Cominco Arena in Trail has not always been friendly to the Penticton Vees.
On Oct. 19, the home team defeated the Vees 4-3 with two of their goals coming on the power play.
The two teams will square off again on Remembrance Day, and Vees assistant coach Michael Hengen is confident the team will forget the past.
“There is no doubt we have had troubles with going into Cominco Arena,” said Hengen. “We’d like to change that. Any time you get two points in a rink where you haven’t been the most successful in the past is a huge confidence boost for the team.”
Focus for the Vees in this matchup has been on their fore check during practice. Defensively, they want the blueline playing a simple game.
Vees starter Michael Garteig said the challenge of playing in Trail is that the boards are “pretty much square.”
“It’s like you are getting hit into concrete,” he said. “We just have to keep it simple just like we have been doing. Pucks on the glass, everything to the net and capitalize on our chances. I think we can do well and get the two points.”
The Vees should expect a hungry Smoke Eaters team. On Wednesday, they were embarrassed 11-2 by the SilverBacks in Salmon Arm. Bryce Gervais scored four goals and added an assist, while Kody Dhaliwal scored a hat trick. Gervais scored three in the first period alone. His efforts prompted a Twitter message by SilverBacks play-by-play man Scott Campbell referring to him as “Gervechkin.”
Interim Vees captain Joey Benik said they can’t let their past in Trail get to them.
“We have struggled in that building so it’s going to be huge for us to put that aside,” said Benik, who loves playing in Cominco Arena because of the atmosphere. “I think we gotta get a lot of dirty goals. We’re not gonna try to just go out there and try to make a bunch of skill plays because then it’s going to be used against us.”
Garteig said they are playing a simpler game while without Mario Lucia, Mike Reilly, Travis St. Denis, Curtis Loik and Troy Stecher, who are all playing in the World Junior A Challenge in Langley. With five affiliate players in the lineup, Garteig has liked what he sees. He has been impressed by the minutes filled by 20-year-old defencemen Kyle Beaulieu and Nick Buchanan.
“Everyone has played really well,” said Garteig. “They fit into their roles. We are playing a more simple game than we are when we have our full team.”
Benik said their third and fourth line players have stepped up, but he has also been impressed with the affiliate players. Against the Westside Warriors, the Vees received two goals from Zachery Lindsay and Alex Jewell, who scored the winner in a 4-2 decision.
“That was obviously huge and we wouldn’t have won the game without them,” said Benik, who was honoured to give Lindsay and Jewell the pucks for their first BCHL goals. “Jewell had a nice one there for the game winner. He was pretty excited about coming through in the lineup. It was great to see guys like that get the goals. It was such a huge impact when we need it most.”
Among the veterans who have been strong is Connor Reilly. He is now third in team scoring with 10 goals and 27 points in 17 games. In his last five games, Reilly has three goals and six points.
“Connor is a competitor,” said Hengen. “What makes him successful is his willingness to shoot the puck and go to the net. He might not be the biggest guy in the world, but there is no defensemen that is going to out muscle him or out battle him or intimidate him en route to that net.”
On Saturday, the Vees take on the 7-8-0-2 Warriors in Westside. In two meetings, the Vees have won both with the first being an 8-3 decision. In their last 10 games, the Warriors are 2-6-0-2.