The Penticton Vees are shooting for their sixth straight win, and third at the Nicola Valley Arena in Merritt Wednesday.
In their previous two visits, the Vees (39-5-0-1) doubled up the Centennials (15-26-3-1) 8-4, then defeated them 6-2 on Jan.15 to start their most recent win streak. In that win, rookie Taylor Ward put up two goals and an assist, while Owen Sillinger and affiliate player Liam Lytton had three-assist performances. Zachary Driscoll turned aside 31 shots.
Vees forward Dixon Bowen, who scored a goal in that game, said things happen quicker in the Nicola Valley Arena. He added more accountability is required in the defensive zone and creating their own energy.
“It’s usually hard fought games in that rink,” said Bowen. “I though we had done pretty well in that rink. If you just work hard and take the body, I think that leads to a lot of success.”
That has worked for him. Forward Demico Hannoun said they need to maintain their play of late, using speed and back checking hard. He said doing those things makes it easier on the defence. The Vees are coming off a 3-2 win over the Wild in Wenatchee on Jan. 23. Despite Scott Conway finding the back of the net in the opening minute, Hannoun said the Vees started slow. Their play got better in the second and third period in what he described as a fast-paced matchup. Also scoring for the Vees were Colton Poolman and Sillinger, the winner.
“I thought we played well as a team,” he said.
The difference from their first meeting, a 6-1 Penticton win in the South Okanagan Events Centre, was that the Wild were quicker and harder on pucks. With a crowd of nearly 4,000 behind them in the Town Toyota Center, the Wild were also pumped.
Hannoun said it was a good matchup between them. Bowen described it as a “playoff atmosphere” and that they played hard.
“That was just another good test for us this season to get ready for playoffs,” said Bowen. “It was a lot of fun to play in. It was a different atmosphere than what we usually have.”
The Vees, No.2 behind the Soo Thunderbirds of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League in the Canadian Junior Hockey League rankings, are a confident group, said Hannoun. The BCHL veteran with 326 regular and playoff season games combined, said that with the group they have, the ability to come back in a game is there.
At home, the Centennials are 7-12-3-0, while the Vees have won 17 of 21 games away from the South Okanagan Events Centre. The Vees have needed extra time once to pull out a win.
Vees notes: Tickets for the BCHL Fred Page Cup playoffs are on sale starting Wednesday. Tickets can be purchased at the Valley First Box office at the SOEC. Students (18 and under) and children are free, courtesy of Peters Bros. Construction.