The Penticton Vees won’t be underestimating the Merritt Centennials Wednesday at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
The Vees (26-2-0), Canada’s top junior A team for the sixth straight week, take on the Centennials (9-19-0-2) for the fourth time. The Vees have won all the games by a combined score of 17-5, the last an 8-4 decision.
Vees forward Mitchell Brooks said it doesn’t help them to look back at past success.
“It doesn’t matter what happened before,” said Brooks, who got into a fight with Centennial Zak Bowles in their first meeting on Oct. 2. “It (their record) doesn’t matter because any team can beat you on any night. You have to be ready to go.
“They are a real hard working team so if we can out work them I think we have a really good chance to win the game,” Brooks continued. “We have proven we have a lot of skill. As long as we keep our work ethic strong, I think we are going to be in good shape.”
The Centennials won their last game on Nov. 27, 2-1 over the Rivermen in Langley. Last month the Centennials went 3-6-0-1. Among the things the Centennials like to do is play physical and get under their opponents’ skin, Brooks said. He added the key for the Vees will be to remain disciplined. In the three previous meetings, the Vees have put the Centennials on the power-play 16 times, allowing two goals.
The Vees will be looking for their fourth straight win following a victory over the Trail Smoke Eaters 8-1 on Nov. 28 at the South Okanagan Events Centre. The crowd of 2,156 didn’t have to wait long to see the Vees hit the scoresheet as Luke Voltin and Scott Conway set up Nicholas Jones for his fourth of the season at 1:04. Thirteen minutes later, the Vees’ power-play went to work as Demico Hannoun netted his 10th while parked at the side of the net to make it 2-0 Vees. That goal proved to be the winner. He finished with two goals.
Taylor Ward, who scored his first career BCHL goal last season as a Vees affiliate player, went bar down for his first goal of the season.
“I have been a little snake bitten but it was good to get the monkey off the back,” said Ward, named the FortisBC Energy Player of the Game. “I didn’t think it went in. I thought it hit the cross bar. It was a little delayed reaction. When I saw the guys celebrating for me it obviously felt good.”
Twenty-six seconds after Ward’s goal, Brooks netted his third of the season for a 4-0 lead. Conway added two goals to finish with four points, helping him earn BCHL player of the week honourable mention with six points in two games. Desi Burgart scored the other Vees goal.
Ward said the win was huge.
“Getting these wins now is critical especially when we have got some big guys leaving soon,” said Ward, in talking about captain Tyson Jost and assistant captain Dante Fabbro, who will be heading to Leduc, Alta., for the Canada West camp for the World Junior A Challenge. “We played really well. We had one of our best starts of the year. Our start was obviously critical and we just rolled off of our first few shifts.”
Zachary Driscoll made 27 saves for his ninth win.