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Vees hungry to win again
Last year didn’t end like the Penticton Vees wanted. West Kelowna handed them 3-1 and 4-0 losses in a home-and-home series Dec. 20 and 21st, respectively.
Now they are focused on making a statement in 2014.
“We want to get back to our winning ways,” said defenceman Chris Rygus, who went home to Missassauga, Ont. for the Christmas break. “Really start separating ourselves and put really good winning streaks together like we did just before the break.”
Rygus said those two losses kind of stung, but what they learned is not to look too far ahead.
The Vees begin the new year with a home-and-home set with the Merritt Centennials, the first game in Merritt on Friday with the second Sunday in the South Okanagan Events Centre at 3 p.m. The Centennials are fifth in the Interior Division with 19 wins in 36 games and have won their last two games. The Vees have a five-point cushion on the Vernon Vipers for first with 24 wins in 37 games.
Rygus said the importance of these next two games is getting back into a groove. The Vees are 3-0-0-1 against the Centennials. The loss came at the SOEC on Oct. 16 in double-overtime. In the four games, the Vees have outscored the Centennials 15-9.
Rygus has noticed that the Centennials like to play a physical style and get as many shots on net as possible.
“The big difference, I think, going through the home-and-home series is special teams as well,” he said.
Sixteen penalties were handed out in the last two games between the teams. The Vees going 3-for-8, while the Centennials were 1-for-7. The Vees have the best power-play in the BCHL at 25 per cent with 37 goals on 146 chances. The Centennials are seventh best, scoring 19 per cent of the time (28-for-145).
The Vees players also know now what to expect from the Nicola Valley Arena with the strange bounces that the puck takes at times.
“It was kind of like a rude awakening, the first five minutes, but everyone is stressing how different it is,” he said. “We will have a game plan based around that.”
With the Christmas break over as he spent time with family and friends, Rygus said he’s refreshed and was eager to get back to Penticton two days before returning.
“Just taking your mind off hockey for a bit,” he added.
Ice chips: Former Vee Zac Dalpe scored his first goal as a Canuck during a 4-2 loss against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Jan. 1. Dalpe’s goal had tied the game at two … BCHL grad and former Vee Michael Garteig has been named ECAC Hockey goalie of the week again. He went 1-0-1 during the UConn Hockey Classic to record a .936 save percentage and 0.96 goals against average. He stopped 19 of 21 shots in a tie against UMass ... The Valley West Hawks of the B.C. Major Midget League posted on their Twitter account that Mitch Newsome has committed to join the Vees next season. In one game as an affiliate, Newsome has one goal. In 26 games with the Hawks, Newsome has 13 goals and 28 points.