Hit with injuries and illness, the Penticton Vees were dealt another blow this time by the BCHL.
Captain Derik Johnson was suspended three games after being given a match penalty late in the third during a 7-2 loss to the Alberni Valley Bulldogs on Jan.31. The suspension keeps Johnson out until Feb. 12.
Vees coach-GM Fred Harbinson thought Johnson’s penalty should be anywhere between a two to a five-minute boarding penalty. He didn’t see it being a match penalty.
“The thing that I’m frustrated about, I look at it and I see that we had Myles McCauley sit two games for a penalty where a guy finished on the power play on that same penalty,” explained Harbinson, noting he understands the league has a tough job to do. “I see three of our guys miss now over 10 man-games combined or more between (Troy) Stetcher, (Mark) MacMillan and (Garrett) Milan and only a two-minute penalty being called on the three of those situations. Now Derik makes a hit and granted it was definitely a penalty — could have been a major, now he’s going to sit three games. It seems like we’re going from one standard to the next. Unfortunately, it hasn’t gone our way once.”
“There is probably not a whole lot I can say to stick up for what happened,” said Johnson. “It’s an emotional game. Five games in six days, everyone was a bit irritated and the way the game was going, stuff like that happens, it’s hockey. I’m not going to condone my actions whatsoever.”
The Vees are also without the services of forwards Milan and MacMillan who suffered head injuries in the first period against the Victoria Grizzlies. The Vees lost that game 3-2 in double overtime. The Vees played the Bulldogs with just 10 forwards.
The Vees practiced on Thursday as half the team became ill with the flu near the end of the road trip that saw them go 2-2-0-1. Harbinson felt the trip was going well until those situations arose.
“I was real proud of our guys against a good team like Victoria to get that point,” said Harbinson. “The only game that we didn’t do well in was the final game (against Alberni Valley) of the trip. An afternoon game and you have all those guys out. Guys overused, by that time the sickness had kicked in. It sounds like a thousand excuses.”
A positive was the play of affiliate player Carter Rigby of Penticton. In the four games the member of the Osoyoos Coyotes played, he collected three assists. Harbinson liked how Rigby performed and met with the family on Wednesday to discuss if there was interest in Rigby joining the Vees for the rest of the season.
“He’s a physical presence, a strong kid on the puck,” said Harbinson. “Obviously he has offensive ability. He’s a kid that can definitely help us down the stretch.”
Focus now shifts to Friday and Saturday games against the Trail Smoke Eaters and Vernon Vipers in Vernon. Harbinson said the weekend “is going to be a real gut check” with everything that has happened.
“I know what we can do when we’re healthy and I like where we’re at,” said Harbinson, whose team trails the Vipers by four points with one game in hand.
Ice chips: Vees defenceman Joey Laleggia is seventh in league scoring with 70 points, which leads all blueliners. Surrey’s Bradley McGowan leads the league with 81 points in 51 games. Vees goalie Joel Rumpel is tied for second in wins with 23 and in goals against average at 2.53. Troy Stecher will be back in the lineup this weekend for the Vees.