Three minutes remained in Game 5 of the Doyle Cup championship and chants of “RBC” could be heard in the South Okanagan Events Centre.
Yes, Penticton Vees fans want the RBC Cup. Their team will have a chance to bring back the national championship after the Vees thumped the Brooks Bandits 6-2 on Friday night. The crowd of 4,708 (which included a small group of Bandits fans) went bananas along with their team once the clock ran out. The players quickly dog piled onto goaltender Michael Garteig at the right corner of his net.
“I have never won anything this big in my life,” said Garteig, who for the last two years with the Powell River Kings lost to the Vernon Vipers in the BCHL championship. “I was one of the most excited guys I think. Got absolutely tackled, it wasn’t easy on the injury. It was fun, unreal to be that happy and celebrate in front of the fans.”
Garteig credited a good start to their finish. Joey Benik was a threat and put the Vees up 1-0 five minutes into the game. After taking a pass from linemate Steven Fogarty while racing into the Bandits zone, the future St. Cloud State Husky forward beat Jan Obernesser low glove side. That was the first of his three goals on the night. Four minutes later, Fogarty scored a power play tally from the side corner. The Vees led 5-1 after the second on goals by Benik, who also collected two assists, and Fogarty. Colton Semenok put the Bandits on the scoresheet in the second with a power play goal. In the final period, teams traded goals as Bryce Gervais tallied the Vees’ sixth goal as he got past a Bandits defender then undressed Bandits goalie Michael Fredrick, who came in relief of Obernesser when it was 5-1. Then Chris Muscoby one-timed a shot past Garteig, who finished with 31 saves.
The last time Penticton advanced to the national championship was in 1986, it was called the Centennial Cup and the Knights won. That year current Vees player Cody DePourcq’s father John DePourcq starred on the team. The younger DePourcq said it’s definitely a special thing to have won the trophy his father won twice. “My dad always tells me the stories of when he won it,” said DePourcq, who was told how much fun his dad had and how all the hard work paid off.
“He’s happy to see me go through the same thing. I’m very happy to go through the same thing he did.”
Benik said netting a hat trick in the win was huge.
“It was a great feeling,” he said, shortly after getting off the phone with his parents in Minnesota. “The hat trick just made the night better.”
Vees coach-GM Fred Harbinson said it was an exciting finish.
“Since we’ve been here we wanted to get this team to the Royal Bank Cup and it’s something we worked hard for. Our players worked hard for. My staff worked hard,” he said. “It was exciting, especially to see the building the way it was, it’s kind of been a culmination over the last few months. From the streak into the playoff run and sort of put the cherry on top with the huge crowd in there. It was a fun atmosphere for everybody.”
As the clock ticked down, Harbinson was emotional watching his captain Logan Johnston playing his final shift at home in front of his parents. Harbinson said the crowd was energizing.
“This was about trying to help our team get to a national championship,” he said. “The crowd (named the hardest working Vees by the team) was very alive.”
After winning the BCHL championship and then the B.C./Alberta championship, the Vees finally get to their ultimate goal of competing for the national championship.
“We just have to keep our composure and just keep following the game plan and it’s going to be a fun end to the season,” said Benik, whose Vees begin the championship Saturday facing the Soo Thunderbirds (ranked No. 8 in Canada.)
Benik said what the team accomplished during the regular season with breaking a record, winning the BCHL and Doyle Cup championship are now the top three things he has done in his career.
“Just to be here and have the success that we’ve had is just a great honour,” said Benik, who was reminded of when he set a Minnesota State High School record for goals. “With the skill level that we have, we will get things done. I love every one of these guys. Looking forward to the RBC Cup.”