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Preview: Vees open 2019 against Silverbacks

Penticton, BC: The Penticton Vees (24-11-1-2) got a much needed 10-day break before returning to practice Wednesday to prepare for the final 20 games of the 2018-19 season, beginning Friday night at home to the Salmon Arm Silverbacks (17-15-4-0).

The Vees last game action was December 22, a 4-3 win over the West Kelowna Warriors. The teams traded goals in the first period with Eric Linell scoring twice for the Vees, including one while shorthanded.

After extending their lead to 3-1 halfway through the second thanks to a goal from Andre Ghantous, the Warriors answered with a late power-play goal to make it a 3-2 game heading into the third period.

Lukas Sillinger scored for the third straight game with a power-play tally of his own 8:09 into the frame, but the Warriors scored just 1:27 later to cut the lead to one.

Jack Lafontaine faced 22 shots over the first 40 minutes of the game, and his workload increased substantially as he faced 26 shots in the final 20 minutes alone, turning aside 25 of them to hold the Warriors at bay for the 4-3 victory.

While the Vees had already cemented themselves at the top of the division heading into the Christmas break with a win on home ice against West Kelowna the previous night, Saturday’s victory gave Penticton a three-point cushion to begin 2019.

It’s been nearly two months since the Vees have seen the Silverbacks, a 4-2 Vees win on home ice November 9. Tied 1-1 heading into the third, Ryan Sandelin scored twice and added an assist to lead the Vees to victory.

That was the second meeting of the season between the two teams as they met in Salmon Arm October 12, a 3-2 Salmon Arm shootout win. Silverbacks goalie Ethan Langenegger was named the games first star, turning aside 39 shots in the victory.

The Silverbacks will be without leading scorer Matthew Verboon, who is representing team Switzerland at the World Junior Championships in Vancouver. The Vees meanwhile are expecting to have more bodies back into the lineup as defenceman Peter Muzyka and forward Brendan Harrogate will return from injury. They missed 14 and eight games respectively.

Team Statistics

Leading Scorers

Penticton Vees

James Miller – 16G 30A 38GP

Eric Linell – 22G 22A 40GP

David Silye – 13G 29A 34GP

Salmon Arm Silverbacks

Matthew Verboon – 13G 16A 31GP

Noah Wakeford – 7G 19A 32GP

Justin Wilson – 13G 11A 19GP

Special Teams

Penticton Vees

Power Play – 20.3 per cent (5th in BCHL)

Penalty Kill – 81.1 per cent (8th in BCHL)

Salmon Arm Silverbacks

Power Play – 16.8 per cent (16th in BCHL)

Penalty Kill – 82.4 per cent (7th in BCHL)

Season Series

October 12, 2018 – Vees 2 @ Silverbacks 3 SO Boxscore

November 9, 2018 – Vees 4 vs Silverbacks 2 Boxscore

January 4, 2019 – Vees vs Silverbacks

January 6, 2019 – Vees @ Silverbacks

February 22, 2019 – Vees @ Silverbacks

February 23, 2019 – Vees vs Silverbacks