Winless in three games against the Salmon Arm SilverBacks, the Penticton Vees are eager to change their fortunes Friday.
It’s the first of a home-and-home series that begins at the South Okanagan Events Centre. It was in the SOEC the teams last met Jan. 18 with the SilverBacks leaving with a 3-2 overtime win. The Vees were not pleased, especially since they gave up a 2-0 lead.
“We owe those guys. They have kind of had our number this year,” said Vees captain Brad McClure. “I think that’s kind of left a bad taste in a lot of our mouths. You don’t forget it, you try to get over it.”
Defenceman Patrick Sexton insists they will be ready to go. The one thing he pointed out is that they must avoid scrums after the whistle with the SilverBacks.
Despite the losing record to their Interior Division foes, Vees coach Fred Harbinson said they have done lots of good things.
“I think we’ve identified the things that we need to correct over the course of the week and we’re looking forward to getting them back in our building,” said Harbinson.
Harbinson said what makes the SilverBacks, with 23 wins, 17 losses, one tie and five overtime losses, a tough opponent is “they have one line that has about 167 points.”
The trio Harbinson refers to is called the Gas Line in Salmon Arm and is led by BCHL point leader Landon Smith, who has scored 38 goals and has 70 points in 46 games. He lines up with Alex Gillies with 53 points in 39 games and Evan Anderson, 42 points in 37 games. Anderson won’t be playing due to a concussion sustained in the last meeting against the Vees where he took a hard hit by Cam Amantea. The Vee was suspended for three games and is eligible to return Saturday.
Harbinson also pointed out the SilverBacks receive strong goaltending from Adam Clark and Angus Redmond.
“They play with a lot of energy throughout their lineup,” said Harbinson.
When asked about the success against the Vees, SilverBacks coach Troy Mick didn’t have an answer. Along with outscoring the Interior Division leaders, 12-6, they have also outshot them 90-72.
“They are an excellent team,” said Mick. “One of the best teams in the country (ranked 11th in the Canadian Junior Hockey League as of Jan.27). They’re the guys with the swagger. Our guys obviously get excited to play them just because they have been good for so long.”
Special teams have also played in the SilverBacks’ favour against the Vees, scoring at a 30 per cent efficiency rate. The Vees who have yet to score on three man-advantages. against Salmon Arm.
In their last game against the SilverBacks, the Vees’ penalty killing was excellent, killing all four penalties, including a five-minute major given to Amantea that carried into overtime. Mick said the SilverBacks will have more success if they can keep the Vees off the power play, especially in the SOEC.
“You look at their roster, they have a lot of fire power,” he said. “A lot of different weapons that can beat you. We watched the game when they went into Vernon and beat them 6-1. They had the power-play goals, they kind of got their swagger of scoring some goals back.”
Mick is aware the Vees (29-11-2-4) have payback on their minds. However, one thing he’s not concerned about is motivating his players.
“When you’re playing a team like Penticton, it’s like when teams play the Pittsburgh Penguins. They know they are going to have to be their best to beat them,” he said. “You shouldn’t have to motivate guys to play them.”
The SilverBacks may be undefeated against the Vees this season, but it’s not the approach they are taking.
“As far as we’re concerned, this is the first game we’ve played against them, said Mick.