A 20-game suspension to Penticton Vees captain Logan Johnston will postpone the magic his line with rookie Mario Lucia and Travis St. Denis created.
Johnston’s suspension stems from a crosschecking incident in the Vees’ final exhibition game against the Coquitlam Express. Johnston fractured Express forward Cody Michelle’s jaw with a cross-check according to the Express website. Johnston came to the defence of St. Denis who was slashed behind the play. Prior to learning how many games the suspension would be, Vees head coach and general manager Fred Harbinson said the league was trying to get everything together.
“It’s tough because the video didn’t show anything because the situation happened so far behind the play,” said Harbinson, who is appealing the decision. “It’s an unfortunate incident for everybody: with the Coquitlam player getting injured, with Logan playing as well as he was trying to get off to a good start. We hope all the best for their player.”
Harbinson insisted that Johnston, who didn’t make any comments on the suspension, wasn’t trying to target the head. While trying to send a message, Johnston’s stick slid up the players shoulder.
“I know he feels really bad as our whole organization does,” said Harbinson on Monday.
Last year Johnston was suspended four games in December for a cross-checking incident.
The Vees and its fans have a long wait to see if Johnston’s line can build back the chemistry it developed.
“I think we’re all three different types of players and we complement each other well,” said Johnston, whose spot on the line was filled by six-foot-one, 170-pound rookie Garrett Hendrickson during practice. “Travis is a really smart, quick player with a lot of skill and Mario has a goal-scoring touch for sure. He’s a big boy. I like to be a little grittier and kind of make some space for those guys. I can move the puck sometimes, too. We found a lot of chemistry early. It’s been really fun. I can’t say I’ve played with guys like that before.”
A paying his dues reward for the captain who is used to using his hands to protect the teams’ top players. St. Denis, who starred for the Trail Smoke Eaters the last three years, has an interesting relationship with Johnston. As opponents, the two had a tough time getting along.
“I think I speared him or something,” said Johnston scratching his head about the things the two tangled over. “We didn’t get along.”
“He speared me in the face last year in a game in Trail,” recalled St. Denis now with a smile.
St. Denis thinks this new line is unbelievable.
“Johnston is a power forward guy. He’s probably one of the best in our league doing that,” said St. Denis, who has scored 62 goals in 149 BCHL games. “Lucia is just a skilled guy who can pretty much do anything out there. It’s definitely really nice to play with those guys. We just know where to find each other on the ice and we get the dirty work done in the corners.”
St. Denis said this line is similar to the one he was part of in Trail with Sam Mellor and Scott Jacklin. They combined for 83 goals.
“The one last year, we had a lot of skill,” said St. Denis, who along with defenceman Troy Stecher attended the Canada West camp for the World Junior A Challenge coming up. “We didn’t have much of a power forward on our line so that’s where Logan comes in which really makes it better.”
Lucia loves the line because Johnston does a great job of getting pucks out of the corners. He also feels Johnston is solid in front of the net and then St. Denis is a fast center who makes good plays.
“We have been together since mid tryouts and the chemistry is starting to come out really well,” said Lucia. “Once Logan gets back, we will build from there. It will be tough. Someone is going to have to step up.”
On Thursday, the Vees announced that Joey Benik will fill the captain’s role until Johnston returns and St. Denis will wear an A.