Winless in three games without silver medal winners Troy Stecher, James de Haas, Wade Murphy and Michael Rebry, Fred Harbinson is not concerned about his team.
The Vees lost 5-4 on Saturday to the Chilliwack Chiefs in what Harbinson, the Vees coach-GM, described as their best of the three games.
“We played extremely well,we played hard,” said Harbinson. “We had a lot of push back in our game. We didn’t give up a lot of chances from the second and third period and they seemed to find a way. If we gave up four grade A chances in the second and third combined, they scored three goals.”
Harbinson is happy they are still one of the top teams in the league.
They will welcome Stecher, de Haas, Murphy and Rebry back after they played in the gold medal game with Team Canada West against the United States during the World Junior A Challenge in Yarmouth, N.S. The Canadians found themselves trailing 2-0, then erased that lead to get ahead 3-2. However, the Americans still had more offence left to earn a 6-3 win. After the game, three Vees shared their feelings on Twitter.
“I would like to thank everyone who supported the team over the tourny and thank the boys for giving me an unreal experience #TCW #memories,” wrote Murphy.
“Would like to thank everyone who supported us along the way. Gold Medal then Silver Medal in two years leaves me speechless. #TheBoys #TCW,” wrote Stecher.
“Thanks to everyone for all the support and to the city of Yarmouth for the hospitality! Unbelievable experience, will never forget the boys,” wrote de Haas.
Harbinson said the gold medal match was a good hockey game.
“Nothing for our guys to hang their heads about,” said Harbinson, who said while it was a tough couple of weeks for them in league action, the performances of the four and Dexter Dancs in the prospects game was good for the program. “They lost to a very good U.S. team. It was a really high-paced game. Not scoring on the 5-on-3 was obviously a critical moment.”
Harbinson added he was proud of Stecher and Murphy making the all-star team for the tournament. Rebry didn’t play in the final game as he was injured and the Vees don’t know how long he will be out for.
Once the four return for practice on Wednesday, they will meet their new teammate Brock Balson, acquired from the Salmon Arm SilverBacks last week for forward Evan Anderson and defenceman Mitch Ferguson.
Balson debuted against the Merritt Centennials in a 3-2 loss alongside Sam Mellor and Brad McClure.
“I thought it was up and down the whole game,” said Balson, who displayed a physical side in his first game. “I thought I started out good. I think we’re just going to learn more about each other. Get to know our strengths and be a pretty good line to come I think.”
Harbinson was very happy the way Balson played in his opening two games.
“Balson played hard on both sides of the puck,” he said. “He blocked a shot, got in a fight to defend a teammate. He hadn’t played in two weeks. He will get better and better.
Among the positives that Harbinson saw against Chilliwack was how Cody DePourcq played. Since moving him to centre, Harbinson has been thrilled with his play.
“No question, he is staying at centre,” said Harbinson. “I think he is a much better centreman. We moved him to centre last year and he’s doing a great job right now. (Jordan) McCallum is another player that played really well. I used both those guys killing penalties together. I was really happy with those guys.”
He has also been pleased with newcomer Brayden Park, who joined the team from the Osoyoos Coyotes in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League.
On Wednesday, the Vees will look to end their four-game losing streak when they visit the Centennials. Prior to the game, the Vees were involved in a three-way trade with the Powell River Kings and Salmon Arm SilverBacks that netted the Vees defenceman Sean Flanagan.
“In the last couple of weeks it came apparent we needed to add a veteran to our back-end,” said Vees coach-GM Fred Harbinson of the void Flanagan fills in a release. “Flanagan, with his experience, is the player we feel satisfies our need. In saying that, we had to give up two young and talented players which is never easy to do.”
It started with the Vees packaging rookie defenceman Noah Henry to the Kings for the rights to former Vee Steven Iacobellis. He was then shipped along with rookie forward Alex Jewell to the SilverBacks for Flanagan and future considerations.
Flanagan, 20, was in his second season with the SilverBacks, where he had three goals and eight points in 20 games. The rear-guard has 11 goals and 39 points in two seasons with the Silverbacks. He also played two seasons for his hometown Kindersley Klippers of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, compiling 42 points in 108 games. Flanagan was a member Team Canada West at the 2010 World Junior A Challenge in Penticton, appearing in all five games as the team placed fourth.
Henry appeared in 20 games and collected four assists. Prior to Penticton, Henry spent the past two seasons at Shattuck-St. Mary’s Prep School in Minnesota, where he won the 2012 U.S. National U-18 Championship in Buffalo, New York. Jewell was in his first full season with the Vees, playing in 19 of 20 games, where he tallied two goals and seven points. The 18 year-old appeared in 10 games with the Vees last season as an affiliate player, scoring once and finishing with five points. The Clearwater product will join former teammates Evan Anderson and Mitch Ferguson in Salmon Arm.
The deal leaves the Vees with 12 forwards and seven defencemen, one under the league maximum 22 player roster. Flanagan will be in the line-up against the Merritt Centennials and will wear number 65.
For more on this story, check Friday’s issue of the Penticton Western News.