the support from the town and the community.”
A new four-year partnership with Peters Bros. Construction should help boost the crowd as they are paying for single game tickets for kids 18 and under.
“We are all really appreciative,” said Sexton of the partnership. “The louder and rowdier it is, the more fun it is for us to play. You always want to play in front of big crowds.”
After losing to the Merritt Centennials 5-0 last weekend, Sexton agreed the Silverbacks will be a good challenge for them to regroup.
“It’s a team we didn’t have success against last year,” he said.
Vees coach-general manager Fred Harbinson said they face a strong team with skill up front and a veteran goalie in Angus Redmond.
“We had some good battles with them a year ago and it shouldn’t be any different come Friday night,” said Harbinson.
Silverbacks coach Brandon West expects the two teams to play fast, entertaining hockey with tight checking.
“It will be hard-nosed hockey I think,” said West. “When these two teams collide, it’s usually that brand of hockey.”
West likes the group that general manager Troy Mick has assembled. What the Silverbacks want to do to leave the SOEC with two points is compete hard while winning their races and battles and being tough to play against. The Silverbacks are not worrying about how the Vees play.
“We know that they are a high octane offensive team that plays good defence,” he added. “They have had a lot of success over the years.”
West also said the Vees possess a “good mix of skill and grit in their line up.”
“They are going to be tough to play against every night,” he said. “We look forward to that challenge of matching that.”
The Vees will see a familiar face in the Silverbacks jersey in Josh Blanchard who joined Salmon Arm from the Surrey Eagles on Wednesday in a trade for defenceman Andy Chugg. West and assistant coach Misko Antisin are familiar with Blanchard from his Kelowna minor hockey days.
“He was always a player that was tough to play against,” said West. “He has a tremendous skill set and a tremendous work ethic. That was something we were looking for, a right handed shot and he was available.”
Vees notes: Hockey Canada announced its rosters for the 2014 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. On Canada White, Tyson Jost was selected, while defenceman Dante Fabbro was selected to Canada Red … For the home opener, London Drugs will be handing out cowbells and thunderstix; however, it’s on a first come, first served basis. Also, the Vees will be handing out their 2014-2015 commemorative fridge magnet schedule … Special guest, Mr. Oh Canada, Mark Donnelly, will sing the anthem and there will be a special group of Vees alumni dropping the puck for a ceremonial face-off … New this year, the Vees will be selling collectable posters that will feature a different player each game. Fans will have the opportunity to get their poster signed in the BC Hockey Hall of Fame. To start the year off, co-captain, Cody DePourcq, will be the first player to be featured for home opener.