Wicked Wednesday is returning with a vengeance to the South Okanagan Events Centre tonight as the Penticton Vees (5-4) host the B.C. Hockey League Interior Division-leading Merritt Centennials (7-5).
The Centennials, who lost to the Vees in Merritt 6-3 on Sept. 28 in their first meeting, currently have a one point lead over the Trail Smoke Eaters.
“It better be wicked,” said Penticton coach, president and general manager Fred Harbinson Tuesday following the team practice. “It’s exciting to have Cassidy Bowes back in the line up, it’s good to see him playing again.
“Our two home games so far this year we’ve been, lights out, the better club and hopefully we’ll continue playing that way no mater who’s in or who’s out of the line up.”
Two players who won’t be on the roster Wednesday are forward Drew Esler and defenceman Mason Snell. Elser was injured in Friday’s game and Snell was assessed a two-game suspension by the league for a hit from behind in Saturday’s game against Vernon.
Jack Barnes, who was also injured Friday, has been sick as well and it’s not known if he will play.
The Vees and Vernon Vipers, who along with the Wenatchee Wild are tied for fifth place in the division with 10 points each, split a pair of home and away contests last weekend.
Coming into the mid-week game the Vees are sporting the league’s top goaltender in Jack LaFontaine, who will get the start again Wednesday.
With a record of four wins and three losses, the 20-year-old Mississauga native, a 2016 North Carolina Hurricanes draft pick, has a .917 save percentage and a stingy 1.87 goals against average, giving up just 13 goals in his seven games.
He also has a league-leading two shutouts.
Despite the loss Saturday to the Vipers in Vernon, Harbinson was still happy with his squad’s effort.
“Friday was one of the best games we played. I think it was one of the best games we played in the last few years,” said Harbinson.
“We competed so hard and pressured the puck in our own end and, really, to give up four shots over two periods to a team like that and to finish it off with a shutout…
“Vernon was a much better team the next night but I thought we still played a really solid game, we just ran out of gas, too many penalties.”
Friday LaFontaine only had to stop 13 shots to earn his second consecutive shutout of the season as the hosts blanked the Vipers 3-0.
The following night in Vernon a pair of power play goals proved to be the margin of victory in a 2-1 loss which snapped a three-game Penticton win streak.
The Vipers ran into penalty trouble in the first period of Friday’s game, sitting out five minor infractions and managing just a single shot on net.
The only goal of the frame was at 17:31 when Jack Barnes netted his first of the season from newcomer Eric Linell and Jack Lagerstrom.
It took Ryan Sandelin just 12 seconds into the second to put the team ahead by a pair of goals with power play goal and James Miller capped off a two-point night in the third with his second of the year.
The next night in Vernon the hosts opened the scoring with a power play goal midway through the first however Kenny Johnson’s shorthanded tally tied things up heading into the third.
Jesse Lansdell’s second of the season at 11:39 of the final frame with a Vee in the box proved to be the winner.
LaFontaine stopped 24 shots in the loss.
The game against Merritt is the first of six Boston Pizza Wicked Wednesdays and general admission tickets are $5. It is a 7 p.m. start.
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Mark Brett | Reporter
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