The Penticton Vees (49-6-1-0) play their final two regular season games on the road this weekend and it all starts tonight in Merritt against the Centennials (21-30-1-4) at 7:30 pm. The Vees won their 10th in a row Wednesday, thumping the Surrey Eagles 11-0 in their home regular season finale at the SOEC. Merritt hasn’t played since last Saturday, when the earned a come-from-behind, 3-2 OT win over Alberni Valley.
Friday morning the BCHL announced their league award winners for the 2015-16 season and Captain Tyson Jost, defenceman Dante Fabbro and Head Coach Fred Harbinson were all winners. The complete story can be found HERE.
Tonight marks the seventh and final meeting between the Vees and Cents’ and first match up since Merritt beat the Vees 6-4 in dramatic fashion on January 27th; the Vees have gone on to win 10 in a row since. On that night, with the Vees leading 4-3 late, Merritt scored two goals in 11 seconds to tie and take the lead with just 90-seconds left in the third period; they added an empty-net goal to seal it. That was just the Vees’ sixth loss of the season and they haven’t lost since. Penticton is 5-1-0-0 in six games against the Cents’ this season.
Merritt is still fighting for their playoff lives as they enter the final weekend of the regular season two points back of the Vernon Vipers, who are clinging to fourth place in the Interior Division.It’s a must win tonight and tomorrow (vs. Wenatchee) for the Cents’ if they have aspirations of playoff hockey next week. Merritt will also need some held from the Wild tonight, as they’re in Vernon to face the Vipers.
Penticton is looking to become just the fifth team in BCHL history to win 50-games in the regular season and the first since the 2011-12 Vees, who won 54 that year. All four previous 50-win teams in the league went on to the RBC Cup Final, with three of the four being crown national champions.
Scott Conway also looks to sew up the Brett Hull Trophy as the top scorer in the BCHL. Conway has a seven-point cushion on Nanaimo’s Sheldon Rempal for top spot, with both teams having two games this weekend. Conway would be the first Vee to win the BCHL scoring title since Beau Bennett was a co-winner in 2009-10 with 120 points.
Speaking of Conway, he enters tonight’s game riding a league-best 21-game point streak. Conway has 24 goals and 46 points in those 21 games. His teammate and league MVP, Tyson Jost, has points in 14 straight and has has goals in his last seven, also a league-best. Conway also has the most points of any Vee against Merritt this year, with five goals and 13 points in six games. Nic Jones is second with 12 points and Jost is third with 11.
Anthony Brodeur gets the nod in goal and is 28-1-1-0 on the season with a .935 save percentage; his only loss this season came at the hands of the Cents’. Brodeur has won twice this year against Merritt, making two starts and one relief appearance.
Gabe Bast will rest tonight and not dress, along with forwards Darius Davidson and Demico Hannoun who are both still injured. Domenic Masellis will return to the line-up after being sidelined with a lower-body injury and will play up front, on a line with Ben Brar and Desi Burgart.
The Vees wrap-up their regular season tomorrow night at the Shaw Centre in Salmon Arm.