It wasn’t that the Penticton Vees lost 3-2 to the Vernon Vipers on Friday that disappointed coach-GM Fred Harbinson, it was the way it happened.
Players weren’t battling for pucks and they spotted the Vipers a 2-0 lead. By Saturday, the Vees turned their play around withBradley Robbins opening the scoring with his first career BCHL. The Vipers responded with four unanswered tallies. So while the Vipers sent the Vees home without two points, Harbinson felt they competed hard.
“We took the physical play to Vernon,” said Harbinson. “We were good on our forecheck, we played in their end a lot. We were Stronger on our sticks. We made one mistake and it ended up in the back of our net. We would get three chances on them and find a way not to score.”
Robbins, who said it was amazing to get his first goal, explained it has been an adjustment playing junior A from high school as he came over from Shattuck St. Mary’s, the same school which has helped developed NHL stars such as Zach Parise and Sidney Crosby.
“It’s a little more higher level, faster,” said Robbins. “It takes some getting used to but Fred is a great coach.”
In competing harder, Robbins feels he has shown improvement. With five games in six days, which started with a meeting at home against Prince George on Tuesday, Robbins said they need to start each game hard.
“We have lacked that in the past,” he said. “Battle and play as a team and remember everything Freddy told us through systems, getting the puck in deep and hitting.”
Rookie Joey Benik, another recruit from US high school hockey, assisted on Robbins goal. He said the jump to junior A is a “huge step.”
“Talent wise and the size of guys are a pretty big differences as well,” said Benik, who has two assists in four games. “Those three areas are probably the biggest adjusting to. Once you get a few games in, your confidence will go up a little bit and you get comfortable. It’s been a lot of fun so far.”
Benik felt the team bounced back well from Friday and said they just need to continue playing hard as a team. One of the things he wants to work on to help the Vees is his defensive play.
“I have to be real smart in the defensive zone,” he said. “One thing I could work on is finishing my checks.”
As for his first dose of playing against the Vipers, Benik loved it.
“I heard a lot about it before the season and during the season,” said the 18-year-old from Andover, Minn. “It’s a lot of fun playing Vernon. I look forward to playing them again this year.”
During the weekend, the Vees added 19-year-old blueliner Lane Werboski to the mix. Harbinson said he looked strong in his debut on Saturday.
“He’s another guy that’s going to get acclimated here and used to what we’re doing,” said Harbinson of Werbowski, who played in the WHL with the Edmonton Oil Kings and Tri-City Americans.
During the weekend, the Vees lost veteran forward Joey Holka with a lower body injury. He could be out for a while.
“With him and Macmillan out it’s definitely a blow,” said Harbinson, who will bring in some affiliate players to help.
Penticton Vees netminder Joey Rumpel locks his glove over the puck as Viper Steve Weinstein follows through on his shot by crashing into the Vees’ goal.