Consistency remains as Vees keep rolling

The ink on this column dried up before the final score between the Penticton Vees and Merritt Centennials on Tuesday night did.

Penticton Vees goaltender Michael Garteig holds down the fort as Nanaimo Clippers forward Luke Gordon crashes the crease and Vees player Ryan Reilly clears the puck away Sunday at Nanaimo’s Frank Crane Arena. The Vees won the B.C. Hockey League game 4-1.

The ink on this column dried up before the final score between the Penticton Vees and Merritt Centennials on Tuesday night did.

As the Vees travelled into the Nicola Valley to take on the Centennials in their barn, which Vees coach-GM Fred Harbinson said can feel “claustrophobic”, his team was also putting its 15-game winning streak on the line. If there was any team that could put an end to it, believe it or not, the Centennials are it. (Due to the press schedule, the results are not available.)

Before getting into that, let’s rewind a bit. Heading into the coast to face the Victoria Grizzlies, Alberni Valley Bulldogs and Nanaimo Clippers, the Vees were on a 12-game winning streak. First up, the Grizzlies put a bit of a scare into the Vees. The Vees led 3-0 only to have that evaporate and hang on 5-4. Harbinson said they had to clamp down defensively to preserve the win.

A 6-2 blowout victory against the Bulldogs resulted in a goal explosion by the Vees in the second period. A Bulldog goal was squished between five Vees goals. After Travis St. Denis made it 3-1 on the power play, Bulldog Dylan Nowakowski netted a power-play tally for the home team.  Thirty-five seconds later, defenceman Mike Reilly gave the Vees their two-goal lead back and it was smooth sailing from there. Reilly led all players with seven points (six assists) during the three games. Against the Clippers and former Vees goalie Billy Faust, Penticton left Frank Crane Arena with a 4-1 win, though if you subtract the two empty-netters, well, you know.

“We found different ways to win. Different contributors every night,” said Harbinson. “Both goaltenders had strong performances, so yeah, the challenges were there.”

Back to the Centennials: The feisty never-say-die club was the last team to defeat the Vees on Nov. 5 in the South Okanagan Events Centre. That was a 3-2 overtime win. The Vees skated in Memorial Arena to give some of the players an idea of what to expect in a classic old barn.

What Harbinson likes is the way his players have performed on the ice during this streak. They have been consistent in forcing teams to play the way they like to play — being aggressive on the puck and forcing teams to draw penalties with their speed. They also watch the details of their defensive play.

Piling up win after win has been impresive, but Harbinson said it’s not something they have talked about much. That could be the best approach to take. Once the players get caught up in that talk, what they did in the past could overshadow the task at hand.

The result of this streak comes from a hard working group that doesn’t gives up often.

Vees notes: Defenceman Nick Buchanan has committed to Minnesota State University-Mankato Mavericks for the fall of 2012. The 20 year-old from Victoria is currently playing in his third season in the BCHL and first with the Vees. Buchanan has developed into a premier defensive-defenseman.

“I am very proud of what Nick has accomplished in such a short period here in Penticton,” said Harbinson. “Nick has played an intricate part in our current success, and will be an outstanding addition to the Mavericks D-core for the next four years.” Buchanan will join current Vees teammate Bryce Gervais next fall in Mankato.



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