Penticton Vees goalie Michael Garteig feels the true test begins today.
The Vees are taking a 12-game winning streak to the coast as they open up against the Victoria Grizzlies (fifth in Coastal Conference, 15-14-0) today. The Vees are coming off back-to-back victories against the Westside Warriors, and more recently a 3-2 double overtime thriller Tuesday.
The Vees then face the Alberni Valley Bulldogs Saturday and Nanaimo Clippers Sunday, and Garteig said this gives them a chance to see the strength of the Coastal Conference.
“We don’t really know what they’re like,” said Garteig, who spent two seasons with the Powell River Kings and will have some idea of how the Grizzlies play. “Victoria and Nanaimo are top four in their division so hopefully we can go down there and get a couple of wins. Send a message not just to our division, but theirs; kind of tell the whole league that we’re the real deal.”
During the Vees’ winning streak, which now has them ranked No. 3 in Canada with a 24-3-0-2 record, Garteig feels the team has come together. He likes how they are bonding.
“We are all good friends on and off the ice,” said Garteig, sporting a 20-4-0-2 record. “I think that helps. We have played some stingy defence and that’s not just with our defence. That comes with our offence. Always having guys back check. A strong offence is a good defence. I like the way we battled when we had to.”
Garteig also mentioned how the team has survived adversity, with injuries and captain Logan Johnston gone due to a 25-game suspension. The Prince George native said it’s “pretty impressive what we have done.”
“We’re working super hard,” said Garteig, who will likely get the nod to start against the Grizzlies today. “I think that’s one of the main things is our work ethic is unreal.”
Newcomer Bryce Gervais said it will be important for the Vees to play like they do at home.
“Hit when we can and finish our checks and don’t give up,” said Gervais, who has nine goals and 12 points in eight games.
Vees coach-GM Fred Harbinson said that this trip will be a tough stretch for them.
“The importance is we just want to keep playing good hockey,” said Harbinson. “Our last five games, I think the most shots we have given up is 26. The last two have been under 20. That’s not easy to do.”
The Vees coach feels his team has played pretty sound hockey over the last couple of games and he wants to see that continue.
Vees notes: Harbinson said backup Chad Katunar is expected to see action on the roadtrip. He last played No. 20 against the Trail Smoke Eaters in an 8-5 win. Katunar made 26 saves for the victory. According to the Three Vees blog, Mario Lucia won Rookie Idol against Katunar by performing One Republic’s Apologize. Second-year Vee Chad Bannor said he hasn’t gotten over his Rookie Idol defeat from last year, which he thought he had in the bag. The Vees wrap up their road games for the month in Merritt on Dec. 13. Their lone two home games in Dec. 16 and 17, which Peter’s Bros. Construction and Paving is buying tickets for kids 12 and under when an adult or senior ticket is purchased. Connor Reilly’s point streak ended at 19 during the Vees’ 3-2 double overtime win. Lucia had a nine-game point streak, which also ended that game.