December 19, 2010
Alex Wright swapped jerseys to help stop the bleeding.
By that time, the damage was already done.
Even a Roberto Luongo clone could not have saved the Penticton Vees from a lopsided defeat. The Prince George Mohawks’ season debut in a weekend senior hockey exhibition against an vastly depleted Vees squad came with predictable results -- a 13-1 win Saturday at the Coliseum, followed by a 16-2 dismantling Sunday morning at the Elksentre.
The scores didn’t really matter to either team. What made it meaningful for both teams was they finally got to test themselves again in games in which bodychecks were legal, age was no barrier, and the holy grail known as the Allan Cup became the beacon of their efforts on the ice.
“We’ve been in their shoes before and it’s tough,” said Mohawks forward Tyler Brough, 31.
“We were short-staffed last year when we went to Fort St. John and they gave us a few guys and we appreciated it. We’re all working men now, we’re not in tip-top shape like we were 10 years ago, so it’s nice to help them out. It’s tough for us to ease off on them because we know Fort St. John is going to come out with a strong team when we go up there (Jan. 15-16).”
Wright started Sunday’s game on the Mohawks’ bench but took over for Vees’ goalie Woody Wills with Penticton trailing 14-1. At that point, the Vees just wanted to win the third period, and very nearly did that. Brendan Miller set up Andrew Pond in deep to give the Vees their second goal but Brad Herman and Nick Matte pounded two more pucks past Wright to cap the scoring.
“I’m used to playing beer league. I haven’t played in eight years where there’s hitting, it’s different but you get used to it pretty quickly,” said Mohawks forward Jamie Molendyk, a former Quesnel Millionaire who scored a hat-trick Sunday.
The two-game series gave Mohawks forward Joe Morgan a rare opportunity to face off against his twin brother Geoff, who now plays defence for the Vees. Former teammates in their junior days with the Spruce Kings, Joe had his way quite a few times in the Vees’ end in both games, piling up points on a line with Brough and Tyson Hall.
“I think the only other time I played against him was in tryouts,” said Joe Morgan, whose brother moved to Penticton in the summer. “We expected a bit better matchups but at least they came (here to play). It was just good to get the team together and get the lines going to see who’s good with who. I especially liked the hitting, we needed that.”
Vees’ player/coach Rob DeKock said the lure of the Mexican Riviera hurt Penticton’s chances of success in their return to senior hockey after a long absence.
“We didn’t have a full roster up here, we’ve got eight guys in Mexico,” said DeKock, 43, a former Merritt Centennial forward. “These are the first two games in 16 years for any senior hockey activity in Penticton, so we’re looking forward to building the squad and competing for the Savage Cup (provincial championship) this year.”
The Vees join the Mohawks and Fort St. John Flyers as the only triple-A senior teams in the province. The provincial Savage Cup winner will battle the Alberta champ for the right to play in the Allan Cup national championship in Kenora, Ont., in April.
Missing from the Vees roster were ex-Penticton Vees junior A captain Kevin Borba; ex-ECHL pro forward Cody Devitt; and Derek Ruck, a two-time Allan Cup winner with Powell River.
The Grant Williams-coached Mohawks appeared a faster, better-prepared team than they were last season, when they didn’t play their first games until March. Dustin Erickson, Brad Herman, Mark Tanemura, Peter Kolida, Tyler Wallace, Molendyk and Wright have added a new dimension that should enhance their Allan Cup chances.
The Mohawks will play next in Fort St. John, Jan. 15-16, and will host the Flyers in Prince George in February. They also are planning a road trip to Penticton.