The Penticton Vees begin their quest to defend their national junior A title against the Chilliwack Chiefs.
Both will be under the spotlight of the first BCHL Showcase at 7:30 p.m. in Chilliwack’s Prospera Centre where several college and NHL scouts will eye the talent.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for all the guys coming in,” said Vees captain Troy Stecher, who is committed to the University of Nebraska-Omaha next season. “A lot of them don’t have scholarships. This is a good opportunity for them to get noticed. I’m really excited for them.”
The Vees have 15 players eligible for scholarships. For the action on the ice, Stecher, the lone returning defenceman, said they would like to win both games this weekend.
“We can’t look forward to the Vernon games over the Chilliwack game,” he said.
Vees coach-general manager Fred Harbinson wants to see his players take another step from their two exhibition games.
“If that means two wins, one win, or if we don’t win, but we play well, hey, you can’t win championships in September,” he said. “You start building towards it. It’s just about having building blocks this weekend.”
The group Harbinson has assembled has him excited and he has sensed they are very coachable. To him, they can skate and will be fun to watch.
“We’re really looking forward to seeing what we can do with this group over next eight months,” said Harbinson.
Stecher likes the groups quickness and work ethic. The third-year defenceman said they have depth, including four lines that can play. He doesn’t think they will be a group with only two scoring lines. He also feels the defence, featuring himself, James De Haas, Robert Mann, Nathan Deyell, Mitchell Ferguson, Noah Henry and Bryan Sinz will stop traffic from getting to the net. If something does get through, there is confidence in returning goalie Chad Katunar and rookie Nic Renyard.
“I think it’s going to take us time to find chemistry, but once we do we’re going to be scary,” he said.
Returning forwards include Wade Murphy and Cody DePourcq. Sam Mellor is familiar with the league having been an offensive force for the Trail Smoke Eaters. Travis Blanleil is a former West Kelowna Warrior. Rookies include Cam Amantea, Evan Anderson, Dexter Dancs, Ryan Gropp, Alex Jewell, Jordan McCallum, Brad McClure, Louie Nanne and Michael Rebry.