Scott Conway posted a strong message on Twitter after the Penticton Vees’ 23-game win streak ended following a 4-2 loss in Langley on Nov. 20.
“Now we have experienced it all,” he wrote. “Teams better watch out the rest of the year because we are coming harder than ever.”
The next day the Vees, Canada’s top junior A team, speed-bagged the Coquitlam Express 8-2 with the knock-out punch delivered in the first period with five goals.
When asked about the message Conway said people could have seen that coming. The sign to him was them being in closer games where at the start of the season they were wining by a minimum of three goals.
“All of a sudden it’s overtime, overtime … eventually it was bound to come that loss,” he said. “The whole point about the tweet was after that loss we got really close together. We just stayed together and helped each other out and we know how it feels to lose now. After the first game we did too, but after the win streak it definitely hurt us a little bit. Now we’re not focused more on the win streak, we’re focused on staying together as a team and winning the next game, and the next game after that.”
Agianst the Express on Saturday, the Vees surrendered the first goal for the sixth time in 26 games. It was all Vees after that with eight unanswered goals by Easton Brodzinski, Demico Hannoun, Dante Fabbro, the eventual winner, Tyson Jost, Fabbro again, Scott Conway, Chris Gerrie and Brodzinski a second time. The Vees fired 44 shots at the Express and starter Tyger Howat was yanked after 24 minutes, 46 seconds of action in which he allowed seven goals on 24 shots. He was relieved by Lawson Fenton.
Vees coach-general manager Fred Harbinson said it was his team’s hardest working game of the year.
“Both ways I thought when we had the puck we were moving it real quick and moving our feet,” he said. “As soon as we lost the puck, we found ways to retrieve it and recover it. It was something we talked about in the morning. Sometimes a loss is what can spur you and get you back on track. The streak was fun while it lasted. We want to win every game and we didn’t on Friday. We found a way to on Saturday.”
Conway said it wasn’t even the goals that was impressive about the win.
“I just think we were all over them since the drop of the puck,” he added. “We want to be the hardest working team in this league right now. It definitely showed this weekend.”
In the loss to the Rivermen, Harbinson said it wasn’t a bad game by the players. They had challenges moving the puck like they wanted to throughout the neutral zone. The Rivermen clogged it up well, Harbinson said.
Fabbro said the loss sparked something in them as they haven’t been in their opinion. He talked about wanting to get back to details. He agreed they took it to the Express.
“I think the biggest thing was we never got down on each other. Quite honestly that was probably one of the first games in a while that I have noticed everybody was excited for one and other,” said Fabbro, who along with Jost, was given an A-rating (first round candidate) by NHL Central Scouting for the NHL Entry Draft. “We didn’t have outside distractions like that streak.”
The Vees began prepping for the Vernon Vipers on Wednesday, 7 p.m. puck drop at the South Okanagan Events Centre, by having a Monday practice about competing. Competing for pucks that ended with a hard skate.
“We want to protect our home ice. We’ve had a pretty good record here so far,” said Fabbro. “We can’t take them for granted. They have shown in the past to be pretty hot against us. And us against them too. It should be a fun game. I know all the guys are excited for it.”
The Vipers are fourth in the Interior Division with a 13-13-0-1 record. The Vees won the first meeting between the two 3-2 at the Bauer BCHL Showcase.
The Vipers have four new additions in Christian Cakebread, who is committed to the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks, and has 11 points in nine games. He played with Auston Matthews on U16 Team Arizona and was with Fargo of USHL last year, as well as Charley Michalowski, who wears No.9, Ben Butcher and Latrell Charleson.
Michalowski, a 19-year-old Boston product and big fan of Bruin centre Patrice Bergerson, posted two goals in eight games with the USHL Cedar Rapids RoughRiders and was seeking a change of scenery before joining New Hampshire’s Dartmouth Big Green of the NCAA next year. His family advisor recommended the Vipers.
“It’s a way different league, a lot more open ice, people try to make plays all over the place and not just chip and chase. It’s a little less physical so it’s a little bit more fun to play in.”
The six-foot, 185-pound Michalowski, also a Red Sox fan who played catcher in his early teens, played some prep school hockey against Viper Joe Sacco. Michalowski rang up 41 points in 31 games with Belmont Hill High last year.