Sean Flanagan didn’t waste time making an impression with the Penticton Vees.
The 20-year-old defenceman was the main piece that started a three-way trade maneuvered by Vees coach-GM Fred Harbinson on Wednesday that included the Powell River Kings. Flanagan helped his new team end a four-game losing streak as they defeated the Merritt Centennials 3-2 in the Nicola Valley Arena.
“I thought he was one of our best D-man if not our best defenceman, not taking anything away from the rest of the group,” said Harbinson, as the bus picked up Flanagan in Peachland. “I thought our D-core played well last night. I thought he performed extremely well.”
After Penticton minor hockey product Sean Maktaak scored shorthanded to give the Centennials a 1-0 lead in the first period, the Vees responded in the second on goals by Louie Nanne and Brad McClure, both setting each other up for their goals. Sebastian Pare knotted the score at two in the third. That lasted five minutes until Sam Mellor potted the game-winner on the power play with less than two minutes remaining in the game.
Harbinson said it was a good, hard-fought match.
“It’s never easy in that building,” he said, as the Vees dressed 11 forwards. “A bit of a ping-pong match. No room. I’m real proud of the guys.”
The Vees called a timeout midway through the second period and that seemed to do the trick to get the players going. Harbinson told his players to stop worrying about the past as they had been pressing. The next shift, Ryan Gropp drove to the middle, Brad McClure fired one on net and the rebound came out to Nanne for him to bang it home. Fom that point on the Vees settled in, said Harbinson.
As for the trade, it started with the Vees sending rookie defenceman Noah Henry to the Kings for the rights to former Vee Steven Iacobellis. He was then packaged along with rookie forward Alex Jewell to the SilverBacks for Flanagan and future considerations. Harbinson said the difficult part was giving up two talented kids. Henry appeared in 20 games and collected four assists. He joined the Vees after winning the 2012 U.S. national under-18 championship with Shattuck-St. Mary’s Prep School in Minn. Jewell was in his first full season with the Vees, playing in 19 of 20 games, where he tallied two goals and seven points.
Flanagan was in his second season with the SilverBacks, where he had three goals and eight points in 20 games. The rear-guard has 11 goals and 39 points in two seasons with the Silverbacks. He also played two seasons for his hometown Kindersley Klippers of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League and was a member Team Canada West at the 2010 World Junior A Challenge in Penticton.
“If you look over the course of BCHL champions, in most case you’re going to a D-core that’s a little older,” said Harbinson. “I have no problem being a young team. We think we have a chance to be a contender at the end of the year. We have three 20-year-olds in our D-core and a veteran goalie that’s won a championship in this league already. In the playoffs, you need vets in the back end.”
The Vees now have a vacancy at the forward position and Harbinson admitted he doesn’t know who will fill that spot. Ideally, he would like to get a player without having to give one up.
Their next game is against the SilverBacks, which will have Flanagan and forward Brock Balson face their former team. That game will also feature the Vees’ teddy bear toss fundraiser.
“With a one-year-old at home I guess I got some teddy bears, I have enough in my house, I can bring some as well,” said Harbinson. “It’s a great cause and I hope we get a good crowd. It would be nice for us to get back in winning ways and to support a charity like that.”
Vees notes: Gropp has been named to Team Pacific for the 2013 World Junior Under-17 Challenge, which is in Victoriaville/Drummondville, Que., Dec. 29 to Jan. 5. Gropp is the only player from the BCHL to be named to the roster and just one of three from the junior A level. Gropp has five goals and 16 points in 21 games. “It’s a great accomplishment for Ryan to be named to Team Pacific and being able to wear the Hockey Canada jersey on the international stage,” said Harbinson. “We are thrilled for Ryan and the opportunity he has of playing with some of the best players his age in the world.”