Busier week­end for Vees

Pen­tic­ton well rested, head­ing to Mer­ritt tonight, hosts Vic­to­ria on Satur­day

Penticton Herald - - SPORTS - By Pen­tic­ton Her­ald Staff

Prac­tice makes per­fect and the Pen­tic­ton Vees have had more time to do so than most teams in the first five weeks of the B.C. Hockey League sea­son.

The Vees (6-0-0-1), the lone un­beaten team in the 17-team league, visit the Mer­ritt Cen­ten­ni­als tonight at 7 p.m., and host the Vic­to­ria Griz­zlies on Satur­day at 6 p.m. at the South Okana­gan Events Cen­tre.

The Vees have played the fewest game in the league (7), with the Pow­ell River Kings (9) the only other team to play fewer than 10.

It’s given the Vees plenty of time to work on things like sys­tems play and spe­cial teams be­fore the sched­ule starts to heat up.

“We’ve had re­ally good prac­tice habits and pay a lot of at­ten­tion to de­tails,” said Vees co­cap­tain Owen Sillinger. “It’s been high-pace and in­tense . . . we prac­tice the way we want to play.”

One area GM/head coach Fred Harbin­son would like to see im­prove­ment is cut­ting down the num­ber of penal­ties.

In the home-and-home se­ries ver­sus Ver­non on the week­end, the Vees were short­handed 15 times, but sur­ren­dered just one goal against one of the league’s top power plays.

Harbin­son said with the new rules re­lated to slash­ing, as well as the con­tin­ued crack­down on re­strain­ing fouls, there have been 100 more power plays than there were through the same first 90 games last sea­son.

“Some teams are adapt­ing, but we haven’t been one of them so far,” said Harbin­son. “It’s not cost­ing us right now with our PK be­ing so solid, but we can’t be play­ing short­handed seven or eight times a game.”

Harbin­son said it’s been hard to get a han­dle on how the rules will be en­forced.

“It can be a slash to the hands, a tap on the pants or knees,” said the coach. “We’re hop­ing to get a bet­ter of un­der­stand­ing of what will be called. We do a pretty good job of defending with our sticks on the ice, so we’ll get bet­ter at it.”

The Vees are mak­ing their sec­ond visit to Mer­ritt af­ter open­ing the sea­son Sept. 8 with a 4-2 win at the cozy con­fines of the Ni­cola Val­ley Arena. Mer­ritt (3-7-1-0) lost 3-2 in over­time at Prince Ge­orge Wed­nes­day night and re­main in last place in the In­te­rior Di­vi­sion.

“It’s al­ways chal­leng­ing play­ing on that small ice sur­face,” said Harbin­son.

The Griz­zlies (7-3-0) have won three in a row and five of six af­ter a so-so start for the Is­land Di­vi­sion’s sec­ond-placed squad.

“They’ve got some high-end tal­ent, some real ex­plo­sive of­fen­sive play­ers with elec­tric speed,” said Harbin­son.

Two of the top 2001-born play­ers in ju­nior hockey play for the Griz­zlies — for­ward Alex Ne­whook (com­mit­ted to Bos­ton Col­lege) and de­fence­man Jac­son Alexan­der (com­mit­ted to Den­ver). Ne­whook leads the Griz­zlies with 12 points (11 as­sists), while Alexan­der has a goal and an as­sist.

“It should be a re­ally ex­cit­ing game with great pace on both sides,” said Harbin­son. “They come in af­ter play­ing in Trail (tonight) and we come in from play­ing Mer­ritt.”

Harbin­son hadn’t de­cided on his goal­tend­ing ro­ta­tion for the week­end, with rookie Adam Scheel hav­ing played the last four games and es­tab­lish­ing him­self as one of the best in the BCHL. The coach said ear­lier in the week that both Scheel and Nolan Hilde­brand would be play­ing lots with so many two- and three-game weeks sched­uled be­fore Christ­mas.

On the in­jury front, the Vees will likely be with­out de­fence­men Joe Leahy (head) and Greg Bry­don (lower-body), and for­ward Tay­lor Ward (up­per-body), though all three could be cleared to play in the next few weeks. De­fence­man Ryan O’Con­nell re­turns af­ter miss­ing the two Ver­non games due to per­sonal rea­sons.

Bar­ring some­thing un­fore­seen, the Vees will again dress 13 for­wards and five de­fence­men for the week­end games.

WILD 3 VIPERS 2: Sam Hesler scored 2:17 into the third pe­riod pe­riod as We­natchee over­came an early 2-0 deficit to edge vis­it­ing Ver­non on Wed­nes­day.

Daniel Chaldek and Chad Sasaki also scored for the Wild (6-3-0-1), who moved into a tie with the Vees for fourth place in the In­te­rior.

Ja­son Wil­liamson and Key­van Mokhtari replied for Ver­non (7-3-0-2), who are win­less in three games and re­main tied for first place with the West Kelowna War­riors. The Wild out­shot the Vipers 27-13.

ICE CHIPS: For­mer Vees net­min­der Olivier Man­tha earned Western Col­le­giate Hockey As­so­ci­a­tion goalie of the week hon­ours. The na­tive of La Tuque, Que., kicked out 74 of 78 shots for Univer­sity of Alaska An­chor­age as they posted a 1-1 tie and a 3-2 over­time loss ver­sus NCAA pow­er­house Univer­sity of North Dakota on the open­ing week­end of league play. Man­tha and Hunter Miska shared the Wally Forslund Tro­phy as the BCHL’s top goalie tan­dem with the Vees in 2013-14. Man­tha was 17-8 with a .917 save per­cent­age and 2.15 goals-against av­er­age in what was his lone sea­son in the BCHL.

DAVID CROMPTON/Pen­tic­ton Her­ald

BCHL Player of the Week Adam Scheel has sparkled for the Pen­tic­ton Vees, post­ing a 4-00-1 record, 1.45 goals-against av­er­age and .952 save per­cent­age.

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