The Penticton Vees spotted the Powell River Kings a 3-1 lead they failed to build on and protect.
The Vees scored four unanswered goals in the final two periods en route to a 5-3 win at the South Okanagan Events Centre Saturday night in front of 2,354 fans.
“I thought it was something that we haven’t really dealt with in a while,” said Vees coach-general manager Fred Harbinson. “We haven’t been behind like that, especially that early. It could have really slid away from us.”
The Vees have one win in three games when trailing after one period.
Defenceman Colton Poolman sparked the comeback with his shot from the point in the second period that beat Stefan Wornig at 13:09. Easton Brodzinski, the game’s first star, tied the game on a two-on-zero rush with Nicolas Jones.
“I thought our guys did a really good job of kind of digging their heels in and putting the breaks to Powell River’s game and slowly but surely we started taking over that game by the second period,” he said.
Owen Sillinger, the game’s second star, was credited with the assist and assisted on the Vees’ final two goals scored by Brodzinski, who now has 25, and Jones, 12. Sillinger finished with three assists.
“We didn’t have the best start. I think getting off to the kill set us back a little bit,” said Sillinger. “I think we found our way through the second period. Brodzinski came up huge with those two big goals. Jones iced them. I think the biggest thing is we worked hard and trusted the game plan all the way through.”
When it came to his own performance, Sillinger credited his success to the effort he is putting in during practice. He is working harder and executing and is focused on the details and that is following into games.
Sillinger said following the first period they evaluated themselves. Harbinson never sensed panic in his group and said the message between the first and second was that they had been scoring a lot of goals as of late.
“We have been scoring over four goals a game quite a bit,” he said. “I just reminded them of that. We needed to get back to some basics. Maybe we needed to play with a little more urgency.”
Brodzinski gave the Vees a 4-3 lead at 11:35 of the third following a face-off win as he ripped a shot past Wornig’s blocker side. Wornig finished with 35 saves, while Anthony Brodeur had a 20-save performance.
The Kings built their lead with the help of two early power-play goals. The Vees went zero-for-four on the man advantage.
The Vees were without captain Tyson Jost, who missed his third straight game with an upper body injury, as well as Demico Hannoun, Mitch Brooks, Desi Burgart and defencemen Gabe Bast and Griffin Mendel, who has been visiting schools over the weekend.
Harbinson said the win will give the players confidence and a lesson learned.
“We weren’t focused enough at the beginning of the game. Taking a penalty before the game even starts with a player staying out too long in warm up,” said Harbinson. “That’s never going to happen again.”
Vees rookie Taylor Ward said going into the second half of the season, and getting ready for playoffs, they are going to have to deal with bigger adversity than going down 2-0 in the first.
“Just kind of a little wake up,” said Ward, who put up two goals and three points in a 6-2 win over Merritt on Jan. 15. “How we got to be ready for each game.”
The Vees, now ranked No. 2 in the Canadian Junior Hockey League, next league game isn’t until Friday against the Chilliwack Chiefs at the SOEC. Harbinson said Jost will be ready to play Friday, while they expect to learn more about Hannoun and Brooks on Wednesday. On Wednesday, the Vees play the EC Red Bull Salzburg U20 team from Austria as part of a BCHL tour.
Sillinger said playing the European team should be fun.
“We’re looking forward to it,” said Sillinger. “It might be a little bit different. A little bit weird. We’re excited.”
“It’s kind of exciting. It’s going to be fun to play a team that plays a different style of game,” said Ward. “It’s going to be cool to see what … their skills are.”
EC Red Bull Salzburg is third in Group A of the Erste Bank Young Stars League with 16 wins, 11 losses and one overtime loss in 28 games.
Their top scorer is Patrick Hagler with 12 goals and 36 points in 25 games and their top scoring defenceman is Maximillian Egger with four goals and eight points in 25 games.