In “normal” times, junior hockey player Brenden Pentecost wouldn’t have to travel far to play home games with Vancouver Giants, as the rookie defenseman lives in Cloverdale, about a 10-minute drive from Langley Events Centre.
But this season is far from normal.
This week, the five B.C.-based WHL teams are more than a week into training in the hub-city “bubbles” of Kamloops and Kelowna in preparation for the long-delayed start of the 2020-21 season, which starts Friday night (March 26).
The two “Hub Centres” will be home to all B.C. Division games, with the RE/MAX Cup to be presented to the division champs at the end of an abbreviated 60-game schedule. Each team will play 24 games.
Game on for @WHLGiants with two Surrey-raised kids on the roster – veteran forward/Florida Panthers pick Justin Sourdif and 03 D-man Brenden Pentecost (via @DeltaWildHockey/ PJHL's Port Moody Panthers) https://t.co/BnBUJYLR8f
— Tom Zillich (@TomZillich) March 19, 2021
The 2003-born Pentecost will celebrate his 18th birthday on April 2, and an early gift was being named to the Giants’ 24-player roster this season, among the eight D-men currently with the G-men.
“Camp has been really good so far,” Pentecost said Monday (March 22) in a phone call from Kamloops, following a morning skate. “It’s a really good group of guys and everybody is helping me out, out there, just trying to learn my role and do what I have to do to benefit the team, not do too much out there. But I feel really good right now during the training week, which has been pretty hard. It’s just fun too.”
With the fun of games to come, Pentecost had time Monday to look back at a winter without.
The Delta Hockey Academy product skated with the PJHL’s Port Moody Panthers for a time before opting for ice time elsewhere, in Langley and Delta.
Earlier in life, Pentecost played minor hockey in Cloverdale before shifting to Burnaby Winter Club by the time he reached the Hockey 4 level. “It was a long drive,” he recalled, “and lots of nighttime practices.”
In 2018 he was drafted by the Giants in the sixth round, 126th overall.
“It was pretty cool getting drafted by them and knowing that the rink is just, like, 10 minutes from my house,” Pentecost recalled. “It was nice playing my first game there, too, with all my family and friends there to watch. I really like playing there, too, because the rink is great.”
A year-plus later, Pentecost is back and ready for more on a D core that also includes 2000-born Alex Kannok Leipert, ’01-er Connor Horning, ’02 players Tanner Brown, Jacob Gendron and Marko Stacha, fellow ’03 Nicco Camazzola and 2005-born rookie Mazden Leslie.
“There won’t be any fans in the arena for games,”Pentecost noted, “but it’ll still be fun to play games. And I know that my friends will watch online.”
Right now, Pentecost is rooming with fellow Surrey resident Justin Sourdif, the Giants veteran who was claimed by Florida Panthers in last fall’s NHL Entry Draft, 87th overall in the third round.
“I knew him from BWC and stuff, so yeah, it’s great,” Pentecost said of Sourdif, who’s a year older.
The Giants’ forward group this season will include Sourdif along with Eric Florchuk, Tristen Nielsen, Bryce Bader, Adam Hall, Dallon Wilton, Kadyn Chabot, Kaden Kohle, Krz Plummer, Cole Shepard, Justin Lies, Zack Ostapchuk, Julian Cull and Colton Langkow, plus goaltenders Trent Miner (a Colorado Avalanche prospect) and Drew Sim.
Starting Friday against Kamloops Blazers, the Giants will play the other B.C. Division teams six times each. Vancouver’s next opponent will be Kelowna Rockets on Sunday, with a 6 p.m. puck drop. All opening weekend games will be available for “freeview” on WHL Live on CHL TV, online at watch.CHL.ca.
The WHL’s B.C. Division is the last to start regular-season play this season, after the Central Division got going Feb. 26, the East Division March 12 and the U.S. Division on March 18.
On Monday, the WHL announced that Brandon Wheat Kings forward Nolan Ritchie was named the league’s Player of the Week, presented by Journie Rewards, for the week ending March 21, after scoring seven points (3G-4A) in three games this past week, in the Subway Hub Centre in Regina. Meantime, Everett Silvertips goaltender Dustin Wolf was named WHL Goaltender of the Week for the week.