Vees like how team is shaping up

Vees will enjoy Christmas break thanks to winning weekend, coach likes team growth

PENTICTON VEES captain Troy Stecher carries the puck away from his crease with Nanaimo Clippers forward Michael McNicholas hot on his heels. The Vees defeated the Clippers 5-2 at the South Okanagan Events Centre.  Stecher leads all Vees in scoring with 26 points in 30 games.

PENTICTON VEES captain Troy Stecher carries the puck away from his crease with Nanaimo Clippers forward Michael McNicholas hot on his heels. The Vees defeated the Clippers 5-2 at the South Okanagan Events Centre. Stecher leads all Vees in scoring with 26 points in 30 games.

Victories over the Vernon Vipers and Nanaimo Clippers allow the Penticton Vees to enjoy the Christmas break with a clear mind.

The Vees most recent win was 5-2 against the Clippers Dec. 15. Sam Mellor scored twice, including the winner, while Louie Nanne, Jedd Soleway and Cody DePourcq tallied the other goals.

Mellor said the team battled hard in what turned out to be a big weekend for them.

“We capitalized on our chances and limited theirs,” said Mellor on what was key Saturday. “It feels great to come out and have a good night, contribute two goals.”

Vees coach-GM Fred Harbinson was excited to witness his team earn what he described as two quality wins before the Christmas break.

“I thought in the last seven periods of hockey, going back to Wendesday (Dec. 12 against Salmon Arm), I thought we played with a lot of energy, played our systems to a tee and a lot of guys contributed offensively,” said Harbinson.

Against Salmon Arm, a 2-1 loss, Harbinson said his players struggled with the puck but they learned from that. With their next game, Dec. 28 against West Kelowna, a home-and-home matchup, he just suggested to his players to enjoy themselves.

“Turn your brains off from hockey a little bit,” he told them. “When they get back it’s all business.”

They may also have the services of Michael Rebry back. The Clear Creek, Ont. product hasn’t been in the lineup since the Vees lost to the Victoria Grizzlies back in October. Rebry was with Team Canada West when he suffered a lower body injury and wasn’t able to help against Team USA, who defeated them for the gold medal.

Going into the final half of the season (23 games left for the Vees) Harbinson said he sees his team growing.

“We’re playing real solid hockey,” said Harbinson.

The addition of Rebry, who has 13 goals in 17 games, will soften the blow of losing Ryan Gropp to Team Pacific for the World Under-17 hockey challenge Dec. 29 to Jan. 4. Heading into the final stretch, Harbinson said he just wants to see consistency from his group. When they return, the Jan. 10 trade deadline won’t be far away.

“I like what we have,” said Harbinson, when asked about the deadline. “I like the pieces that we have.”

Good news came the Vees’ way with Soleway committing to the University of Wisconsin Badgers for the 2014-15 season. Soleway, 18, was recently acquired in a trade with the Vernon Vipers. According to Fraser Rodgers, the Vees’ play-by-play announcer, Soleway has made a seamless transition since coming over picking up two goals and five points in just four games. Between the two teams, Soleway has seven goals and 22 point in 30 games. Soleway wasn’t in the lineup for the Vees’ loss to Salmon Arm as he was in Madison, Wisconsin taking a tour of the school.

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