With 1955 world hockey championship-winning goaltender Ivan McLelland and 3,300 fans in the house, the Penticton Vees weren’t going to be denied.
Tyler Ho tallied a goal and an assist and Carl Stankowski made 17 saves as the Vees dominated in a 5-1 victory over the Trail Smoke Eaters Saturday at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
Liam Malmquist, Danny Weight, Jackson Niedermayer and Tristan Amonte also scored as the Vees earned a split of the two games against Trail on “World Championship Weekend”.
Penticton and Trail paid homage to the 1955 Vees and 1961 Smoke Eaters championship teams on the weekend, with both teams wearing authentic replica jerseys for the two games.
The 88-year-old McLelland – who still lives in Penticton and is one of only two surviving players from the legendary 1955 team – got a thunderous ovation when he was introduced and as he was leaving the ice after dropping the puck for the ceremonial opening faceoff.
“I was absolutely amazed and humbled by the response,” said McLelland. “It was just so heartfelt and spontaneous. And I’ll tell you this – those fans absolutely love this Vees hockey team. Fred Harbinson (Vees president, GM and head coach) has done so much for the culture of this organization and its relationship with the fans.”
Sparked by the emotions of the festivities, the Vees went out and avenged a tough 4-3 loss in Trail one night earlier.
The Vees led 2-0 and 3-0 at the period breaks in one of their most complete performances of this season.
It was huge in the standings as well, as the Vees (32-11-1-1) restored a 10-point lead on the Smokies (26-14-2-2) as they bid for an unprecedented ninth straight Interior Division pennant.
Matt Osadick scored the only goal for the Smokies, spoiling Stankowski’s shutout bid with 3:25 to play. The goal came on Trail’s first of only two shots on goal in the third period.
Logan Terness was solid again after stealing the win for the Smoke Eaters in Trail, making 27 saves.
Malmquist put the Vees up at 7:06 of the first period and Penticton never looked back as they won for the fifth time in six games.
Amonte scored a big goal with 1:31 left in the period and Niedermayer got one with only 19 seconds left in the second period to extend the lead to 3-0.
Ho scored early in the third to make it 4-0 before Osadick and Weight exchanged late goals 35 seconds apart.
Malmquist, Ho and Carl Stankowski were the three stars.
The Vees won the season series over Trail 4-2 which would give them the tiebreaker in the event the teams finished even in points. Penticton’s magic number to clinch first place is 18 points (Vees points gained and Trail points lost adding up to 18).
The Vees visit the Vernon Vipers Wednesday at 7 p.m. in their penultimate road game of the season.
Penticton is back home to play the Merritt Centennials Friday at 7 p.m. and Salmon Arm Silverbacks Saturday at 6 p.m.
After visiting the West Kelowna Warriors Tuesday, Jan. 21, the Vees play their final nine games at home.
ICE CHIPS: West Kelowna won three straight weekend games – including two key showdowns against Merritt – to surge three points ahead of the Centennials for the BCHL’s final playoff spot. It sets up a potential first-round playoff matchup between arch-rivals Penticton and West Kelowna … The Coquitlam Express had their 17-game winning streak snapped with a 6-1 loss in Chilliwack on Saturday. The Express bounced back to bury the Langley Rivermen 8-1 at home on Sunday. The Express – eight points ahead of Penticton with two games in hand for first place overall in the BCHL - will visit the Vees Feb. 14 at the SOEC.
CJHL RANKINGS: The Vees re-entered the first Canadian Junior Hockey League weekly rankings of 2020 at No. 15 after earning an honourable mention in the final rankings of 2019.
The Brooks Bandits, boasting a 38-3-1 record in the Alberta league, picked up where they left off at No. 1.
Despite their loss to Chilliwack, Coquitlam moved up one spot to No. 2, changing places with Sherwood Park Crusaders of the Alberta league.
Carleton Place Canadians (Central Canada league) and Battlefords North Stars (Saskatchewan league) rounded out the top five. No other BCHL team was listed.