Penticton Vees coach Fred Harbinson fired back at Merritt Centennials bench boss Luke Pierce during Thursdays Coach’s Corner.
The shot stemmed from the incident at the end of the Vees’ 5-4 overtime victory against the Centennials at the South Okanagan Events Centre on Oct. 29. Vees rookie forward Mark McLellan suffered an upper body injury and Pierce was livid with officials when they allowed the Vees to make one more change. Pierce felt it was illegal.
“Some of the things he said were really uncalled for,” said Harbinson, who was getting started. “Surprising from a guy, I’ve done nothing but praise how hard he has his team play. The one thing I learned way back when I started this thing is that when you only have about 40 wins as a coach, you shouldn’t be downgrading a program like ours. And not that we’re high on a pedestal or anything but to question our integrity about a line change and stuff, hey, everybody does what they have to do. You can call timeouts, you can send your guys out a little late, you can do what you want and it’s up to the referee to decide what’s going on. For him to point a finger saying that we tried to fake an injury, first off his story is completely wrong. It’s uncalled for. I suggest to him, if he thinks this is his way to motivate his team, I guess with our seven guys out, here’s your best shot, you better take it. It really pissed me off that some of the things that he directed to our hockey club, especially when he only has about 40 wins to his name right now. Five, six or 10 years down the road, after he has won something in this league, then he will have a little opportunity to talk.”
“They were allowed to replace a player after the allotted time slot there for line changes,” said Pierce, who hammered his hand on the top of the boards several times that night. “It ended up leading directly to the goal. They (calls) always come back to burn you. When they (games) mean that much, especially with the way the structure is this year with only four teams (qualifying for the playoffs), we need every point we can get.
“We felt that was a game that we could have won and should have won,” he continued. “To lose it in that fashion was tough to handle and I think we cooled off a lot after the fact. In the heat of the battle it was definitely a tough pill to swallow.”
With the loss still fresh in their minds, Pierce said the Centennials have incentive to skate away with two points Saturday.
“Anytime you have kind of a heart-breaking loss there, guys get a little more hungry,” he said. “We’re going to need every incentive we can get to try and get the monkey off our back in Penticton.”
The focus for the Centennials will be to play disciplined hockey. They don’t want to give the Vees’ dangerous power play too many chances to blow the game open. Pierce also said that they can’t get shut out on their opportunities and then be giving up four goals to the Vees.
“They have a very dangerous power play that is going to capitalize,” said Pierce, adding he wants his team to keep pucks deep, drive the net hard and score greasy goals.
Puck drop for Saturday’s game at the SOEC is 7 p.m.