The Penticton Vees (23-1-0-0) jump on the bus with a 23-game win streak in tow, as they head down to the Lower Mainland to face the Langley Rivermen (13-11-0-0) and Coquitlam Express (9-10-1-3) Friday and Saturday.
The Vees extended their win streak to 23 with a dramatic 1-0 double-overtime win over the Express Wednesday, on Teddy Bear Toss night at the SOEC. Scott Conway was the hero, scoring 16-seconds into three-on-three OT, to trigger the shower of stuffed toys. Conway told the Penticton Western News it was quite the moment.
“It felt good to get that goal. Just for the teddies… great experience. I’ve never been part of something like that before. I tried to make the celebration a bit worthwhile.”
It was the first game this season the Vees were shutout through regulation and fans anxiously waited 65 minutes and 16 seconds to toss their stuffed toys.
Head Coach Fred Harbinson said the Vees had to fight through some adversity in order to get their 23 straight win, “We were struggling to move pucks cleanly but at the same time I think we might hit the pipe about five or six times. It almost started feeling like one of those games that could go the wrong way on us.”
Tonight the two-game Mainland Division road trip starts at the Langley Events Centre, as the Rivermen play host to the Vees (7:15 pm PST), who have two players on their roster making their return to the LEC. Domenic Masellis, who’s returning from serving a two-game suspension, and Luke Voltin both started the season with the Rivermen. Masellis played parts of two seasons with the Riv’ dressing in 65 regular season games another six in the playoffs. Voltin landed in Langley at the start of the year after an off-season trade from Vernon; he had two points in seven games. Both Masellis and Voltin will play tonight.
The Riv’ will be ready to play the Vees tonight, as their Captain Jordan Schneider alluded to in the team’s website preview, “We are going in against Penticton looking to out-work them and stick to our game plan. They are obviously a great squad and have been on fire this season, but we want to be the team that ends their streak. The guys in our room are definitely motivated.”
The two teams have gone in somewhat opposite directions since they last met in mid-October. The Vees beat the Rivermen 4-3 at the SOEC back on October 17th, and since then have won 12 straight. Langley meanwhile has won just five of their last 13 games after an 8-3 start and just snapped a five-game losing streak Sunday, beating the Alberni Valley Bulldogs 6-4; that was the end of a three-game Island Division road trip.
Despite their struggles, one player that has been red-hot for the Riv’ has been forward Matthew Graham. The 20-year-old has eight goals and 17 points in his last nine games, and has three or more points in four of those nine. The Robert Morris University commit leads Langley in scoring with 30 points in 24 games.
A handful of Vees are on quite a run of their own, as Scott Conway, Dante Fabbro and Tyson Jost all have lengthy point streaks entering tonight’s game. Conway had a league-best 21-game streak, followed by Fabbro (16) and Jost (12). The Vees have enjoyed their games against the Mainland Division thus far, as they’re 7-0 against the division and 3-0 on the road.
Jost is tied with Nanaimo’s Sheldon Rempal for the league-lead in goals (21), assists (26) and points (47). The Vees’ Captain is one point away from surpassing last year’s Vees leading scorer in Patrick Newell. Fabbro leads all BCHL defenseman in scoring with 28 points in 23 games and is the only defenseman in the league inside the top 20 in scoring. Conway is third in BCHL scoring; five points back of Jost and Rempal.
Zach Driscoll will get the start tonight in goal for the Vees and is undefeated on the year, sporting an 8-0 record, while owning a 1.75 goals-against average and a .941 save percentage. In his last three starts, Driscoll has a miniscule 1.67 goals-against and possess a sparkling .950 save-percentage.
There may be some good news on the injury front, as Easton Brodzinski, who missed Wednesday’s game with a lower-body injury, will travel with the team and may play as early as Friday. Brodzinski leads the Vees in power-play goals with 11 and is second in goals with 18.
Langley likely won’t want to get into a special teams battle tonight. The Vees own the league’s best power-play (30.36) and the penalty-kill (90.63). Langley’s power-play has been on the upswing, scoring a goal in four of its last five games but the penalty-kill has been a bit of a sore spot. Langley’s PK is ranked 15th out of 17 teams, at 75.65 percent and has allowed 10 power-plays goals against in five games.
Since the Langley Events Centre opened, the Vees are 3-0-1-0 in four visits, most recently winning 6-0 back on November 28th, 2014.
One night later it’s a trip down Highway 1 and into Coquitlam to face the Express for the second time in four days. Coquitlam is back home after that hard-fought 1-0 loss to the Vees on Wednesday and they host the Wenatchee Wild Friday before round two against Penticton.
You can’t fault the Express if they’ve been a bit road weary, as they’ve played 17 of their first 23 games on the road. Due to arena availability earlier in the season, the Express have only played five games at the Poirier Sports & Leisure Complex; one other “home” game was at the Showcase in Chilliwack. Friday when they host Wenatchee, is the first of three straight games at home for Coquitlam, as they play the Vees Saturday and Prince George a week from tonight; four of their five are at home.
Coquitlam has struggled to put the puck in the net this season, as they’ve scored just 62 goals in 23 games which is the fourth-lowest output in the BCHL. They played great defensively on Wednesday and will need another similar effort Saturday. Tyger Howat was tagged with the loss in goal, stopping 34 of 35 and most likely will face the Vees tomorrow.
Both games this weekend can be heard on EZ Rock AM 800 locally, www.penticton.myezrock.com online and there’s a pay-per-view webcast available at www.fasthockey.com. Remember each radio broadcast starts 20-minutes prior to puck drop, with the Cherry Lane Shopping Centre pre-game show.