Sidney Crosby scored two goals and added two assists during his much anticipated return to the NHL.
Penticton Vees captain Logan Johnston laughed when asked if he will have the same type of debut as Sid the Kid when he returns from a 25-game suspension Saturday night.
“I will try,” said Johnston, who was skating hard with assistant coach Michael Hengen following Wednesday’s skate before the team travelled to Vernon and ran over the Vipers 6-1. “I’m a little nervous but pretty excited. It’s my first game of the season, so it’s like everybody is all jacked up at the start of the year. I’m all jacked up.”
The 20-year-old veteran said it wasn’t too hard to sit and watch his teammates because they have done so well. The Vees, 19-3-0-2 heading into the weekend, are currently riding a seven-game win streak.
“You’re not worrying at least,” he said. “Obviously it’s hard but it’s exciting to come back too.”
The entire time he has been away from the action, Johnston has hung around his teammates and participated in practices. He said that made a big difference feeling like he was a part of the team.
“I could still put my two cents in and guys didn’t shut me out so that was great,” he said.
Vees defenceman Kyle Beaulieu said it’s awesome for the Vees to have Johnston back in the lineup for Nov. 26 when they host the Chilliwack Chiefs. His addition brings more toughness and skill. Beaulieu said Johnston works hard low in the corners and punishes defencemen with hits. He also has another weapon.
“His shot has improved over the summer big time,” he said. “It’s going to be nice having him back in the lineup. Everybody is really excited. Even to get the full lineup back. We haven’t played with a full lineup since preseason.”
Johnston’s return coincides with the BCHL’s 50th anniversary celebration, which begins Friday as teams will play each other twice.
“Hopefully get a few more fans to help me get more pumped up,” said Johnston, who is thrilled to be part of it. “Our rink is so great when it’s full.”
Johnston’s ultimate goal for the season is to lead the Vees to its first national championship since the Knights won it in 1986. And the former Princeton Posse player wants to win badly after watching the Vees fall short since he first played for them in 2007-08 as an affiliate player.
“I want to get it for all the guys that I played with before that didn’t get to taste it,” he said. “Guys (Derik Johnson, Beau Bennett, Denver Manderson and Garrett Milan) are sending me messages now saying you have to win it this year.”
The Vees are coming off an impressive 6-1 win against the Vipers that saw them go 3-for-9 on the power play, while the Vipers were shutout in three tries. Following the loss, Vipers coaches Jason Williamson and Chris Shaw sat the players down for a lengthy post-game meeting to discuss their current funk.
“Penticton’s got a pretty strong hockey club and at the end of the day it’s pretty simple – they came ready to play and we didn’t,” said Shaw to the Vernon Morning Star. “It’s a lack of focus and a lack of effort. We’re waiting for the play to come to us as opposed to dictating the play. We could be a lot stronger on the forecheck and better with our communication on the ice. It’s definitely not a lack of speed or skill on our team, it’s playing smarter.”
“I’m sure the fans weren’t too happy with how many power plays we got, but I felt we earned a lot of them,” said Vees coach-GM Fred Harbinson. “The boys played a real solid two-way game, didn’t take many shortcuts.”
In other Vees news, rookie Cody DePourcq will continue his hockey career with the University of Denver Pioneers. It was announced Tuesday that DePourcq will join the same team which former Vees Bennett and Joey Laleggia currently play for.
“It’s definitely really excting for me and my family,” said DePourcq. “Exciting when you get an opportunity to get a scholarship to a Division 1 team. It’s a beautiful city, fantastic campus, obviously has great hockey and good academics. It was really a family choice.”
“The Pioneers are getting one of the most courageous players I’ve ever coached,” said Vees coach-GM Fred Harbinson. “I have had the pleasure of being involved with the development of Cody Depourcq over the past few seasons. Cody started as an affiliate player in his 15-year-old season and is now contributing to our strong start as one of the most exciting 16-year-olds in the BCHL.”
The Penticton native has scored three goals and has 11 points in 24 games.
Ice chips: All BCHL teams are doing fundraisers to support their local KidSport. In Penticton, KidSport is raising funds by raffling off a team autographed Jersey. There will be 25 limited-edition 50th anniversary shirts available for sale with proceeds going to KidSport Penticton. There will also be a special edition Smart Hockey magazine celebrating the 50 years of BCHL as people enter and supplies last.