Only the Westside Warriors and Powell River Kings stand in the way of the Penticton Vees wrapping up their schedule with two more Ws entering the Christmas break.
The Warriors (10-14-1-5) visit the South Okanagan Events Centre Friday after having won three of their last 10 games. The Warriors recently made deals to shake up the team. On Monday, they moved scorer Richard Vanderhoek to the Cowichan Valley Capitals on Monday for David Pope. The Warriors are 2-3-0-1 this month.
Vees rookie forward Steven Fogarty described Westside as a hard-working team that plays physical.
“They have some big D. I think a big part of it is we need to target their D,” said Fogarty. “They have a few who like to skate it up so we have to finish our checks early.”
The Kings are in Penticton Saturday and this will pit the Vees against the second-best team in the Coastal Conference. The Kings have scored 75 fewer goals and have played two fewer games than the Vees, however, they have allowed the fewest goals in the league with 75. The Vees have allowed 87.
Vees veteran defenceman Nick Buchanan is familiar with the Kings as he played against them as a member of the Victoria Grizzlies.
“The book on them is basically they are a great defensive team,” said Buchanan, who recently committed to Minnesota State University-Mankato Mavericks. “You have to be prepared to outwork them. Just get shots on net and try and outwork their defence.”
Vees captain Logan Johnston said the team is looking forward to that matchup.
“It’s a statement game,” said Johnston, as he and his teammates are showing Coastal teams they can win there as well. “I’m sure they are excited to play us, too.”
Goalie Michael Garteig had it circled on his calendar since he arrived in the sunny Okanagan. The Prince George native won 52 games in a Kings jersey.
“It will be interesting for sure,” said Garteig. “It’s going to be a pretty emotional one. I’m really excited to play Powell River.”
Asked about his potential matchup with former backup Sean Maguire, Garteig said he isn’t sure if they will go head-to-head. The two talk, but whether Maguire starts didn’t come up.
The Vees are enjoying a 16-game win streak after defeating the Merritt Centennials 4-1 in the Nicola Valley Arena on Tuesday night.
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To get the players not familiar with the Centennials small rink, the Vees had their morning skate in Memorial Arena.
Fogarty, who finished with two assists on the night said it was different for he and the other rookies to play in that small rink for the first time. He said skating in Memorial Arena in the morning helped with the adjustment.
“I didn’t really know what to expect but when we went to Memorial you go behind the net and there is no room at all,” said Fogarty, who has 24 assists in 33 games. “The corners, once you take a shot you are already against the boards almost. I think we adapted to it pretty well.”
Playing in a small rink against a physical team, Buchanan said he knew it would be a tough game. The Vees took a 2-0 lead into the third period when Joey Benik took a feed from Fogarty to make it 3-0. Chad Brears countered for the Centennials late in the period. Bryce Gervais then potted his 30th of the season into an empty net.
“It was a close game until the third,” said Buchanan. “The team battled hard and we played a simple game like we wanted to.”
The Vees opened the scoring on a goal by Gervais, assisted by Fogarty and Benik. Ryan Reilly scored the other Vees goal.
For these final two home games this month, Peters Bros. Construction and Paving and the Vees are teaming up to get kids in the rink. With the purchase of one adult or senior ticket, all children 12 and under will be issued a free ticket thanks to Peters Bros. Construction and Paving. This offer is only available at the SOEC box office.