Black Press Sports
They are ranked fourth in Canada, but the Penticton Vees are a pretty banged up hockey team heading into tonight’s showdown with the Vernon Vipers at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
After losing 19-year-old defenceman James Miller for four to six weeks with an upper-body injury sustained while blocking a shot in Saturday’s 3-1 win over Powell River, the Vees got more bad news Tuesday when all-star D Gabe Bast was put on injured reserve
“Gabe could be out a long time,” said Penticton head coach/GM Fred Harbinson. “Nobody is going to want to hear this, but it’s unfortunate there is a little tie-in from what he had a year ago. It’s disappointing for Gabe.”
Miller rang up three goals and a dozen points in 23 games, while Bast had 1+1 in six tilts.
The Vees have summoned a pair of affiliated players for tonight: 18-year-old Konsta Jaske and 15-year-old Kelowna product Jackson van de Leest.
Jaske does have a modicum of Junior-A experience. The native of Helsinki, Finland played 24 games with the Wenatchee Wild last season and five more with the Trail Smoke Eaters and one with the Vees this season.
Jaske, a 6-foot, 180-pounder, plays in the KIJHL with the Summerland Steam, tallying three goals and eight points in 13 games this season.
A first-round pick, 16th overall by the Calgary Hitmen in the 2016 WHL bantam draft, van de Leest will be making his Vees debut.
The 6-foot-5, 190-pound Kelowna product did play six games for the Hitmen earlier this season, registering one assist, and currently plays for the Okanagan Hockey Academy Midget Prep White team.
The 24-5-1 Vees knew they were likely going to be without Miller for the next five games, as he and fellow blueliners Jonny Tychonick and Griffin Mendel were at the Team Canada West camp this week in Leduc, Alta.
The World Junior A Challenge goes Dec. 11-17 in Bonnyville, Alta.
Penticton bolstered their dee core by signing Greg Brydon,
“He’s a big kid who has a great work ethic,” said Harbinson. “He’s got experience at this level and we’re very familiar with him, as he was an affiliate for us in the past two seasons and attended a couple of our camps.”
Brydon, 18, started the season with the Powell River Kings, playing in 18 games, picking up one assist to go along with 23 penalty-minutes. The Penticton native was briefly with the Campbell River Storm of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League before landing in Penticton, and picked up a goal in his Storm debut over the weekend.
Vees F Jamie Armstrong (mononucleosis) will be out until after the Christmas break
Penticton bluelinerJoe Leahy said nothing changes when it comes to the challenge the defence faces.
“We all have to play our own game. I think we have a great group of forwards up there that will help us out and a great goaltender that will save our butts from time to time,” he said. “We’re not too worried. Just play our game and keep it simple with a lot of new guys coming in. Just keep it simple and the communication has to be paramount.”
To be ready for the Vipers (15-12-3) the Vees have focused on small details. Things they will do differently on the forecheck and making sure they are battle ready.
“They work really hard and they are really physical,” said Leahy. “We just got to be ready to match their intensity.”
Vernon head coach/GM Mark Ferner is full aware of what the ultra-talented Vees bring to the table.
“They’re good, obviously,” said Ferner, an original Mighty Ducks of Anaheim D. “They’ll work and we gotta be good and make sure our details and habits are good.”
On getting amped up for a highly-ranked team, Ferner added: “We talk about them, but really all we’re concerned about is how we play.”
Newcomer Darion Hanson starts in goal for the Snakes. Rookie G Ty Taylor is with Team West for the World Junior A Challenge.
F Jagger Williamson and D Chris Jandric are probable for Vernon, who won their last game in Penticton.
The Vipers visit the red-hot Salmon Arm Silverbacks Friday night and are in Trail to face the Smoke Eaters Saturday. The Vees entertain the Cowichan Valley Capitals Saturday night.
Justin Wilson scored twice as the Silverbacks shaded the host West Kelowna Warriors 4-3 Tuesday night before 735 fans at Royal LePage Place.
Jared Turcotte and Nathan Iannone also scored for 14-17-1 Salmon Arm, who moved past the Warriors into fifth place in the Interior Division.
Stephen Kleysen, Braiden Epp and Michael Ryan replied for West Kelowna (13-16-1).