Getting thumped by the Vernon Vipers 7-1 in Vernon didn’t bother Fred Harbinson as much as something else did.
The Vees coach-GM didn’t like watching his players give up during the final 15 minutes of the game after Adam Tambellini scored a power play goal making it 4-1.
“I think that was the back breaker,” said Harbinson. “I thought our guys kind of gave up. There is always talk about guys leaving and everything else, but the one thing that has been evident to me in the last two games, is that three of our four captains are out of the lineup. It’s (leadership) something that we’re lacking right now.”
Harbinson added other guys need to understand that at this point they can’t just be followers and need to step outside their box a little bit.
“I don’t want players around here that, when things get tough, they shut it down,” said Harbinson. “A product of feeling sorry for themselves.”
The back-breaking goal came just as the Vees nearly killed off Zach Urban’s late second period hooking call. Harbinson said a puck shot into the zone hit and injured Ryan Reilly and set up Tambellini for his breakaway tally.
The effort Wednesday night prompted Vees goalie Michael Garteig, who made 31 saves, to post this message on Twitter.
“Boys need to dig deep, just cuz a couple guys are gone doesn’t mean we aren’t a team. Prime opportunity for guys to step up.”
The Vees coach felt his team opened the game well even though the Vipers had a 2-0 lead after a period. It was 3-0 in the second before Connor Reilly put the Vees on the board.
“Second period I thought we played really, really well,” said Harbinson. “Even though they got the next goal on the power play, we answered back right away. The next shift after the goal, we had a disallowed goal, which was definitely a good call. Maybe half a foot lower and that puck gets knocked out of the air and it’s a good goal. We carried the play in the second period.”
Next up for the Vees are the Westside Warriors on Friday and the Merritt Centennials Saturday, both 7 p.m. starts at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
With seven regulars out of the lineup there isn’t much time for the Vees to work on things. The Vees will be without the services of Mario Lucia and Mike Reilly playing for Team USA in the World Junior A Challenge, while Travis St. Denis, Curtis Loik and Troy Stecher earned a spot on Team Canada West. Johnston is still serving his suspension, and in their recent game against Merritt, forward Mark McLellan was lost to an upper body injury. Grant Nicholson has returned from his upper body problem. The Vees will dress 19 players, five being affiliates. The five APs are Dexter Dancs, Alex Jewell, Carter Popoff, Jordan McCallum and Kam Crawford.
“Alex Jewell played well last night,” said Harbinson. “The APs did well.”