Vees head north this week

Colton Davies

With four wins and a tie to begin 2018, the Penticton Vees will look to remain hot this weekend when they play three games in three nights during one of the more unusual stints in their schedule.

Penticton will travel to Prince George on Wednesday in advance of a road game against the Spruce Kings on Thursday. They will then return home for games on Friday against the Merritt Centennials and on Saturday against the Trail Smoke Eaters.

The Vees have played all three of those teams in their past five games, recording wins against the Spruce Kings and the Cents and posting a tie against the Smokies.

Assistant coach Jason Becker said the team will likely only dress five defensemen in Prince George on Thursday, as injuries continue to take a toll. 

Blueliner Michael Campoli was hurt on Friday against Trail, a game where he scored his first goal as a Vee.

Campoli's injury follows news last week that defender Nick Leivermann will be out for at least a month due to injury. Another player on the back end, Ryan O'Connell, was lost for the season in December due to a broken arm.

"It's nothing new for our group... It just means that the forwards have to be a little bit more aware of defensive play in our end," Becker said.

On the ice, it's been mostly all good news for the Vees in recent games.

The team's last game was a convincing 6-2 road win against the Chilliwack Chiefs, one that started off slow but ended very strong for Penticton.

The rematch of last year's B.C. Hockey League finals has been lopsided this year despite the Chiefs being the RBC Cup host this spring. The Vees are now 3-0 this year against the Chiefs and have outscored them 14-5. 

Prior to Saturday's win, the Vees drew even with the Smokies 2-2 on Friday and downed the Cents 4-3 on Wednesday. In both those games, Penticton led 43-21 in shots. 

There was added hype in the lineup for Wednesday's game against Merritt with both Wyatt Sloboshan and James Miller being acquired and both Chris Klack and Owen Sillinger returning to the lineup, as Becker pointed out.

"The unfortunate situation is we gain two and lose one during the weekend," Becker said, referring to Campoli's injury.

"But it's real exciting hockey for the fans to watch, real exciting for us to be a part of and coach. And seeing the guys compete as hard as they did and come out with the results they did last week."

Ahead of Tuesday's games, Penticton sat second in the BCHL standings with a record of 26-9-2-3 through 40 games. 

With 18 games still to go, the Vees clinched a playoff spot following their win on Saturday. The league's new playoff format will see only one team not make the playoffs this season.

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