Harbinson coaches team to national hockey titleFormer ’Jacket player and assistant coach and Penticton Vees win Royal Bank Cup
By: By Jon Garver, For The Telegram, Superior Telegram
The 2011-12 season was a special one for former University of Wisconsin-Superior men’s hockey player Fred Harbinson, and on Sunday, May 13, his team capped the year in the best way possible.
Harbinson, the head coach of the Penticton Vees in the British Columbia Hockey League, guided his team to the championship at the Royal Bank Cup, making them Canada’s junior hockey national champions.
Penticton was the top-ranked team in Canada for much of the season.
In dramatic fashion, the Vees got a goal with 51 seconds remaining to defeat the Woodstock Slammers 4-3 and claim the national championship.
Penticton rolled through the BCHL regular season, posting a 54-4-0-2 record. Along the way it won 42 consecutive games, establishing a new Canadian junior hockey record. The Vees followed the regular season by going 12-2-0-1 in the playoffs to win the BCHL playoff championship. Add to that a 4-1-0-0 record in the Doyle Cup (vs. the champion from the Alberta Junior Hockey League) and a 4-2-0-0 record in national tournament play and the Vees went 74-9-0-3 in 2011-12.
Harbinson was a forward for the Yellowjackets from 1991-95. He appeared in 111 games, scoring 67 goals and adding 50 assists. His goal total is the ninth-best total in school history, and his 117 points ranks him 21st on the Yellowjacket all-time scoring list.
Harbinson appeared in three NCAA Division III Ice Hockey Championships (1992, 1994 and 1995) and was an AHCA Second Team All-American in 1994, his best season. That year Harbinson scored a career-high 21 goals and led the Yellowjackets in scoring with 35 points in 33 games. He was a team captain for a Yellowjacket team that won the school’s first NCHA regular season and playoff titles and went onto an NCAA runner-up finish.
Following his playing career Harbinson entered the coaching ranks, serving as an assistant coach on Steve Nelson’s staff for three seasons. Yellowjacket teams were 61-30-7 in those three seasons and made two NCAA tournament appearances. From there Harbinson went on to become the head coach and general manager of the Fernie Ghostriders of the America West Hockey League for two seasons (1998-2000). In his second season, Harbinson led the Ghostriders to the AWHL championship and an appearance in the Gold Cup, the junior hockey national championship in the United States. Harbinson was 75-26-0-2 with Fernie.
In 2000 Harbinson was hired as the assistant coach of the Sioux City Musketeers of the United States Hockey League. Working with league coaching legend Dave Sicilano, Harbinson helped get the Musketeers to the post-season in his first year. The following season, Harbinson and Sicilano took the Musketeers to the top, claiming the Clark Cup championship, symbolic of the Tier I national champions in United States junior hockey.
From there it was back to the college game for Harbinson, who joined Craig Dahl’s coaching staff at St. Cloud State University in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association in 2002. The Huskies reached the NCAA tournament in Harbinson’s first season as well as his final season (2007). During his five-year stint in the Granite City, the Huskies compiled a record of 93-82-23.
Harbinson moved on to coach Penticton in 2007. In his first season (2007-08) the Vees finished second in the BCHL and claimed the playoff title before falling to Camrose in Doyle Cup. Harbinson won the BCHL Interior Conference Coach of the Year award that season, and also took home the same honor in 2012. An all-star game coach, Harbinson has helped send dozens of his players to NCAA Division I and Division III schools and has seen several chosen in the NHL Draft during his tenure in Penticton. In five seasons with the Vees, Harbinson has a record of 269-86-5-21.
Jon Garver is the Athletic Marketing and Fundraising Specialist at UW-Superior. He may be reached at 715-395-4614 or firstname.lastname@example.org.