Steen Cooper is a big part of the Penticton Vees success.
He snapped a nine-game goal drought against the Trail Smoke Eaters Feb.14 en route to a Vees 5-2 victory and their second BCHL Ron Boileau Trophy in four years as regular season champs.
“Clinching the league title was fantastic, great feeling,” said Cooper, who past his career high of 10 goals with 12 this season, while adding 11 assists in 53 games. “I have never won a league title. It’s definitely something to play for. Just getting ready for playoffs and use that as motivation.”
At Trail’s Cominco Arena, the Vees trailed 1-0, then 2-1 before Gabe Bast evened things at two. Cooper’s winner came less than three minutes after Bast’s equalizer.
“Him coming through in the third period the other night didn’t surprise me,” said Vees coach-general manager Fred Harbinson. “Good things happen to guys that compete the way he does.”
Cooper experienced a slow start offensively this season, but Harbinson still felt the 19-year-old was playing well. Headed for the Minnesota-State Mavericks next fall, Cooper started taking off offensively in late November and since then the Vees coach said he’s had a “heck of a year.”
“If he’s not scoring, he’s sure working his butt off and it’s contagious,” said Harbinson, adding that Cooper does a little bit of everything including blocking shots and delivering hits. “He’s one of those guys as a coach you teach guys that if you are not scoring, find something else you can hang your hat on. He’s done a great job of that.”
Cooper likes the way he is playing and maintains he just focuses on a 200-foot game, while looking out for what is best for the Vees. In the last few games, he has lined up with Riley Alferd and Jack Ramsey.
“I think we’re a good fit for each other,” he said. “Alferd and Ramsey are having good years. Ramsey was drafted (by the Chicago Blackhawks last summer). It’s nice to play with a draft pick, definitely no complaints there. Alferd is a very fast forward, good centreman.”
Harbinson pulled Matthew Serratore from that line to reduce his ice time in order to get his timing back a bit since returning from his fractured ankle injury that kept him out for two months.
Cooper will be looking to maintain his strong play this weekend as the Vees host the Merritt Centennials Friday night, then look for redemption against the Alberni Valley Bulldogs, who beat them 3-0 in Alberni Valley on Feb. 8.
Ice chips: Forward Mitch Newsome filled in as a backup against the Smoke Eaters Saturday when Brendan Barry became ill. Upon arriving at the South Okanagan Events Centre, Harbinson filled Newsome in on the situation.
“I thought it was a joke at first,” said Newsome, who played goal six years ago and added he figured that is why they picked him. “It was a good experience. On Saturday, when the Vees play the Bulldogs, they will while sporting pink jerseys for their third annual Anti-Bullying/School Challenge. The jerseys will be available to be purchased in the Blue zone. Also, fans will have the chance to compete for $10,000 in the Sendero Canyon Skills Competition in the first intermission. Three fans will be randomly selected to compete and one person will have the chance to take home $10,000. On Feb. 27 against the Vernon Vipers, the Vees have teamed up with Kirk Chamberlain and Associates from Coldwell Banker for a Crack the Code contest giving fans a chance to win a $2,500,000 home in Summerland. Ten fans will be randomly selected to head to centre ice and have one chance to punch in a six-digit code on a vault keypad to try and win. Fans must be 18 and older to be eligible. The prize home is a 4,244 square foot waterfront home with four bedrooms and five bathrooms on Landry Crescent. It comes with approximately 75 feet of beautiful sandy beach and a 170-feet shared dock & deep water moorage. To see more about the listing and look at pictures of the prize home, visit www.kirkchamberlain.ca.