Penticton Vees coaches and players still found many silver linings in what was the weirdest season of their lives.
The Vees concluded the BCHL campaign, Sunday, with a pair of weekend wins, going 18-1-1 in pod play against teams from Cranbrook and Trail.
Including results of a mini-tournament in the fall, the Vees ended 31-2-0-1 overall.
Due to provincial health orders, the BCHL will not have playoffs this year.
“Our guys are unofficially calling ourselves the President’s Trophy winners,” said coach Fred Harbinson, following Monday’s exit meetings with players.
“In sports, it’s easy to score, to put up points when you have talent. The fact we gave up only 1.15 goals-against per game in pod hockey (1.35 overall), it shows the character of our guys. We weren’t playing for a real championship, we didn’t have fans in the building... and our guys showed incredible character.
“Some program have gaps in their culture, but not here. Our guys know what it takes to be a Penticton Vee. We will take over right where we left off come September.”
Harbinson missed the fan and game-night culture and encourages everyone in the community to get vaccinated.
“Let’s bring back the joy next season of going to the game, having a night out of hockey, cheering on your team,” he said.
Captain Finlay Williams shared his coach’s thoughts. By going through a rollercoaster of emotions — Will there be a season?, Will it be cancelled? Could there be a COVID outbreak? — playing 20 games was a blessing.
“When we weren’t playing games, we forgot what it felt like to actually be playing games. I missed playing with teammates. Nothing can emulate a game situation,” the captain said in an interview.
“If this season did anything, it made me appreciate how much I truly love playing hockey. There’s no place I’d rather be than on the ice. Fans are great for what they bring to the game. Pumping up the home crowd or going on the road and silencing them with your play. But we were still competing to win and that was what’s most important.”
In the final weekend of the season, Penticton blanked Trail 7-0 on Saturday and Cranbrook 3-1 Sunday. Kaeden Lane made 22 saves against Trail for what was the tenth shutout of the season for the Vees.