Disappointed by a 3-2 overtime loss to the Nanaimo Clippers on Nov. 9, the Penticton Vees found the motivation to end their three-game road trip on the right note.
Cam Amantea scored at 14:03 of the third period and his tally proved to be the winner in a 4-3 decision at Weyerheuser Arena.
With their third game in less than three days, Vees coach Fred Harbinson said some might think the players would be worn down, but they showed up ready to play.
“I thought we probably had a little more energy than we even had the night before,” said Harbinson. “The first two periods outshooting them 30-8. I thought it was two of the better periods of the season. We didn’t stop skating. We just kept coming at them in waves.”
Despite the enormous lead in shots, the Vees led just 2-1 after two periods. Both teams scored twice in the third. One of the Bulldogs’ goals bounced off a player’s leg and in. Harbinson said his players didn’t panic, they just kept fighting.
Vees captain Brad McClure said all the players just had the mindset to pull through after they had a strong start, whipping the Powell River Kings 7-3.
“It was also good for our team. We have been struggling a bit on the road,” said McClure. “I think it was good that guys were able to bear down, focus and get the win on the road.”
McClure had a big weekend scoring four goals and eight points.
“I’m glad I was able to help out,” said McClure, who added his play is getting better. “It’s more of an all-around game. I think that all contributes to points. Just contributing to the team and helping is good.”
McClure’s line with Ben Dalpe had a new addition in Cam Amantea. Against the Kings, the three combined for six points. McClure had an assist against Nanaimo, then he had two goals and an assist against the Bulldogs. Amantea finished with two goals and Dalpe collected an assist.
“It was really good. Cam’s a really good guy in his own end,” said McClure. “He’s good at getting the puck out. Turning it into the offensive zone. That’s where we like to play.”
McClure said the trio hopes the line remains together as they had chemistry and good balance.
During the loss to the Clippers, the Vees also lost the services of forward Josh Blanchard, who is out six weeks with a lower body injury after crashing into the boards. It disappointed Harbinson as his team was just getting healthy with the return of defenceman Blake Butzow from meningitis. Initially not expected to play, Blanchard’s injury opened up a spot against the Bulldogs, so Harbinson dressed seven defenceman. Butzow saw limited ice playing four shifts, but the coach liked what he saw.
Prior to the road trip, Butzow returned to practice on Nov. 4. He described his experience of having meningitis as a “wild two months.”
“I’m just happy to be back that’s for sure,” said Butzow. “It was tough. Coming from a lifestyle we have, being so active, up at practice every day, working out. That’s completely taken away from you.”
Butzow was in the hospital in Penticton for two weeks. When he went home to Plymouth, Mich., he wasn’t allowed to exercise and couldn’t lift more than five pounds. Listed at 6-foot-6, 220 pounds, Butzow said going through that was an adjustment. He had to find things to keep him busy and not drive himself crazy.
While he was away from his teammates, Butzow followed their games. He wanted to feel part of the group. He would fire text messages back and forth with them.
Butzow said when it came to concerns with his health, he was initially unsure. Doctors threw big words at him that he didn’t understand, while other words scared him.
“It puts things in perspective,” said Butzow, who joined the Vees after playing a season each in the USHL and NAHL. “Once they got the antibiotics going and kind of got it under control, you start to feel pretty secure.”
Stoykewych wins bronze
While the Vees returned with five of six points to improve their record to 13-4-1-2, defenceman Paul Stoykewych came back with bronze.
“I’m really happy that we didn’t leave there empty handed,” said Stoykewych, who played for Team Canada West in the World Junior A Challenge and defeated Switzerland 5-3. “Obviously our goal was to get to the gold medal game. We started off right going 2-0, hit a speed bump against Russia. We had to refocus because we didn’t want to come home empty-handed.”
After taking a 3-0 lead, in which the Winnipeg, Man., product scored to give Canada West a three-goal lead, they watched it evaporate.
“That was tough because kind of throughout the whole tournament we’ve had leads, then slowly let them slip,” he said. “It was kind of devastating on the bench being up 3-0 and then it was all of a sudden 3-2 two minutes later and going into the third. Everyone was shocked. We played a really good third period. Got back to game plan with about two minutes left and put them away.”
Jeff Wight was setup by Viktor Dombrovskiy and Andrew Taverner.
Stoykewych said to finally win was a relief.
“It was nerve-wracking on the bench and on the ice,” he said. “It was an unbelievable feeling when we finally won the bronze.”
Stoykewych loved representing his country since he said it’s probably the only time he will ever get to do it.
“I really cherished it,” he said. “It’s unbelievable pulling over that jersey.”