Ready for Brooks

Vees and Bandits clash starts Friday for the Doyle Cup championship

Penticton Vees athletic trainer and equipment manager Geoff Carter found room for the cowbell. That was just as important to bring as food and equipment.

Penticton Vees athletic trainer and equipment manager Geoff Carter found room for the cowbell. That was just as important to bring as food and equipment.

When the Penticton Vees line up for the opening faceoff at Centennial Regional Arena in Brooks, Alta., they might see themselves.

The big difference will be the colour of the jerseys that represent the Bandits during their tilt in the 2012 Doyle Cup championship.

Vees assistant coach Michael Hengen described the Bandits as a high-flying team.

“They’re going to come and try to make plays, especially off the rush,” said Hengen, filling in for Vees coach-GM Fred Harbinson during the Vees online show, Coach’s Corner. “We get back to playing Vees hockey.”

Hengen said, “as long as we can figure out how to beat ourselves I think we will be OK.”

Both teams possess high-octane offences and good defence. They both also have goaltending, though the Vees might have the upper hand. While the Bandits have gone with Jan Obernesser, the Vees were forced to go with backup Chad Katunar to fill in for the injured Michael Garteig. He is now healthy. Should Katunar falter, the Vees can go back to their No. 1.

“They have a younger coach over there and he’s teaching an offensive style game,” said Hengen, a former defenceman who played for the Vees in the Doyle Cup in 2008. “They are scoring some nice goals. We’re going to match up great with them. Once that puck drops it’s special how the hockey ramps up.”

After sweeping the Powell River Kings, Vees captain Logan Johnston said the team had a good week of practice and time off. Now they’re excited to get going. This is Johnston’s second time in the Doyle Cup. He was an affiliate player with the Vees in ‘08.

“It’s really exciting. I didn’t get to play last time at all,” he said. “This year is exciting to get another crack at it.”

“It’s going to be fun, playing a team that we haven’t played before,” said Vees forward Bryce Gervais.

With Brooks 488 kilometres southwest of Gervais’ hometown of Battleford, Sask., he will have his own cheering section.

“I think there are 27 convoying up from Alberta and Saskatchewan,” said Gervais. “It will be pretty cool. It’s very exciting. Most of them have never seen me play junior A hockey before. It’s a treat for them too.”

Heading into the Doyle Cup, Gervais has 30 games of playoff experience with the Vees and Salmon Arm SilverBacks. The former Prince Albert Minto said what he’s learned about the playoffs is that anything can happen.

“You can lose a 3-0 lead,” he said. “We found ways to win and that’s what winning hockey teams do.”

Bandits coach Ryan Papaioannou said they’re excited for the series.

“It’s always interesting going against a team with the season the Vees had,” he said. “It excites you for the prospect of beating them. It’s a real good challenge and good team to play against.”

While the 27-year-old agreed there are similarities between the two, he added there are differences.

“We will bring a different game then they expect,” he said without divulging more.

Another thing the two teams share is the excitement the fans have been caught up in.

“It’s something new,” said Papaioannou, who has helped guide the Bandits to its first Doyle Cup championship appearance in four years as coach. “People have taken pictures with the Enerflex Cup. They are looking forward to seeing the storybook team that is the Vees.”

When asked how many games the series may go, Papaioannou’s response was four, five, six or seven.

Ice chips: Should the Vees win the Doyle Cup, the history of that trophy will come full circle. The trophy was donated by Penticton businessman Pete Doyle and his family in 1985. The Penticton Knights were the first team to win it. Penticton could be the last one to win it as this is last year for the B.C./Alberta clash. Next year the playoff format changes with the Western Canada Cup, with the champion of the four western champions. Johnston was named the BCHL Player of the Week ending April 15. The Vees captain assisted on the Vees first goal in their comeback win in Game 3 against Powell River and then set up two others, including the game-winner, in Game 4.