The Penticton Vees ring in 2016 the way the ended 2015- battling a division rival. The Vees head up to Vernon tonight to face the Vipers at Kal-Tire Place, as both teams are playing their first games since the Christmas break.
Vees Captain Tyson Jost on facing Canada West teammate Liam Finlay
The Vees last played on December 19th, a 3-2 win at home over the West Kelowna Warriors, as part of a pre-Christmas home-and-home. Vernon was last in action on December 20th, when they picked up a 5-2 Sunday matinee victory over the visiting Powell River Kings.
Don’t worry if you get a sense of déja vu when looking at the Vees schedule over the next two weeks. The Vees play the same two opponents, on the same two days, in the same venues over the next two weekends. Tomorrow night they host Salmon Arm at the SOEC, then it’s right back in Vernon next Friday, with Salmon Arm coming to Penticton, again, next Saturday.
One of the biggest Christmas wishes for Head Coach Fred Harbinson was probably health, as over the last three months the Vees have been stricken by injury. At it’s worst, the Vees were playing without six regulars in their line-up but managed to fashion a 3-2-1-0 record over those six games in December. Well, the good news is the cavalry has arrived.
Back from injury is defenseman Seamus Donohue and forward Dixon Bowen, both missed a combined 28 games. Donohue hasn’t played since November 1st after suffering an injury in a game against Trail, and Bowen was hurt in Langley on November 20th. Also back from international duty is Captain Tyson and Assistant Captain Dante Fabbro. They last played on December 4th, before going off to the World Junior ‘A’ Challenge in Ontario, where they won a gold medal with Team Canada West.
Despite their absence the pair are still near the top in the BCHL scoring race. Jost is still third in overall points, with 61 in 30 games, even though he’s played eight less games than league-leader Sheldon Rempal. Fabbro is second in defensemen scoring, with 38 points, just six back of leader Yanni Kaldis, who has 14 games on the Vees rear-guard.
Speaking of the scoring race, Scott Conway, who’s second overall in the league with 68 points, has been a snake charmer this season. Conway has seven goals and 11 points in four games against the Vipers, including a four-point effort back on December 15th, when these two teams last played. Odeen Tufto and Liam Finlay both have four points against the Vees this season for Vernon.
The Vees have had the Vipers number this year, as they’ve won all four match-ups in the season series, including the only game in Vernon. Penticton has grown to be quite comfortable inside Kal-Tire Place in recent years too, as they’re 10-4 in Vernon over the last five years. These two wrap-up the season series next Friday.
Zach Driscoll will get the start in goal for the Vees tonight and comes into the game with a 12-3 record, while sporting a 1.88 goals-against average, and he owns a .937 save percentage; he’s the top goalie in the BCHL. Driscoll won his only start against Vernon back on December 4th, when he stopped all 28-shots he faced in a 3-0 win.
Vernon will likely counter with Andrew Shortridge, who owns a 13-16 record, to go along with a 2.94 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage; he’s the goalie of record in all four games against the Vees this season.