Penticton Vees netminder Nolan Hildebrand (above) and Adam Scheel have the top save percentage and goals against average in the BCHL.Western News file photo

Penticton Vees goalie duo packs a punch

Netminder tandem for the Penticton Vees is among the best in the BCHL

You might think a guy from Lakewood, Ohio and another from Summerland, B.C. wouldn’t have much in common, but these two “nerdy” goalies do — together they are the top tandem in the BCHL right now.

Penticton Vees’ Adam Scheel and his goaltending partner, Nolan Hildebrand, have the best save percentage and goals against average in the league.

Related: Vees rookie goalie ready for debut

“We play a style that we try to really help our goaltenders as far as our commitment to play away from the puck and in our end,” said Vees coach Fred Harbinson. “The old days of maybe having a guy that doesn’t practice hard, skate well or whatever in net — that is not what we have here. We always have two goaltenders that push each other hard but also are good teammates and we have that again this year. We have two guys that work extremely hard in practice and I think that is a big part of why we have so much success here. It makes our forwards better and defence better going against the two best goalies in the league during practice.”

Battling through a changing roster due to injuries since the first puck drop of the season and dealing with the Vees top players being called away to various Hockey Canada tryouts and opportunities, their goaltending duo has been unshakeable.

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Scheel was one of the key pieces that helped the team claw back to near the top of the standings in the Interior division. After two shutouts and allowing two goals in the 105 shots he faced over the past four starts (including a 5-1 win over the Salmon Arm Silverbacks on Wednesday), the Vees find themselves two points out from the first place Vernon Vipers. The turning point? More Wheaties? Throwing back more vitamins?

“No, no,” said Scheel with a smile.

It’s something much more simple. Play hard and practice hard.

“It is just consistency. Every day getting into a routine and doing the same thing. It has been a build up, the team has been playing great and that was the biggest factor.”

Related: Scheel secures shutout for Vees over Warriors

So modest. Goalie partner Hildebrand hasn’t been too shabby either, with eight wins and one loss on his record. Similar to his goalie partner, Hildebrand points to the guys skating in front of him.

“Honestly, I think a large portion has to go to our team who have been really solid defensively. We went through a bit of a struggle for a few games and that brought us all together. It showed us we needed to all focus on the details and since then we have come really come together defensively. When you have a team like that in front of you, it makes stopping the puck a lot simpler.”

Of course, there is that other element.

“Oh, I can’t forget to mention the forwards. I will give it up to the defense because they are closer to me, but the forwards are also putting the puck in the net,” deadpanned Hildebrand.

Despite battling for the one spot in the net, the two guys leave all the competition on the ice — well, sort of.

“We are pretty similar people, outgoing and pretty loud. We both like to talk a lot, so we talk to each other. Off the ice we play video games a lot — Overwatch, it’s a confusing game. I’ve tried to explain it to people but it never works. It’s a nerdy game,” said Scheel, who touted himself as the better gamer.

“Wow, really?” replied Hildebrand upon learning of his goalie partner’s claim.

True to the pair’s sweat equity that Harbinson touted earlier, that follows them off the ice too.

“I guess I will have to practice a bit harder at it,” said Hildebrand.

Big weekend for the Vees

The Vees face the West Kelowna Warriors at the South Okanagan Events Centre on Friday at 7 p.m. then will head up Highway 97 to face the Vipers on Saturday.

A pair of wins could propel them to first place. The Canadian Junior Hockey League ranked the Vees 12th overall across Canada this week with the best winning percentage in the BCHL. The week prior, the Vees were not listed in the top 20 but did get an honourable mention.

The Vees will be without the service of Jonny Tychonick and Ryan O’Connell, as both were selected the Canada West team for the IIHF World Junior A Challenge.

Related: Penticton Vets named to World Junior A roster

Alumni defenceman Dante Fabbro will be vying for a second shot at gold with Canada’s national junior team. He was invited to the selection camp for the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship.

Related: Former Vets player invited to Canada’s world junior camp

Fabbro was part of Canada’s silver medal winning squad last year.

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