Kyle Beaulieu’s long shift near the end of a 5-2 victory against the Quesnel Millionaires on Saturday is a shining example of how much he’s liked by teammates and appreciated by the Penticton Vees coaches.
With five helpers on the season, the Vees had a plan to reward Beaulieu and defenceman Chad Bannor. Beaulieu, known as Beauy by his teammates, skated towards the Vees bench when coach Fred Harbinson signaled for him to stay on the ice. The team wanted to see him get his first goal of the season and have it assisted by Bannor, who finished pointless on the year in 30 games. Despite Beaulieu’s best efforts as a forward, the Millionaires denied him in what was likely his longest shift ever.
“Two-minues 11 seconds I think it was,” said Beaulieu, who scored two goals with the Williams Lake Timberwolves last season. “Fred would not send out another guy. I was just dogging it at the end.”
“He tried to change twice on us,” said teammate Garrett Milan, who was given the Fan Favourite award at the Vees banquet. “No, that was a funny one. We wanted to get him a goal. Too bad it didn’t happen. He’s one of those guys that’s going to contribute when the game is on the line.”
To Harbinson, Beaulieu’s play that final weekend, which they tied Prince George 2-2, as his best of the season.
“He is really coming into his own,” said Harbinson. “We’re excited to see him play his best right now. Big physical defenceman (Beaulieu is six-foot-three, 195 pounds) are hard to come by. They are worth their weight in gold come playoff time.”
On Sunday, the White Rock resident found himself in the spotlight again during the Vees’ awards banquets on Sunday leaving with prized trophies as the Unsung Hero and Vees on Vees Most Popular player.
“His character in the locker room is not like anyone elses,” said Milan, who drove with Beaulieu from Vancouver for training camp. “He is always upbeat, always positive.”
Derik Johnson, who was named the Best Defenceman on the Vees, added that the recognition given to Beaulieu is well deserved.
“He’s a guy everyone respects a lot,” the Vees captain said. “Brings a lot of laughter to the room as well. He’s a great kid. He’s going to be a leader on the team next year for sure.”
Other Vees award recipients were Joey Holka getting the Robert Skinner Courage Award, the Most Improved Award went to Steve Iacobellis, Best Conditioned Athlete to Kyle Mountain. Academic Award winner is Curtis Loik, while the Most Inspirational Award was handed out to Mark MacMillan. Bannor, who played an important role as a utility player received the Humanitarian Award. Most Sportsmanlike Award went to Brendan O’Donnell, Rookie of the Year Award to Joey Benik, who scored 30 goals in 60 games. Leading Scorer Award went to Joey LaLeggia, who was also recognized with the Most Valuable Award. Laleggia was also recognized by the league as the Interior Conference’s best defenceman and MVP. It’s recognition Harbinson said is well deserved during Coach’s Corner on Tuesday.
“When you think of the two years combined the amount of points (147 in 114 games) he’s put up is amazing,” said Harbinson. “This year tying Duncan Keith’s record with 82 points is way above my expectations as a coach.”
During the offseason, Laleggia spoke with Harbinson about his future, which both decided returning was the best choice. An there was talk Laleggia needed to improve his defensive game.
“I really stressed that I thought there was a good chance that he might end up with 40 or 50 points, which would still be an amazing accomplishment,” he said. “Not to focus on worrying about the offence because we lost a few guys up front. It was clear to me after about October that wasn’t going to be a worry. He was becoming a heck of a better defenceman on the defensive side of the puck and to put up the numbers he has is mind-boggling.”
The Vees coach feels Laleggia is likely to produce with Denver University.
“When you look at Joey’s resume, he’s done it everywhere he’s been at,” said Harbinson.
The Vees playoff MVP will be announced at season’s end.