Ten wins in a row to start the season is great, but Fred Harbinson doesn’t want it to be the focal point.
The Penticton Vees GM/head coach said he plans to “shut down talk” about the impressive streak as the Vees embark on yet another challenging road foray to Powell River on Friday and Alberni Valley on Saturday.
“We can’t allow ourselves to get caught up in it and start cheating areas of the game,” said Harbinson. “It’s an amazing start for the guys, it’s fun for the fans but we’ve got to get back to work.”
The Vees won six straight road games to start the season and added one more along with three wins on home ice in the last two weeks. Penticton has scored 48 goals and allowed just 17 while firmly entrenching themselves as the No. 1 team in the Canadian Junior Hockey League rankings.
But Harbinson’s attention is on Powell River and the start of another run of three straight road games that concludes with a key matchup Wed., Oct. 16 in Salmon Arm.
“(Powell River has) struggled a bit of late but they haven’t lost at home and they’ve scored a ton of goals there,” said Harbinson.
The Kings (7-6-0) have in fact lost three straight by a combined score of 17-3. However, they opened the season with four straight wins at home by a 24-12 margin, and haven’t played in their own building since.
The Kings are led by former Trail Smoke Eaters forward Levi Glasman, sixth in the league with 16 points.
Alberni Valley (5-8-0) also hasn’t lost at home, winning four straight at the Weyerhaeuser Arena going into a game Friday against Victoria.
The Bulldogs, who have won their last two games overall, are led by Mitch Deelstra, the BCHL goalscoring leader with 10.
The Vees, meanwhile, have been rolling from the get-go, but Harbinson hasn’t been reticent to make lineup tweaks when he sees the need arise.
During the road trip to Cowichan and Nanaimo Sept. 21-22, he moved 20-year-old Colton Kalezic up to the top line with centre Jay O’Brien and Jackson Niedermayer.
The line has been on fire of late and Kalezic has four goals and nine points in a five-game point streak. In the two games at the BCHL Showcase Festival in Penticton on the weekend, Kalezic set up the winning goal in a 1-0 win over Vernon and had two goals and two assists in a 5-3 win over Wenatchee.
“(Kalezic) is a terrific two-way player who can play centre or wing,” said Harbinson. “He adds a little more trust without the puck on that line.”
He said Kalezic has “unreal” character, goes about his job quietly and efficiently, and has a great attitude.
“We haven’t given him a lot of time on the power play but he will get his opportunity,” said Harbinson.
The Vees will also get centre Jack Barnes back tonight after he missed three games with a lower-body injury.
“Barnesy has been skating this week, he looks good and he should be ready to go,” said Harbinson.
The Vees have been rotating goaltenders Yaniv Perets and Derek Krall. Both are 5-0 on the season.
Perets, on a run of three straight shutouts over 180 minutes and 55 seconds dating back to Sept. 13 in Merritt, will start in Powell River.
“Another long trip and playing back-to-back nights, we’ll likely keep rotating our (goaltenders),” said Harbinson, noting the team will be busing out of Penticton today. “Like everything else, we’ll make decisions as we go along. You need two good goaltenders if you’re going to make a run … we’ve seen both sides of that in recent years.”
The 19-year-old Perets may be a rookie but looks like anything but in the nets.
“He’s just an outstanding individual,” said Harbinson. “He has that calm factor in there. He makes the big saves and he moves the puck really well to our defencemen.”
Rivermen 4 Warriors 3 (SO): Kaeden Patrick scored in the 10th round of a shootout as Langley outlasted West Kelowna at Royal LePage Place on Tuesday.
Goalie Braedon Fleming denied Warriors’ Brendan Pigeon to seal the win as Langley (6-6-0) won the shootout 4-3.
Brandon Dent forced overtime for the Warriors by scoring with 49 seconds left. Rob Christy had cut the Langley lead to one with 5:21 to play.
The Warriors (2-9-2-1) moved ahead of Vernon into fifth place in the Interior Division, but the Vipers have a whopping six games in hand.