Vees give Betz a chance to succeed

It was a sweet homecoming for Summerland’s Michael Betz.

It was a sweet homecoming for Summerland’s Michael Betz.

With a 3-0 Penticton Vees lead having evaporated against the Trail Smoke Eaters on Wednesday, Betz, a former Smoke Eater, wiped away any thoughts of his former team tying the game as he spun in the slot and fired a wrist shot over the glove of Kiefer Smiley in one motion. The 4-2 goal proved to be the game-winner in a 6-3 Vees win in front of 1,287 at the South Okanagan Events Centre.

“The puck kind of bounced out in the slot there and I knew there was some traffic crossing the crease … I was just focused on maybe getting a couple of scoring chances for myself and luckily I got it in the slot right on my stick perfectly and turned around and beat my old buddy Smiley there over the glove,” said Betz, the game’s first star. “During my stint in Trail he was probably my closest friend. He’s obviously a great guy so it was a good little stinger on him for me to get that.”

Betz had stung Smiley and the Smoke Eaters in the second period when he helped set up Mark MacMillan for an easy tap in to make it 3-0. After having a slow start, Betz made an impact offensively getting involved in the offence and using his six-foot-two, 205 pound frame to bump bodies. The Vees acquired the former Spokane Chief from the Smoke Eaters for future considerations on Nov. 10.

“It has just been a great opportunity so far,” said Betz. “I’m getting a chance to play here with some pretty talented players and I’m thankful for that.”

Early on, Vees coach-GM Fred Harbinson likes what he sees.

“He played really well,” said Harbinson. “Started off a little slow in the first period, but you know what that’s expected. He’s only played a couple of games all year. It got better as the game went on and obviously he was happy to get back at his old team.”

With Betz in the fold, Harbinson’s goal is to make him a complete hockey player.

“When he works hard and moves his feet he’s a pretty dangerous hockey player,” he said. “He had a point a game in our league last year.”

After things didn’t work out in Spokane, the WHL team assigned Betz to the Smoke Eaters. In 30 games with the Kootenay club, Betz scored 16 goals and 31 points in 30 games. The 18-year-old then returned to Spokane this season to give it another shot, but Betz wasn’t able to earn a spot.

“I had to make a decision on whether to try and get back in the WHL or maybe join another BCHL team,” said Betz. “Me and my family decided it would probably be best and I could have a good opportunity if I could somehow manage to get involved in the Vees organization. I’m really thankful that happened here. It’s been a really exciting time for me so far.”

And now Vees fans can look forward to seeing how Betz helps the Vees as it’s his intention to finish out his junior career in Penticton.

The Vees have also been pleased with the play of defenceman Paul Bezzo.

“Paul has been outstanding,” said Harbinson. “We’re real happy with him. He’s been good on and off the ice. He’s just been a steady physical presence on the back end, which we definitely needed.”

As for making more moves prior to the Dec. 1 deadline, Harbinson said there isn’t much left they need to do. The coaching staff has indicated to the players that “for the most part” this is the group they will win or lose with.

“Hopefully it’s going to be the win,” said Harbinson.

Ice chips: Vees assistant coach and director of hockey operations David Small has left the Vees. “Dave is no longer with us right now,” said Harbinson. “It just looks like he’s stepping back from hockey at this time and he’s going to pursue other interests.” In an email to the Western News, Small said he has left for personal and family reasons. “Fred and the Vees have been a big support, and I want to thank them for their understanding and guidance. I wish them the best of luck with the rest of the season, and am very confident that they will do well.”

The Vees return to Salmon Arm on Friday for a rematch against the SilverBacks then host the Prince George Cougars on

Sunday at 2 p.m.

Mark MacMillan’s face says it all on what he thought of the play set up by Michael Betz and Brendan O’Donnell that led to his goal in the second period against the Trail Smoke Eaters. In other BCHL news, the Westside Warriors have acquired Penticton minor hockey product Cole Holowenko. Holowenko had been with the WHL’s Chilliwack Chiefs prior to joining the Warriors from the Merritt Centennials.

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