Vees to play gritty style

The Penticton Vees aim to continue their gritty crash the net style against Merritt Friday

The Penticton Vees plan to treat Friday’s tilt with the Merritt Centennials like Game 7 of a playoff series.

“We want this bad,” said Vees goalie Hunter Miska, after making 28 saves in a 8-4 win over the West Kelowna Warriors at Royal LePage Place on Tuesday. “They beat us last game (4-1 at Nicola Valley Arena). We’re going to remember how that felt.”

The Centennials are 7-3-0 in their last 10 games, and 9-9-0-2 on the road. The Centennials also played Tuesday at home, losing 5-4 to the Trail Smoke Eaters after leading 2-0 and 3-1. Centennials coach Luke Pierce said they had a strong start then faded, despite allowing just 16 shots. He added goalie Anthony Pupplo didn’t have his best night and the coach was disappointed with the teams execution.

“I thought we could have scored a lot more than the four goals that we ended up getting,” he said. “We had some great chances. It was a tough setback for us.”

It won’t be Pupplo behind the net though. The Vees will face Jonah Imoo, who earned BCHL player of the week honours after he turned aside 97 of 103 shots for a .942 save percentage. Imoo picked up wins against Langley, first star nod against the Vees and defeated the Island-leading Nanaimo Clippers.

“I just thought he was really efficient. He’s a big guy that gets in the way of pucks,” said Pierce. “The rebounds were flowing in front of him. He was able to smother it and wasn’t giving up a lot of second chances. Our team did a good job too. Didn’t give up a ton of rebounds.”

In facing the Vees, Pierce wants to see consistency and that is no matter who they face.

“We know we are going to have to be much better,” he said.

The Vees want to bring the same effort that they showed against the Smoke Eaters and Warriors on Jan. 17 and 20.

“It was a good, gritty, hard-fought win,” said Vees forward Connor Chartier, who scored a hat trick against the Warriors. “I think we came out strong right from the get-go and finished it off strong.”

Chartier, who now has eight points in his last two games, said they need to continue playing like they have the last two games.

“Kind of getting everything to the net,” he said. “As long as players follow it to the net.

Chartier added the win against West Kelowna was huge. Miska liked how his teammates crashed the net and looked for rebounds to score.

“That’s how you are going to score goals. Not too many off the rush,” he said. “I think that’s going to be a key component in our game.”

“We know they can be a first round opponent. We need to prove something out there and I thought we did,” he said.

Miska felt the group played well and showed character, especially as they mainly used four defenceman as affiliate players Tyler Holz and Greg Brydon didn’t see a lot of action. Of the four goals scored, two were even strength.

“I felt like I played pretty well. The goals they got were pretty greasy,” he said. “They were scoring on second and third opportunities on rebounds I was giving up. I felt like they should only have scored one or two goals. We won the game that’s all that matters.”

Vees notes: Defenceman Jarod Hilderman helped Team West defeat Team East in the Canadian Junior Hockey League Prospects game. Hilderman, who was joined by teammates Gabe Bast and Lewis Zerter-Gossage, scored the opening goal and the winner with 7.3 seconds remaining in the game. NHL Central Scouting released its mid term rankings and Bast is rated 209th overall among North American skaters.