The Penticton Vees are seeking redemption against the Merritt Centennials after a bad loss on Sept. 27.
“We’re definitely excited to get back at them. No one likes to be beat 5-0,” said Vees forward Riley Alferd. “I’m ready to play them on Wednesday. They took it to us and played us pretty hard in their barn. It’s a pride thing and we don’t like to lose like that.”
So what do the Vees have to do to get two points in the South Okanagan Events Centre Wednesday? Alferd said work hard, get pucks deep and cycle better.
“We got to try and hold onto pucks and get to the net. I don’t think we did the best job we could have against them,” said Alferd, who has three goals and four points in six games.
Heading into Wednesday’s tilt, the Centennials, ranked 10th in the Canadian Junior Hockey League as of Oct. 6, have allowed eight goals in six games, prompting Vees coach-general manager Fred Harbinson to say, “ they are doing something right” when it comes to their play. In the past, Harbinson said Centennials teams were a dump- and-chase group. This year’s group, which has veteran experience with 13 players aged 19 and older, are playing more of a puck-possession style.
On the weekend, the Vees, now ranked 14th after not being ranked, swept their home-and-home set against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks, 5-1 on Friday and 4-3 in double overtime Saturday in Salmon Arm. In the latter game, Alferd put the Vees up 2-0 with a pair of goals. However, that lead was erased by two power play goals, the first coming nine seconds after goalie Hunter Miska was given a double-minor for spearing. Following that goal, Vees defenceman Gabe Bast was given a double-minor for high sticking while Silverback Taylor Maruya was given two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Harbinson liked how his team was able to handle adversity in the second period with the penalties that were called. He felt the referee made a mistake by giving the Silverbacks a 5-on-4 at the end of the period. He felt it should have been four-on-four. It resulted in the Silverbacks gaining momentum.
“After they scored the third goal we kind of sagged a little bit,” said Harbinson, adding he heard his players get on each other on the bench in a positive fashion. “From there I thought we pushed forward hard.”
After the Silverbacks took a 3-2 lead, Lewis Zerter-Gossage evened the score at 3-3 on a play started by Demico Hannoun and Tyson Jost. Hannoun, celebrating his 19th birthday, became the overtime hero scoring on a penalty shot.
Alferd described the game as a “dog fight.”
“Every time you have back-to-back games against the same team, the next game is even tighter,” he said. “I think the difference was how we played. Friday we weren’t on our details as we should have been. Saturday we were a little more. I think they came out harder. We knew we had to be better.”
Alferd said they competed all game.
“We fought through it and battled back,” he said “I think it made us better as a team.”
Vees rookie forward Joshua Laframboisse agreed that was a good test for them.
“The closer the game it shows character. It shows how you can battle against adversity,” said Laframboisse, who wears No. 94 in a tribute to former NHLer Ryan Smyth, whom he admires for the way the former Edmonton Oiler, New York Islander, Colorado Avalanche and L.A. King played.
The weekend also featured the season debut of Vees forward Cam Amantea, who missed the first four games recovering from off-season shoulder surgery. Harbinson said the veteran played well.
“I thought he got better as the weekend went on,” he said.
“Game shape is different,” said Amantea following Friday’s game. “For the most part I felt good. It’s been a long six months.”
After the long recovery, the Calgary native feels the best he has in a year and is pain free.