Bantam Vees advance to OMAHA finals

Aaron Funk, middle, of the Penticton bantam Tier 2 Vees, celebrates a goal with teammates during their playoff game against the Kelowna Rockets.  - Emanuel Sequeira/Penticton Western News
Aaron Funk, middle, of the Penticton bantam Tier 2 Vees, celebrates a goal with teammates during their playoff game against the Kelowna Rockets.
— image credit: Emanuel Sequeira/Penticton Western News

The Penticton Murray GM bantam Tier 2 Vees have advanced to the Okanagan Mainline Amateur Hockey Association finals.

The Vees swept their opening round against the Kelowna Rockets (Central Zone) with a 4-1 win at Memorial Arena on Feb. 11, then ended the Rockets season on Feb.13 3-2 in triple overtime. Captain Kai Espenhain scored on a breakaway.

“It was quite the exciting game,” said Vees assistant coach Chad Deleeuw.

The Vees opened the scoring on a goal from Ryan Polvere, but the Rockets quickly replied on a power play. On another power play, the Rockets went up 2-1 early in the 3rd period. The Vees tied up the score with their own power play goal halfway through the period from Carter White. Espenhain’s goal came while playing three-on-three.

READ MORE: PMHA Vees ready for playoff battles

“It was back and forth. They had exceptional goaltending,” said Deleeuw. “He made some big saves. Kai beat him with a nice stick-side shot.”

Deleeuw said the Vees played pretty well.

“They were fighting for their lives in an elimination game,” he said. “We matched the intensity.”

The Vees will now play the winner between West Kelowna or Kamloops. Those teams will decide their best-of-three series this weekend.

Pilot midget squad progressed

South Zone midget coach Wade Parker described his team’s regular season as going through “some ups and downs.” They won three of 16 games as a pilot project team. Parker said B.C. Hockey is looking to implement zone play at the bantam and midget levels going forward.

Stacey Gagno, president of Penticton Minor Hockey Association, added that forming the team has been a partnership between B.C. Hockey and the Okanagan Mainline Amateur Hockey Association.

The team features players from Osoyoos (two), Penticton (eight), Summerland (four) and West Kelowna (four). The only area they didn’t take players from was Princeton. Younger players from that area tried out as first-year midgets, but Parker chose to go with an older group. When asked about the highlights of the season, Parker said the best thing has been kids playing with others they didn’t know before.

The South Zone was swept out of the OMAHA playoffs by the Central Zone, losing 2-1 in Kelowna and 5-1 at home. Penalties hurt them as they served 40 minutes in the box.

“Nobody quit,” said Parker. “We didn’t get the result we hoped for. The effort was there. I was happy with that.”

“It was a great opportunity for them to meet new friends,” said Parker, who formed a line featuring a Osoyoos, Summerland and West Kelowna players. “I also think the calibre of the league has been an eye-opener for the kids from this area. The team from Kelowna (Central Zone), Kamloops (Thompson) and Prince George (they don’t compete in playoffs), they are all very strong.”

“The great thing about this is it enables kids to play the level of hockey that they are skilled to play at and still be within their community,” said Gagno.

Parker constructed a team with a big forward group that plays a physical style and forechecks.


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