Fred Harbinson had a strong message for his players after a 2-1 loss to the Vernon Vipers in BCHL action Wednesday at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
“People can make whatever excuses they want. We’ve locked up first and everything else, that’s a bad mind set to have,” said the Penticton Vees coach-general manager. “I know the coaching staff doesn’t have that mindset, but our captains and everybody below our captains better start figuring it out.”
Harbinson didn’t feel his players played hard enough as they only generated a few scoring chances, despite firing 40 shots at Vipers goalie Danny Todosychuk. In the third period, their best chance for an equalizer came from Steen Cooper, who broke through two Vipers defenders and watched in disbelief as his wrist shot was snagged by the goalie’s glove.
“There was very little urgency earlier in the game,” said Harbinson. “The first goal we gave up, there was zero urgency on our part. Zero urgency on the situation that cost us the penalty and there was zero urgency on picking up a play that we have seen 100 times from them on a power play, in all cases by veteran players.”
After a scoreless first period, Jagger Williamson was the beneficiary of a Vees turnover in front of their net after Shayne Gwinner lost the puck. Williams fanned on his first attempt but made no mistake on the second chance as Gwinner failed to hustle back into the play and Connor Chartier was unable to get close. Miska finished with 27 saves.
The Vees got the equalizer when Tyson Jost scored his 21st of the season five-minutes later. The 16-year-old rookie redirected a point shot, which was stopped, but he banged home the rebound.
Along with a lack of quality scoring chances, turnovers stood out in the Vees’ loss, especially in the second period.
“I thought we turned the puck over way more than necessary,” said Harbinson, adding that he didn’t think his group played hard enough. “I just thought our details were off. Had no interest in demanding pucks. We played a little better in the third period, but it was too late.
“I thought they played with more desperation,” said Harbinson of the Vipers. “They looked like a team that has lost a lot of games lately and felt like there was no way they were going to lose another one.”
Vees co-captain Patrick Sexton described their performance as mediocre and said they had many “one and done shots.”
“We weren’t able to find loose pucks and that just all comes down to our compete level and wanting to be hungry on pucks,” he said.
It doesn’t get any easier for the Vees, who spent time on Monday in the community for Family Day, on Friday when they host the Island Division-leading Nanaimo Clippers. The Clippers are six points behind the Vees as both teams strive to win the Ron Boileau Memorial Trophy for finishing first overall in the BCHL. The last time both teams met, the Vees lost 3-2 in overtime. That game was scoreless after two periods. Sexton described the tilt as a playoff game.
“It was a fast-paced, back-and-forth game,” said Sexton. “They are a good team. They are big, they can skate, they are physical. They have some skill too.”
Vees notes: The skate with the Vees originally slated for Apex Mountain on Feb. 15 will now be at the South Okanagan Events Centre due to Mother Nature. The event is scheduled for 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Along with a hot dog/burger barbecue by Marketplace IGA, there will also be dressing room tours. Check the Vees Facebook page for more details.
Former captain Brad McClure earned Western Collegiate Hockey Association rookie of the week honors. McClure, who spent two season with the Vees, had three assists for the No. 1-ranked Mavericks in a sweep of visiting Alaska-Anchorage. The Stratford, Ont. product assisted on the game-winning goal both games and had another helper in the 4-0 shutout win Saturday. The 21-year-old now has eight goals and 11 assists on the season.