Penticton Vees defenceman Troy Stecher passes the puck during a scramble at centre ice in Wednesday’s BC Hockey League game against the Westside Warriors at the South Okanagan Events Centre. The visitors scored a pair of unanswered third-period goals to edge the Vees 6-4. Penticton hosts the Merritt Centennials on Saturday.
Penticton Vees fans didn’t have to wait long to toss 467 teddy bears on to the South Okanagan Events Centre ice Wednesday.
It took just 29 seconds for Mark MacMillan to score on the Westside Warriors.
However, the opening goal and the Vees erasing a 3-1 deficit was overshadowed by a 6-4 loss to their Okanagan rivals. Tied at four in the second intermission, the Warriors scored twice in the final frame.
“If they want to cheat, take shortcuts, that’s going to be the result,” said Vees coach-GM Fred Harbinson, clearly upset with the play of his team in front of 1,253 fans. “Giving up six goals at home is ridiculous. We cheated all night long. Some of the turnovers we had, it’s like they think Christmas break is already coming. It’s going to come quick enough, but you know what, if we’re going to be giving away points like that we’re not going to be enjoying it very well. I will tell you that.”
Several Vees giveaways handed the Warriors two points. Tyler Brickler tied the game late in the first period when he took the puck off his skate and beat Vees netminder Billy Faust. A minute later, with traffic at the net, Max French gave the Warriors a 2-1 lead after teammate Travis Blaniel couldn’t bury the puck. French pounced on the loose puck. In the second, a soft play by a Vees defenceman resulted in Alex Grieve’s goal to make it 3-1. Grieve also scored the winner on a stick handling mistake by Faust, who tried to clear the puck.
Vees defenceman Derik Johnson and Paul Bezzo admitted to their errors.
“I turned the puck over late and they put it in our net,” said Johnson, while riding the bike in the dressing room. “My job is not to do that. I have to hold myself responsible. It’s not fair to these guys because they battled back.”
“We had a great first 10 (minutes). And then I think we got a little comfortable,” said Bezzo. “We didn’t really stick to the game plan. We will have one opportunity and everybody kind of looks at the puck. Just really being aware in the defensive zone especially.”
The Warriors were the quicker team and fought hard for the puck.
“They counter attacked,” said Harbinson. “Everytime we turned the puck over they got going with speed up the ice and they have some guys that can make some plays. And we got caught standing around a lot. They capitalized when we did that.”
After the Vees tied it at three, Grayson Downing, who scored twice, hammered a one-timer past Faust low. Faust made 24 saves on the night.
Warriors newly acquired forward Stefan Nicholishen, who returned to Penticton since being dealt Nov. 22, said his new team played well. Nerves effected his play early as Nicholishen seemed tentative with the puck.
“It was fun to see all the guys again,” said Nicholishen, who was caught off guard when traded. “They played hard. It was an emotional game.”
While Nicholishen didn’t get a point, he made his presence known physically getting under his former teammates’ skin. However, he did get burned after taking a boarding penalty after hitting Vees defenceman Kyle Beaulieu. Not long after the penalty, Joey Benik scored for Penticton.
When asked about how Nicholishen played, Johnson said the physical presence is what he expected.
“I have never seem him play that physical in my life,” said Johnson. “It’s kind of a shock to me. “It’s how you expect guys to play when you trade a guy to another team. That’s what I expected him to do. He played well tonight.”
At the end of the game, alternate captain Logan Johnston cross-checked Grieve in the face and was assessed a five-minute major and game misconduct. Johnston said he was reacting to Grieves giving teammate Troy Stecher a few late shots.
The league suspended Johnston for four games.
“I was just a little bit frustrated and reacted,” said Johnston “I kind of figured he would put his hands up. I can understand it (the suspension).”
With Merritt up next for the Vees in a home-and-home series, Johnson said they just have to forget about that loss and turn their play around. Johnson, who expected a hard practice on Thursday, said they need to return ready to work for a team that always plays hard against them.
“They have a good team this year,” he said. “They have a great goaltender and we’re going to have to pepper him.”
Harbinson said regardless of who they play, his players must have a different mindset when the play the Centennials in Merritt.
“If we don’t we will end up on the short end again,” he said.
Ice chips: Teams made moves on the Dec. 1 deadline as their player cards are reduced to 25 from 35. Here is what happened. The Vernon Vipers strengthened their goaltending by acquiring Kirby Halcrow from the Quesnel Millionaires for the rights to goalie Bryton Udy, defenceman Elliot Richardson and future considerations. The Vipers then made a deal with the Victoria Grizzlies to get defenceman Bruin McDonald for future considerations. The Millionaires also sent Brett Penner to the Flin Flon Bombers for future considerations and sent Sam Higgins to Fort MacMurray. The Trail Smoke Eaters added to their offence by signing Ryan Aynsley from the Castlegar Rebels in the KIJHL. In 23 games with the Rebels, Aynsley scored 26 goals and 53 points. In four games as an affiliate with the Smoke Eaters, Aynsley scored three goals and nine points. He also previously played with Westside and Merritt scoring five goals and 14 points in 28 games. He’s shown what he can do in this league,” said Trail head coach and general manager Jim Ingram. “It’s going to bring some more offence to us that’s for sure.
“And it’ll give us some more flexibility up front and probably get some of our lines back in order.”