Vees Get Another Go at T-Birds

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(ISN) – The Penticton Vees play the Soo Thunderbirds in the semi-finals of the RBC Cup Saturday.

Friday is an off day for all teams and with the round-robin portion of the tournament now complete, the Portage Terriers are the odd team out with a 1-3 record. They lost to Woodstock, who was also 1-3, in the round robin.

The Penticton Vees play the Soo Thunderbirds in Saturday’s semis. Soo upended the Vees 2-1 in the tournament opener but today, we hear from BCHL commissioner John Grisdale who has taken in a lot of hockey in Humboldt over the last week. He’s been to each of the last four RBC Cups and says the calibre of play at the event ratchets up every year.

“The quality of teams coming in here seems to get better every year,” says Grisdale. “Every one of the games, except for maybe one, has been really competitive. Probably the highlight is that no team is running away with it; Humboldt is 4-0 but could have lost last night’s game.”

As for the team representing his league, Grisdale says the Penticton Vees appear to be rounding into form after an 0-2 start.

“The Vees play a real puck control game but that’s been taken from them a bit and the ice isn’t great. I certainly did notice the last period of their last game, even though they were tired, they started to connect a bit more.”

Grisdale says individuals have had their moments for the Vees but as a group, there hasn’t been the consistency that was displayed for the majority of the season. Penticton’s relative youth is a hurdle as well.

“There’s no question, strength is a factor in everything,” says Grisdale. “The teams they’re playing against are older but there’s the talent on the Vees to overcome that.”

Something else that should help is the return to the lineup of big-bodied defensive blueliner Kyle Beaulieu who was suspended for two games after being assessed a checking-from-behind penalty at the end of regulation in Sunday’s game versus Humboldt. He’ll be important to have in what has generally been a low-scoring tournament.

Penticton will be buoyed also by the presence of Travis St. Denis, who leads the team with three assists and did not play against Soo in the first game as he was battling the flu.

Grisdale reports the town of Humboldt has been nothing less than stellar in its support and hospitality.

“Everybody in Humboldt has been fantastic; the host committee, the volunteers, the attendance has been great for just about every game,” he says. “I just can’t say enough about them; we couldn’t have experienced a better reception.”

Besides the hockey, Grisdale has also been treated to an up-close view of one of the major industries in central Saskatchewan: potash mining. Earlier this week, he and some other Junior A league officials got the tour of a mine about 30 minutes outside Humboldt.

“It was fantastic; we went down 3,000 feet and then drove a kilometre in jeep-like vehicles to where they’re digging,” says Grisdale. “They have 15 borers and we spent about an hour down below then went on a tour of the processing facility. It’s eight hours from the when the potash comes out of the ground to the railcar.”

From the depths of the Earth, Grisdale hopes the Vees can rise to great heights this weekend as the RBC Cup’s playoff portion begins.

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