Scoring early and often helped the Penticton Vees smoke the Trail Smoke Eaters out of the South Okanagan Events Centre 7-3 on Sunday.
The two points gained helped the BCHL team set a franchise record breaking the 98 points earned by the Penticton Panthers in the 2000/01 season.
Second-year blueliner Derik Johnson said the team reaching 100 points is a big accomplishment.
“No team in Penticton Vees history has gotten 100 points,” he said. “It’s something we can take with us the rest of our lives. It’s pretty special and then for Beau Bennett to win the scoring title on the night is pretty special. He’s a heck of a hockey player and he has got a long career ahead of him.”
Star rookie Beau Bennett chipped away at Salmon Arm SilverBacks sniper Mark Zengerle’s lead for the scoring title. With a goal and four points, Bennett tied Zengerle for the scoring lead at 120 points for the Brett Hull trophy.
“It was exciting and it’s a tribute we have a great team,” said Bennett of his feat, which 1,097 fans watched. Bennett added that being part of history, something he said people will never forget, is great.
“Everyone loves everyone on the team so it has been an outstanding year and we will carry it into the playoffs for sure,” he said.
The Vees opened the scoring when Alex Szczechura scored his first of two goals, with Bennett and Laleggia setting him up. Bennett’s second point of the evening came on his 41st goal as he fired a rebound over Smoke Eaters goalie Garrett Beckwith.
The Vees came out strong in the first period outshooting the Smoke Eaters 17-6 and racking up a 3-0 lead. The second period saw the Vees collect another three goals but were outshot 17-12 because of penalty trouble. With Jake Johnson in the box, Smoke Eaters captain Paul Mailey got the visitors on the board. Eric Walker added one more for the Smoke Eaters to make it 6-2 in the second period. Vees goalie Joel Rumpel was strong making 25 saves to earn his 19th win.
“It was awesome because he hasn’t played in a while,” said Bennett of Rumpel. “Shake off the cobwebs there. He stood on his head for a bit.”
Bennett said they didn’t lose focus against the Smoke Eaters who always play them tough.
“We wanted to set the tone and they are always a good challenge,” said Bennett, who was named the Vees’ Rookie of the Year.
The key Bennett said to winning was their execution early and ability to not allow Trail to pressure them.
“That first period they only had six shots,” added Bennett. “It was great defence combined with good offence.”
Vees coach-general manager Fred Harbinson liked that the team finished the season with a strong win and that it’s a great feat to get 100 points. For Bennett winning the scoring title, Harbinson was impressed with that accomplishment.
“For a rookie to win is amazing,” said Harbinson, who has amassed a 125-40-2-13 regular season record in three regular seasons and is a nominee for Coach of the Year in the Interior Conference. “He had to battle through losing his centre man and he is a key to our success.”
Harbinson said since Christmas, he has seen Bennett takes strides that helped him go from a good player to an elite one.
“He wants to win a championship more than a scoring title,” said Harbinson. “The team wants a championship more than 100 points.”
On Saturday evening, the Vees held their annual awards banquet. The winners are as follows: Bo Dolan was the recipient of the Robert Skinner Courage Award, while Logan Johnston is the Most Improved. Derik Johnson was named the Best Conditioned Athlete for a second time. The Academic Award went to Isaac MacLeod, while Garrett Milan was named the Most Inspirational for a second time as did Joey Holka for the Humanitarian Award. This years unsung hero went to Alex Szczechura, while Luke Curadi is the Fan Favourite, Byron Sorenson winner of the Most Sportsmanlike and Matt Paltridge kept the honour of Vees on Vees Most Popular and claimed the Best Defenceman Award. Captain Denver Manderson is the Most Valuable Player for a second time. For video with some of the awards recipients, go to www.pentictonwesternnews.com.
Penticton Vees rookie forward Beau Bennett is the first Penticton player to win the Brett Hull trophy since Hull did it himself in 1984. To find out which Vees won awards during its weekend awards banquet and for video, check www.pentictonwesternnews.com.