The Penticton Vees (19-1-0-0) look to push their BCHL-best win streak to 20-games tonight in Trail, when they face the Smoke Eaters (8-11-0-0) at the Cominco Arena in the West Kootenays. The Vees are coming off a 3-2 double-overtime win over Nanaimo on Saturday. The Smokies went into Merritt Saturday and beat the Centennials 3-2.
A rare busy Tuesday in the BCHL as there’s four games in total, three others around the league. Vernon hosts Merritt tonight and are coming off a three-game road trip over the weekend. Nanaimo heads over to Alberni Valley to face the Bulldogs and Victoria makes a trip up to the Sunshine Coast to face the Powell River Kings.
We Meet Again
This is the second game in nine days between Penticton and Trail, as they last met on November 1st, and that too was at Cominco Arena. The Vees skated away with a 6-1 win but it was a close affair, as the Vees scored their final three goals inside the final three-minutes. Zach Driscoll was sensational in that game, taking home first start honours after stopping 48 of 49 shots; he went on to be named the BCHL Player of the Week. Demico Hannoun had a hat-trick in that win against Trail and has scored five goals in his last four games.
Speaking of hot goalies, Trail’s Bailey MacBurnie was just named the BCHL Player of the Week, for the week ending November 8th. MacBurnie backstopped the Smokies to two wins over Nanaimo and Merritt and he stopped 81 of 84 shots in his two starts; that’s a sparkling .964 save percentage. MacBurnie was named second star in their win Friday and the game’s first star Saturday in Merritt.
This is the third meeting of the season between the two teams, with the Vees winning the previous two encounters. Penticton won 5-3 at home on October 7th, and 6-1 most recently on November 1st. After tonight the Vees face the Smokies four more times: November 28th, January 29th and February 13th at home and January 30th in Trail.
Zach Driscoll is your probable starter for the Vees, if you go by the goalie rotation implemented by the Vees. Driscoll is 6-0, with a 1.67 goals-against average and sparkling .946 save percentage. He was the winning goaltender last time out against Trail.
Griffin Mendel has rejoined the team after winning gold and will be in the line-up tonight. That means the Vees will have six healthy defensemen at their disposal tonight, after Dante Fabbro returned to the line-up Saturday. Gabe Bast and Seamus Donohue are sidelined with longer-term injuries.
Not only was Scott Conway the Vees’ Player of the Month for October but he was also named the BCHL Player of the Month, and the Canadian Junior Hockey League’s 2nd Star of October. Conway tallied 11 goals and 15 assists for 26 points as the Vees went 12-0 in October. The 20-year-old had at least a point each of the 12 games in October and is currently riding an 18-game point streak. Conway had five game-winning goals last month and five games where he had three or more points. He’s only been held pointless once this season.
Whilst the Vees were busy winning their 19th in-a-row Saturday, Vees’ defenseman Griffin Mendel was busy winning gold at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in Dawson Creek, BC. Mendel and Team Canada White came back to beat Russia 6-2 in the Gold Medal game in front of a sold out Encana Events Centre. Canada trailed 2-1 at one point but scored five unanswered goals to cruise to the victory. It was the first time a Canadian team won the Under-17’s since Team Ontario struck gold in 2011.
Canada White went 1-2 in round-robin play but peaked at the right time, beating Finland in their Quarter-Final match-up and just edged out Sweden in a thrilling Semi-Final. The Vees’ 16-year-old defenseman picked up one assist in six games and was a key contributor on the blue-line. Mendel has since rejoined his teammates and will be in the line-up Tuesday when the Vees visit Trail.
Staying on Top
The Penticton Vees remain the top ranked team in the weekly CJHL Top 20 national rankings this week. The second straight week they’ve held down the number one spot and the third week this season they’ve been ranked number one; they were the top ranked team in pre-season rankings.
The Vees are the only BCHL team in the Top 20 national rankings this week after Salmon Arm cracked the list last week; West Kelowna was an Honourable Mention one week ago.