The Mackin Express is pulling into the South Okanagan Events Centre Wednesday.
Penticton is hosting Corey Mackin, the BCHL’s leading scorer with 37 goals and 65 points, and the Coquitlam Express in the first of a home-and-home set.
Along with Mackin, the Express’ attack is led by Brett Supinski, second in the BCHL with 26 goals and 54 points and joined by Brendan Lamont, who is enjoying a career year with 14 goals and 41 points. He played 17 games with the Vees last season.
“They have a high potent offence with Mackin and Lamont on their top line,” said Vees coach Fred Harbinson. “They are a team that likes to trade chances. We have to make sure to play better defensively.”
Vees co-captain Cody DePourcq said they are well aware of Mackin’s offensive prowess.
“He’s been lighting it up so far this year, we have to keep our eye on him,” he said.
After walking over the Merritt Centennials 8-1 on New Year’s Eve, the Express, 15-18-1-4, got thumped 6-1 by the Langley Rivermen at home, then exacted some revenge in a 4-3 win in Langley on Jan. 3. The Vees earned their fifth straight win against the Vernon Vipers, a 3-0 final on Friday, then lost to the Salmon Arm Silverbacks at the Shaw Centre by the same score.
“I thought we played well,” said Harbinson. “I thought we played a better first period on Saturday then we did on Friday.”
Trailing 2-0, the Vees beat Angus Redmond, but not the cross bar which they hit twice and a post.
“We had a real good push in the third period. Had a lot of chances around the net,” said Harbinson. “For whatever reason, couldn’t find the back of the net. We didn’t get much puck luck that’s for sure.”
“We had a lot of chances that we didn’t bury. I think that was the big key,” said DePourcq, added that the Silverbacks capitalized on mistakes.
On Friday, it was announced that defenceman Gabe Bast committed to the University of North Dakota. The Red Deer product will at UND in the 2016-17 season. Bast said getting the commitment is “unbelievable.” After visiting the campus two years ago while playing in a midget AAA tournament, Bast was hooked.
“I fell in love right then and there,” he said.
Bast and UND stayed in touch with talks getting serious this year. Bast said he believes it’s his complete game and work ethic that they like. He also reminds them of former Vees captain Troy Stecher. The school is currently ranked No.1 by www.USSCHO.com.
“Gabe has been a steady presence on our backend, a two-way defenceman that can play in all situations,” said Harbinson in a team statement. “This is a great opportunity for Gabe to play for one of the premier NCAA programs. ”
Bast, who played for Canada West in the 2014 World Junior A Challenge, leads Vees defencemen in scoring and is seventh on the team with 24 points in 32 games.
The BCHL’s trade deadline is Jan. 10. The Vees have two cards to work with, however, Harbinson said that they are happy with the group they have and don’t plan to be active. Forward Matt Serratore, who is on injured reserve, is expected to return later this month. The addition of Shayne Gwinner prior to the Christmas break put the at 23 players. On Monday Harbinson said he would make a decision to get down to 22 prior to the deadline and that happened Wednesday as they moved rookie defenceman Connor Russell to the Cowichan Valley Capitals for future considerations.
— Penticton Vees (@PentictonVees) January 7, 2015
A few Vees posted their thoughts on Russell being moved on Twitter.
— Paddy Sexton (@PSexton94) January 7, 2015
The hockey world is a tough one sometimes.Brutally tough to say bye to one of the best guys I’ve played with.Good luck @CRusty96 in Cowichan
— Jarod Hilderman (@J_rodHildy) January 7, 2015
— Brendan Barry (@BBarry_1) January 7, 2015
In other news, three Vees graduates have made the Hobey Baker voting list to be named college hockey’s best player. Vying for that honour are Joey Laleggia, Bryce Gervais and Mike Reilly. The latter two helped the Vees win the 2012 RBC Cup.
Reilly is in his third season with the No. 9 ranked University of Minnesota Golden Gophers. He is second in team scoring with four goals and 19 points in 16 games. LaLeggia is in his senior season with the No. 10 ranked Denver University Pioneers and is fourth in team scoring with six goals and 14 points in 16 games.
Gervais, in his third season with the No. 4 ranked Minnesota-State Mankato Mavericks, leads his team in goals with 12 in 19 games and has 18 on the season.
Voting opened Jan. 7 and fans can visit www.hobeybakeraward.com.
This first phase of voting ends on March 8, 2015, with phase two starting March 19 from the list of Top Ten Hobey Baker finalists. The fans’ vote accounts for one per cent of the total ballot in each phase in selecting this year’s winner. Criteria for the candidates is each one emulates the exceptional character traits exhibited by the award’s namesake, Hobey Baker. A legendary American hero, Baker was a World War I fighter pilot and was known as America’s greatest amateur athlete in his day, excelling at hockey and football at Princeton University. Award candidates must demonstrate strength of character both on and off the ice, contribute to the integrity of his team and display outstanding skills in all phases of the game. Consideration should be given to scholastic achievement and sportsmanship.
The 2015 Hobey Baker Award winner will be announced from a field of three Hobey Hat Trick finalists on April 10, 2015 during the NCAA Frozen Four championships in Boston.
Vees notes: Former goalie Joel Rumpel, of the Wisconsin Badgers, was named the Big Ten third star. Michael Garteig, who helped the Vees win the 2012 RBC Cup, was named the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference goalie of the month for December for the Quinnipiac Bobcats. Garteig was 3-1-0 in four games for the Bobcats, including posting two shutouts. The junior goalie’s three wins led all ECAC Hockey goalies. He stopped 90 of 95 in the four games for a .947 save percentage, while his five goals allowed over 240 minutes produced a 1.47 goals-against average. He was named the ECAC Hockey Player of the Week and Goalie of the Week on Dec. 30.