In a month dedicated to showers, not only has BC seen better than usual weather this April, it witnessed the return of the BC Hockey League.
The Penticton Vees kicked off their 2021 pod season in April and look to finish atop the Penticton pod. It may look different, only playing against two other teams and no playoffs, but the game is still the same.
The Vees play the Trail Smoke Eaters and the Cranbrook Bucks ten times each. Sitting in pole position and having mathematically won the division with games to spare, the Vees have looked like the team that took home the Okanagan Cup last fall.
Penticton started the season with a six-game win streak before seeing defeat. The Smoke Eaters handed the Vees their first loss of the year in a tight 3-2 game on Apr. 14. The Peach City hosts saw a modest three-game win streak come to an end when the Cranbrook Bucks, the new boys in the league, earned a shutout in a 1-0 shootout loss on Apr. 21.
— Penticton Vees (@PentictonVees) April 1, 2021
Since the shutout loss, the Vees have not scored less than three goals and continued to put Ws in the win column.
The team is running on all cylinders, with forwards Luc Wilson and Liam Malmquist leading the charge with 24 and 18 points respectively to wrap up the month. At the same time, Burnaby native Kaeden Lane has provided excellent goaltending so far this season, having a sensational record of 12-1-0 while only allowing 16 goals in April and picking up four shutouts along the way.
Vees players get NHL and NCAA exposure
This year, with no playoffs due to COVID-19, the only trophy the league will hand out is to each pod winner. The Vees season is scheduled to conclude on May 9th, when they take on the Bucks, while the last game of the season overall occurs on May 11th.
Despite the fact there won’t be any playoffs this year, the league has done what it intended to do, get these players game action to be seen by scouts, be it National Hockey League or the NCAA. Having the extended training camp and the pod season helped players grow this season, with players from all teams committing to NCAA or other leagues across the board.
Off the ice, with his second season in the Peach City, forward Tyler Ho has committed to Lakehead University in Ontario for the 2021-22 season. Last season, the Surrey native played in 42 games and posted 13 goals and 11 assists. This year, he had 12 points in 15 games in April.
Meanwhile, netminder Jack LaFontaine, who was in goal for the Vees in the 2018-19 season and now plays for the University of Minnesota, earned himself the Mike Richter Award for college hockey’s top goaltender.
LaFontaine posted a record of 22-7-0 with a 1.79 goals-against-average, a .934 save percentage, and blanked the opposition five times. He helped the Golden Gophers win a Big Ten Championship, made the all-tournament team, and was named Big Ten’s best goalie.
The Vees have just a handful of games left before the season concludes and the offseason begins. The players and the league have done a great job in a challenging year, with hopes of normal returning next season. One thing both the players and the league can’t wait for is the return of fans in the seats to cheer on their favourite junior hockey teams.