It’s going to be different when Wade Murphy steps onto the ice at Bear Mountain Arena.
He used to be cheered every time he scored a goal or set one up. Now he returns as a member of the defending RBC Cup champion Penticton Vees.
“I have been looking forward to this for awhile now,” said Murphy, who was dealt to the Vees on last season’s deadline.
Murphy anticipates the crowd will probably be going against him, but he’s OK with that. He said it will motivate him. Not that he needs any extra incentive, especially when it comes to offensive production. His five goals is second on the team and he leads in points with 17, one point behind league leader Evan Tironese of Alberni Valley. Last weekend, Murphy scored two goals and added four assists in wins against the Vernon Vipers and Trail Smoke Eaters.
While Murphy never asked for a trade from the Grizzlies (6-4-0-1), he still expects to hear some boos, but also hopes for a few cheers. In 100 games for his hometown team, Murphy scored 32 goals and added 50 assists.
The matchup on Friday will also have Grizzles Mark McLellan and Zach Urban, who were involved in the Murphy trade, facing their old team. The Vees will also see former defenceman DJ Jones.
Murphy said to have success on this road trip, that also takes them to Cowichan Valley (2-7-0-1) on Saturday and Nanaimo (4-3-0-1) Sunday afternoon, they will be using their speed and sticking to their game plan. Other keys will be rest and drinking plenty of water.
“I think we’re one of the fastest teams in the league,” said Murphy. “If we press their defence hard I think we will get some good chances offensively.”
During the 7-2 win against Trail, Murphy was in on all three of Louie Nanne’s goals, helping the rookie get his first BCHL hat trick.
“That was an unreal game,” said Murphy. “His dad was in the crowd as well. That was a pretty special moment for him and his family. Him and (Michael) Rebry have been playing unreal lately.”
Vees coach-GM Fred Harbinson said the timing of the road trip is good.
“It’s going to be nice to get on the road for the next five games,” said Harbinson, whose team is ranked No. 2 in the Canadian Junior Hockey League. “It’s obviously going to be a tough test for us over the next five. Three games in two-and-a-half days after a long trip to the Island, it’s never easy.”
To make sure the trip is a success, the coaching staff will be counting on their depth as Harbinson said he has been able to spread the ice time around.
Another thing going well for the Vees is their special teams. While the success rate of the power play (eight-for-48, 16.7 per cent) doesn’t look strong, Harbinson said it’s been really good in the last six games. During that span, the Vees have seven goals, including going three-for-nine in the last two games. They also scored a short-handed goal against Vernon.