A quick glance at the BCHL standings would suggest Quesnel is inferior to Penticton.
However, the Vees (9-4-0-0), second in the Interior Conference, host the Millionaires (3-7-1-0), third in the Conference, on Wednesday at the South Okanagan Events Centre and Millionaires coach Doug Hedley has no fear. The Vees won the first meeting in Quesnel 3-1 on Sept. 24. Hedley felt his team deserved a better fate as they created chances but lacked finish. They got payback two nights later winning 2-0, albeit against a tired Vees squad, but so were the Millionaires he claims with three game in three nights.
“Kirby Halcrow is a big part of our defense,” Hedly said of his top netminder. “He had an outstanding game and we finally took advantage of mistakes and won a game.”
Vees fans will get a chance to see what kind of miracles the Grande Prairie hockey product has in store. Should Vees goalie Joel Rumpel get the nod, it will be a battle between two goalies trying to state their case to the Canada West brass that will select the team playng in the World Junior A Hockey Challenge being hosted by Penticton Nov. 8 to 14.
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When asked, Vees coach-GM Fred Harbinson wasn’t sure whom he was going to start in goal.
When the puck drops Wednesday at 7 p.m., Hedley wants to see his players utilize their speed to create turnovers and he feels they match up well with the Vees at even strength.
“We can compete with any team,” said Hedley. “It’s just a matter of special teams right now aren’t really our best friend. Our penalty killing is not bad but our power play struggles at times because we’re not intense enough. The simpler we keep it the better.”
Penticton played in Westside on Tuesday (game results not available at press time). They are coming off a home-and-home sweep of the Trail Smoke Eaters, 6-4 and a 4-3 overtime win on Saturday. That game was one that got away for the Smoke Eaters as Vees forward Brendan O’Donnell scored with 6.6 left on the clock in the first overtime.
For Penticton is was a comeback for the ages.
“This is my fourth year here and this might be the biggest win we’ve had because of the adversity we had to go through,” Harbinson told Black Press.
The Smokies held a 2-1 lead with less than seven minutes to play in regulation time and were awarded a nine-minute power play after Penticton’s Mark Hall tried unsuccessfully to pick a fight with Sam Mellor after a hard hit.
Hall was tagged for fighting, being the aggressor and instigator, which at the time appeared to seal his team’s fate.
Trail took advantage of the power play and upped their lead to 3-1 when Travis St. Denis scored with four minutes and eight seconds left on the clock.
But instead of folding their tent, the Vees got a second wind when Joey Laleggia scored a shorthanded marker with 2:50 to play in the game. Laleggia then tied the game on a blast from the point with 54 seconds left.
“We had that game in the bag,” said Smokies coach Jim Ingram. “We should be in the dressing room right now and packing those two points. But we weren’t mentally tough enough to do it. Right now we’re not good enough to beat that team.”
— story written with files from the Trail Daily Times.
Penticton vees forward Logan Johnston, left, and captain Derik Johnson, right, keep an eye on Trail Smoke Eaters sniper Kyle St. Denis during a Vees 4-3 overtime win at Cominco Arena.