The curtain lifts on the BCHL regular season tonight in Salmon Arm as the Penticton Vees head to the North Okanagan to face the Silverbacks at the Shaw Centre.
Listen to tonight’s game on EZ Rock AM 800 locally, or watch online at www.fasthockey.com
It’s been 118 days since the Vees’ heart-breaking overtime loss in the semi-final at the RBC Cup in Portage, Manitoba. Five players from that squad are back including Captain Tyson Jost and his Assistant Dante Fabbro. Brendan Barry, Gabe Bast and Demico Hannoun are the other three returnees.
The Vees have 11 rookies on the team, five defensemen and six forwards. Three of those 11 spent time with the Vees last year in Griffin Mendel, Taylor Ward and Tyler Holz. Fresh faces up front are Owen Sillinger, Desi Burgart, Easton Brodzinski, Dixon Bowen, Ben Brar and Taylor Ward.
Sprinkled in up the forward group are Chris Gerrie (Olds Grizzlys), Scott Conway (Penn State), Mitch Brooks (Stratford Cullitons) and Jason Lavallée (Sorel-Tracy).
First-year blue-liners are Griffin Mendel (OHA), Tyler Niven (Governors Academy), Seamus Donohue (St. Thomas Academy), Sam Jones (OHA) and Tyler Holz (Osoyoos Coyotes). Joining them is returnees Dante Fabbro and Gabe Bast and recruited defenseman Colton Poolman (Fargo Force).
Brendan Barry is back between the pipes and is tonight’s starter in Salmon Arm. Anthony Brodeur (Drummondville Voltigeurs) will share the crease with Barry.
The Vees won the Interior Division and the BCHL regular season pennant with a 44-9-3-2 record last year. In September the Vees had a good start winning three of four and over the last three years, the Vees record is 16-4-0-0 in the first month of the BCHL regular season. That’s the best record of any team in September in the last three years.
Salmon Arm missed the playoffs by just one point last year and maybe they can look back at their start. Last year they were 3-1-0-0 in September but just 6-8-0-3 in the first two months of the season. One more win from either of those two months would have resulted in a playoff berth. That close.
Salmon Arm is returning 13 players from year’s team and they will likely have a bitter taste in their mouth on how last year ended; fuel to the fire. Brandon West’s team also has a lot of size and will likely play a physical brand of hockey. Salmon Arm has 11 players listed at 6’ or taller and 12 that are 185 pounds or heavier. It should be a physical affair at the “Cable Box.”
The Backs’ are also returning some scoring punch, as three of their top five scorers from last year are back, including leading point-getter Taro Hirose. He’s accompanied by Carson Bolduc (19-25-44) and Josh Blanchard (17-22-39).
Salmon Arm will also have a strong presence in the crease in Angus Redmond, who’s arguably one of the top returning netminders in the BCHL. Redmond, a Michigan Tech commit, had a 2.72 goals-against average and a .910 save-percentage one season ago.