The only thing Penticton Vees coach-general manager Fred Harbinson remembers about playing Salmon Arm was getting shut out.
“Hopefully our players do too,” he said.
The Silverbacks blanked the Vees 3-0 at the Shaw Centre on Jan. 3 in BCHL action. Harbinson expects a rematch on the final Wicked Wednesday of the season at the South Okanagan Events Centre to be a competitive affair with tight checking.
“It’s a team that is fighting to make it into the playoffs,” said Harbinson, as the Silverbacks trail West Kelowna by four points with two games in hand. “They are clearly a desperate hockey club right now. We’re fighting to try and stay on top.”
Harbinson also realizes the Silverbacks have improved their defence with some moves that brought in Anthony Gardner and Jordan Burns, while shipping out Cole MacCaskill.
“They have a lot of guys you have to be careful with,” said Harbinson. “Farney is having a heck of a year.”
Harbinson was referring to blue liner Andrew Farney who has 14 goals and 46 points in 45 games.
“Farney, he can really move on the back end,” added Vees forward Jack Ramsey. “He’s always a threat whenever he’s on the ice.”
The Silverbacks have won five of their last 10 games and are 8-10-1-3 on the road. Ramsey added they are playing hard hockey right now and stressed the importance for the Vees, ranked fourth in the Canadian Junior Hockey League, to show up.
“It’s exciting today that obviously we clinched a playoff spot,” said Ramsey on Monday. “That can’t change anything for us. We still have to play like we’re fighting for a spot too.”
Harbinson liked the effort the players put in Monday’s practice and how they played their last two games, which included a 4-1 win over Merritt on Friday night. That was a statement game Vees co-captain Patrick Sexton said.
“We were pretty upset after the way our games in Merritt ended,” said Sexton after the win. “This is probably one of our most complete games of the year.”
Dakota Conroy opened the scoring 1:30 into the match. Demico Hannoun then took advantage of a power play to give the Vees a 2-0 lead. Tyson Jost and Riley Alferd also struck for the Vees, while Zak Bowles scored for the Centennials.
During the intermissions Friday, Sexton appeared on the scoreboard of the SOEC asking fans to make donations to help his former teammate Neil Doef of the Smith Falls Bears. Doef sustained a spinal cord injury while representing Team Canada East at the World Junior A Challenge last December. Sexton played three games with Doef in his final season as a Bear in 2012-13.
“I want to do my part. We’re all in the same boat. It could happen to any of us,” said Sexton, adding that he wanted Doef to know the Vees organization is behind him.
Sexton approached Kevan Scott, community co-ordinator and game night services for the Vees, and Fraser Rodgers, director of broadcasting and media relations, that he wanted to help Doef financially by raising money. The Vees will help out for two more home games.
“I hope the city of Penticton can rally behind him as much as we have,” said Sexton, adding that Doef is a great guy.
Vees notes: Forward Matthew Serratore is waiting to be cleared for contact. Harbinson said he’s flying on the ice. “You can tell he’s itching to get back into it. It’s getting him an opportunity to get his timing back. When the doctor said he’s ready to take contact he will be back in the lineup.”