Intense. Heated. Best rivals.
Those are just some of the words used by new Penticton Vees players who will experience the B.C. Hockey League rivalry with the Vernon Vipers for the first time this weekend. The home-and-home set starts Friday at the South Okanagan Events Centre at 7 p.m.
“I have just heard locker room talk how both these teams aren’t really friendly to one and other,” said forward Dakota Boutin of Moosomin, Sask. “A heated rivalry. I’m excited. Just the atmosphere of the fans.”
Boutin loves those kind of games as he describes himself as an emotional player and that carries him through a game.
With four more games played compared to the Vees, the Vipers lead the Interior Division with seven wins in nine games for 15 points. The Vipers most recent win was 5-4 against the Surrey Eagles.
After learning that the Vees have knocked the Vipers from the Fred Page Cup playoffs the last three years, Ryan Sandelin expects the Vipers to be fired up “to get a crack at us for the first time this season.”
“I think we’re up for the challenge. I think it’s going to be a pretty intense weekend,” said Sandelin. “It’s also going to be a lot of fun to go into a good environment, but also get another game at home.”
Sandelin has experienced rival games before playing high school hockey in Minnesota.
“Just the feeling of suiting up for a rivalry game, there is really nothing like it,” said Sandelin, whose father Scott played 25 NHL games with the Montreal Canadiens, Philadelphia Flyers and Minnesota North Stars. “I’m really excited to see what this one is like.”
Sanedlin is curious about the game environment and what the pace will be like.
“It’s obviously more intense than maybe some other games where you are not playing teams that you play all the time,” he said.
Ryan O’Connell, drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the seventh round, 203rd overall last summer, knows the Vipers will be a good team.
“I think that the more physical aspect is kind of what makes it such a big rivalry,” he said. “This year there is probably going to be a lot more skill. That’s what I’ve heard from the guys. It’s going to be a good battle for sure.”
O’Connell believes fans will see a high tempo game.
“Everyone is going to want to be here,” he said. “The atmosphere is going to be unbelievable.”
Boutin said getting that first win against the Vipers would be huge.
“It will set the pace for the next game. Maybe they will be gripping their sticks a bit tighter for the next game,” he said. “The emotions are high with everyone. Pretty emotional for the fans as well. Fans carry us through the game and you can tell every player on the ice is bringing their best effort.”
Vees notes: Ben Allen became the 17th player on the roster to earn National Collegiate Athletic Association Division 1 scholarship. The Allen, Tex., native has committed to the University of Alabama-Huntsville Chargers for next season. In five games Allen has recorded two goals and an assist.