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Focus on offence not fading
Eleven goals on 66 shots is what the Penticton Vees pulled off last weekend in two games.
In the previous five games from Jan. 10-18, they only managed to light the lamp nine times.
The current surge in scoring helped the Vees net wins against the Vernon Vipers, 6-1 on Friday, and 5-2 against the Trail Smoke Eaters on Saturday. Against the Vipers Erik Benoit, Cody DePourcq (two) Jarod Hilderman (his first career BCHL goal) and Shane McColgan beat Austin Smith, who was chased. Josh Blanchard then put one by Danny Todosychuk.
The Vees looked good against the Smoke Eaters, who have been re-constructed, as they were aggressive on the puck and taking the body. Steen Cooper opened the scoring, then Brad McClure, McColgan, Nic Pierog and Ben Dalpe beat Smoke Eaters goalie Adam Todd.
Vees coach-GM Fred Harbinson said it comes back to them entering the zone with speed. It enables them to create off of the forecheck.
Part of the Vees’ offensive struggles stemmed from Harbinson and his staff trying to find the right combinations for their lines following roster moves prior to and at the Jan. 10 BCHL deadline. The changes helped boost the depth at the forward position to match the defence and goaltending.
As the Vees were generating some chances in games, Harbinson said they just tried to stay positive.
“You look at the week before, we hit the post a bunch of times. Just didn’t finish our chances,” he said. “I think everything with us is, when we’re playing at a high pace, opportunities will come for us. Sooner or later they will go in.”
Pierog said keeping things simple contributed to the Vees’ success, and added the lines are more settled down after a few weeks of practice.
“I think we’re starting to gel and get a lot more points,” he said. “Things are starting to work out for us, which is nice.”
The Vees’ coaching staff would have had bigger problems to address had the goaltending and defence not performed as strong as it has. In their last three losses, the Vees gave up seven goals.
The work in practice last week worked to generate more goals, but it’s not over. One successful weekend is in the books, but the Vees must keep moving forward. When asked if the focus remains the same this week, the answer from Harbinson is it remains for the rest of the season.
It’s smart to not stray from the path they are on because of a successful two games.
“Doesn’t matter who we’re playing,” said Harbinson. “One of our strongest attributes is our team speed and our depth. We were able to use both last weekend.”
If the Vees can continue to build heading into the final stretch leading into the playoffs, it could be scary in a good way for fans, to see what this group can do. One thing for sure, performances like they just put on will have Penticton and the crowds in the South Okanagan Events Centre buzzing.
During the Vees’ offensive struggles, captain Brad McClure said they knew they were fighting things a bit offensively and they talked about that. What was important to them was maintaining focus on the process.
“Not thinking too much about the goals and they will come and that’s exactly what we did this weekend,” said McClure, adding that it was noticeable the way they moved the puck better and went to the dirty areas.
Vees notes: Max Coatta participated in full practice on Monday but is still listed as day-to-day.
The School Spirit Challenge raised more than $6,100 for the Penticton Soupateria and the South Okanagan Boys and Girls Club on Jan. 18 with 3,375 in attendance. CIBC Wood Gundy generously donated $3,375 to the Okanagan Boys and Girls Club, a dollar for every person in attendance. The Vees donated $1,532, the BC Hockey Hall of Fame donated $1,200 from 50/50 proceeds to the Penticton Soupateria. Uplands Elementary School received $500 for highest attendance, while Parkway Elementary School was given $500 for winning the school spirit award.
Underwriters Insurance donated $1,000 as incentive for the winning schools’ parent advisory council.