Entering Wednesday night’s tilt against the Vernon Vipers at Kal Tire Place, the Penticton Vees allowed eight goals in five games.
Vees coach Fred Harbinson was very happy with how his group was playing defence, until midway through the third when the Vees gave up two goals in under five minutes to lose 3-1. The third goal was by former Vee Dexter Dancs, who finished a nice individual effort. Dancs took a drop pass from Demico Hannoun just inside the Penticton blueline, skated to the outside, cut around a D-man and patiently waited for Vees goalie Hunter Miska to make a move before hitting the empty net with five minutes remaining.
“We clearly weren’t good enough. We had a team that was probably on life support and we gave them a lot of life tonight,” Vees coach Fred Harbinson told the Vernon Morning Star.
The Vees were missing NHL-rated Jack Ramsey (at U.S. prospects game) and 6-foot-6 Michigan giant Blake Butzow (meningitis) on the back end.
“I wasn’t happy with our D-core; they didn’t play up to par tonight so it’s back to the drawing board tomorrow,” said Harbinson, whose team is ranked 17th in the Canadian Junior Hockey League.
“It’s disappointing. You never wanna lose two in a row,” said Coatta. “We obviously never played our best tonight but the great thing about it is we get to come back on Friday and get things turned around in a hurry.”
The Vees, who host the Merritt Centennials in their home opener Friday, are still a work in progress according to Harbinson.
“There was a lot of things that we liked about this team. You lose two in a row and a couple of guys are going have to realize that junior hockey is a long haul,” he said. “I think there was a little bit of backs being patted a little bit too much in town when we started 4-0. The nice thing is we had six in a row on the road and we’re 4-2 and we gotta be happy. I would have taken that at the beginning of the year.”
Asked about the parity of the BCHL, Coatta said they have to show up every night or they won’t win.
“That’s kind of what happened tonight,” he said. “It’s a good rivalry and they showed up tonight. We’ll get a chance to get ‘em back for sure. I think our work ethic is probably the biggest thing. That’s what we wanna build our identity around. Speed too. We can still work harder.”
The Vipers, who were without captain Ryan Renz, 20-year-old Josh Bryan and 20-year-old goalie Colton Sparrow, improve to 2-2-1-2.
The Centennials, 3-4-0, are fresh from a 3-2 overtime win against the Vipers on Sept. 21. Leading the Centennials offensively is Jeff Wight with four goals and six points in seven games.
The Cowichan Valley Capitals, 4-1-0-1, come into Penticton Saturday having lost 3-2 in overtime to the defending BCHL champion Surrey Eagles at home. The Capitals will visit the Trail Smoke Eaters on Friday before facing the Vees. Bo Pieper leads the Capitals attack with five goals in five games, while Adam Rockwood is the leading scorer with eight points in five games. Gordie Defiel enters the weekend with a 3-0 record and a goals against average of 3.00 and .902 save percentage.
The Vees will be without Butzow until October as he recovers from meningitis. He is in Detroit because he can’t be given antibiotics at home in Penticton since he’s American. Harbinson said his situation is a severe deal as he was initially quarantined. Once he’s able to return, Harbinson said he will only boost a defence.
“We have extremely strong defenceman,” said Harbinson. “We have seven Division 1 defenceman. Him and (Patrick) Sexton are the only two that haven’t committed and both I think are going to be guys that will be getting scholarships before the season is out.”
Before the Vees’ game against the Vipers, they dealt forward Max Becker to the Salmon Arm SilverBacks for future considerations. Becker played in three of the Vees’ first five games and did not record a point. The trade leaves the Vees with five imports and 21 players on their roster, one below the league maximum.
Vees notes: On Sept. 19, the Vees announced that forward Josh Blanchard committed to St. Cloud State University for 2015 or ‘16.
“Josh has had a track record of being an offensive talent and his speed and compete level make him a special player,” said Harbinson in a statement.
Blanchard, 17, is four games into his first season and recently scored his first career regular season goal against the Trail Smoke Eaters. Blanchard scored once in four playoffs games last spring as an affiliate player. The Kelowna product played last season with the Okanagan Rockets of the B.C. Major Midget League finishing with a team-best 29 goals in 39 games and was second in team scoring with 55 points.
“I’ve been talking with St. Cloud for quite some time and felt like it was the best fit,” said Blanchard, who will join former Vees Joey Benik, Joey Holka and Garret Milan currently at St. Cloud. “I’m a competitor and I want to win and they’re building something special with their hockey program.”
The Canadian Junior Hockey League posted on its website that NHL Central Scouting has identified 11 CJHL Players on the preliminary list for the 2014 NHL Draft. The lists, comprised of A, B and C players for the upcoming season, are sent to NHL team scouts for the purpose of tracking the top draft-eligible players entering the 2013-2014 season. A skaters are identified as potential first-round picks, while B players are considered second or third-round candidates. C players are thought to be fourth to sixth-round possibilities. Ramsey has been listed as a B skater, while Miska is listed as a C goalie.