The Powell River Kings were in a giving mood last weekend. They handed the Penticton Vees an early Christmas present, with a 7-2 win that set a new Penticton junior hockey record of 18 consecutive wins.
The BCHL record for most consecutive wins in a season is held by the New Westminster Royals at 29 from 1989-90, according to league records.
A crowd of 1,741 watched as the Vees had a 3-0 lead after one period of play.
“We made it a very easy night for them,” said Kings coach Kent Lewis, who felt their play was similar to last year when they lost 4-1 to Penticton before beating them by the same score three days later.
With that meeting being the only time the two play each other this season, the Kings will have to wait until next year to exact revenge.
“Our compete level wasn’t there,” said Lewis. “Bottom line: it was an embarrassing effort.”
It took the Vees all but 35 seconds to hit the scoreboard. Travis St. Denis fed Connor Reilly, who took the puck from the right side of the boards then banked the puck off Kings goalie Jamie Phillips. Nine minutes later, Mario Lucia scored the first of his three. With a minute remaining in the first period, Joey Benik stunned Phillips and likely everyone in the building by beating him with a laser wrist shot high blocker to give the Vees a 3-0 lead.
“I think that was probably the back-breaking goal,” said Harbinson. “Kyle Beaulieu made just an unreal play coming out of his own end to look a guy off and find Benik coming through the neutral zone, puts it on his tape and Benik kind of pushed the defenceman off the blue line and snapped one quick. I think he kind of fooled Phillips on it.”
If you’re a fan that went to the game hoping for a close battle, then you were disappointed. If you’re a complete homer who enjoys watching your squad wipe out teams every game, then you went home feeling you got your money’s worth.
Don’t get me wrong, it was an impressive victory. Sitting in the press box of the SOEC, though I expected a tighter game.
While talking to Harbinson about the streak, he said he told his players to be proud of what they accomplished. And why shouldn’t they be? It doesn’t happen all the time. In speaking to John DePourcq, who won a national championship in 1986 with the Penticton Knights, he couldn’t recall if his teams had longer winning streaks. Jokingly, he blamed it on too many concussions. He knew they went undefeated at home winning 38 games including playoffs.
“You only get to do these things maybe once in a lifetime,” said Harbinson, whose Vees defeated the Westside Warriors 5-1 on Friday. “You embrace them and you don’t let your head get too big. You enjoy the moment a little bit as you are going.”
The Vees are in quite the zone right now. Of their 18 wins, four of them are by one-goal margins.
With the Vees on a long break for Christmas, playing their next game against the Vernon Vipers on Jan. 4, I wonder if this break could be a bad thing? Vees goalie Michael Garteig said he’s excited for the break, but admitted there is a part of him that wants to keep going with the way the group is playing.
Of course, it could also be the best thing. They may return a refreshed team with so much energy you would think they just polished off a case of Red Bull. (I was really thinking Jolt, but I wonder if any of the players know it or if many people even remember that drink).
Emanuel Sequeira is the sports editor of the Penticton Western News.