Vaunted Vees add more offensive punch

As if it wasn’t daunting enough facing the Penticton Vees in back-to-back games, the Chilliwack Chiefs face a new and improved Vees squad.

As if it wasn’t daunting enough facing the mighty Penticton Vees in back-to-back games, the Chilliwack Chiefs must now face a new and improved Vees squad.

The Interior conference front-runners added to their already fearsome offence, picking up Bryce Gervais from the Salmon Arm Silverbacks late last week.

Defenceman Shane Hanna went the other way as ‘future considerations,’ completing a deal that originally sent forwards Garrett Hendrickson and Myles McCauley to Salmon Arm.

“I think it’s good for both teams,” said Vees coach and general manager Fred Harbinson. “They were kind of running on one line. I think that now you’ve got Shane Hanna, who is an up-and-coming defenceman, who will probably get a lot more minutes then he was with us. Hendrickson is the same kind of situation. He is a skilled forward and we have a lot of guys up front. McCauley scored 13 goals (in 23 games) in this league last year.”

In Gervais, who had 16 goals and 27 points in 20 games, the Vees feel they get a player who will work hard every shift, kill penalties and work the power play.

“Hopefully the guys we moved over there don’t hurt us when we play them, and I’m sure they are thinking the same when Bryce goes against them,” he said.

The Chiefs know Gervais well enough. He had two goals and was named the second star in a 4-3 overtime win for Chilliwack Nov. 12, prompting Chiefs forward Trevor Hills to acknowledge his skill in a post-game interview.

“That Gervais kid, he really makes plays out there,” Hills said. “He’s a good player for them.”

Gervais made his Penticton debut last weekend, making a very good first impression.

He helped the Vees  down the Merritt Centennials 4-1, scoring twice and adding an assist.

The next day in Trail against the Smoke Eaters, Gervais tallied another two goals in an 8-5 Vees win. That’s six wins in a row for the Vees who remain ranked No. 3 in Canada.

The first period against the Centennials was a teaser of what Gervais could do. He engaged himself physically (check the video at www.pentictonwesternnews.com) and went to the front of the net, which nearly resulted in a goal.

“He is an unbelievable team guy,” said Harbinson. “I can tell already just in the couple days that we have had him. When he has an open chance to shoot for himself for the hat trick in a 3-1 game and instead he passes it off to (Joey) Benik, to me that just says he puts the team in front of himself. That’s why we went out and got him.”

As shocked as Gervais was to get traded from Salmon Arm, he said he couldn’t have asked for a better team to come to.

“This team has crazy skill,” he said. “They can play defence, too, so hopefully we can go a long way this year.”

The addition of Gervais appears to be a very early Christmas present, and captain Logan Johnston also makes his regular season debut this weekend, coming off a lengthy suspension for a pre-season hit.

Though it’s been nearly two months, the Chiefs will be expecting a Penticton team out for revenge.

In Chilliwack’s home opener on Sept. 24, the visiting Vees turned in a flat effort and fell 7-1 at Prospera Centre.

Penticton’s only lost four games since (two in overtime), and their overall record of 18-3-0-2 has them running away in the Interior conference standings.

Penticton has scored 123 goals this season, 19 more than the next highest scoring team (Victoria, 104).

The Vees have yielded 68 goals this season, making them the sixth stingiest team in the 16-team circuit.

Penticton’s power play is lethal, clicking at 32.61 per cent.

At 81.42 per cent, their penalty kill is middle of the pack, ranking seventh overall.

Get more info at www.bchl.ca and check Tuesday’s Progress for a weekend wrapup.

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