Vees Crown Spruce Kings in OT; Win Eighth Straight

Game Recap Oct 23



Ron Gallo / Spruce Kings

Ron Gallo / Spruce Kings

  • The Vees were 1:22 away from their season-high win streak ending in Prince George Thursday but Matt Serratore threw on the heroes’ cape and produced some magic in double-overtime. Serratore kept the puck on a 2-on-1 rush and saw daylight between the Spruce Kings goalies legs. Savvy move by Serratore to use Mike Lee as a decoy and wait just long enough for the goalie to open himself up just enough to snap it five-hole. The photo above, snapped by the Spruce Kings Ron Gallo, shows the euphoria and bitter disappoint overtime brings.
  • The Vees were more than deserving of winning this game. Yes, they did squander a two-goal third period lead but they thoroughly outplayed the Spruce Kings Thursday night, especially five-on-five. The Vees outshot Prince George in all but one period and that was the double-overtime frame. The Vees only allowed 10 shots through two periods and Prince George only mustered two shots on net in the first. I thought the Vees were at their best in the first and third periods. If it wasn’t for some penalty trouble early in the third period, the Vees likely would have had this game won in regulation. Don’t get me wrong, Prince George had their chances, including a couple of Grade “A’s” in the first for Justin Rai and Valik Chichkin but it was the Vees who from start to finish, were the better of the two teams.
  • Remember in September how I was lamenting the fact the Vees weren’t having good starts? Well that was then and this is now, as if you include last night’s win, the Vees have scored first in six of their last eight games. It’s cliché but good starts are crucial at this level and especially on the road. Speaking of the road, the Vees have scored first in their last four road games. Their starts have been much better in the month of October and that does nothing but good for your team. Falling behind the eight ball isn’t only physically taxing but mentally as well. Catch up hockey can take its toll, so it’s encouraging to see the Vees play with the lead and for the majority of the games in October.
  • Thursday was the Vees first win in Prince George since March 9th, 2012. The Vees were 2-3-0-1 in Prince George since the start of the 2011-2012 season coming into Thursday’s game. Last night’s OT win snapped a three-game losing streak at the Coliseum dating back to March 10th, 2012. Yeah, Thursday was a non-divisional game but you never know what that extra point they picked up will do for them in the standings come late February. Remember, the Vees clinched their division on the final day of the regular season last year AND in overtime.
  • How about the emergence of Riley Alferd and Matt Serratore? The second-year forwards have taken a significant step forward in regards to their offensive game. Both scored last night and both were arguably the Vees two best forwards in the win. Serratore’s OT goal tied his total output for goals from last season with five. Yes, Serratore scored five in 58 games last year and already has five in just 12 games this year. He also is half way to his points total from last season (14), as he now has seven  in 12 games. Alferd is just one shy of matching his goal output from last season (7) and is just off a point per-game basis. Great story from yesterday, as I talked to both Alferd and Serratore outside the team hotel yesterday afternoon. They both said to me they would be “buzzing” Thursday and I would need to keep an eye on them. True story. Well, they called their own shot and delivered in a big way.
  • Don’t forget about Jack Ramsey on that line, as the big right-winger might get overlooked with the work Alferd and Serratore have been putting in. Ramsey was a physical presence  on Thursday and went into those “greasy” areas to get pucks and establish a cycle game. He made one hell of a play on Alferd’s early third period goal, as he chipped the puck up and past the defenseman at centre ice and then delivered a sweet cross-crease past to Alferd at the post; that just 20 seconds in the third. Hey, Ramsey almost won the game for the Vees in the dying moments of the third. He grabbed the puck off the boards, made a power move to the slot and has he was falling, rifled a wrist-shot that was just fought off by the Spruce Kings goalie. Ramsey was a force on Thursday and the Vees will need more of that tomorrow and Sunday.
  • Mike Lee was a “hockey nerd’s” dream on Thursday. In this new age of hockey analytics, such as Corsi and Fenwick, I’m sure Lee would have had a great rating. No, I don’t know much about advanced stats but Lee’s puck possession numbers would have been great last night. He had at least four if not five scoring attempts including two in overtime; he probably led all Vees in that category. He was also great in his own end with his partner Jarod Hilderman. Five-on-five, they were one of the Vees best D pairings last night. Lee and Hilderman are developing a good balance, as it seems Hilderman is really embracing a more stay-at-home approach of late, as Lee gains more confidence at both ends of the ice. Lee never lacked confidence in the offensive zone but the last two weeks has been his best as a Vee inside his own blue-line.
  • The Vees are not only getting it done in the offensive end but their own end as well. They have allowed the fewest goals against in the BCHL, as they’ve surrendered just 24 goals in 12 games. The next best team is Chilliwack but they’ve still allowed four more goals heading into Friday’s action. It’s now four straight games the Vees have only allowed two or less goals against; eight straight games they’ve allowed only three goals or less. One more for you, the Vees have only given up seven goals in their last five games.
  • Five-on-Five the Spruce Kings big three of Justin Rail, Chad Staley and Jeremiah Luedtke were held pointless. Luedtke scored on the power-play in third which was assisted by Rai. But those three combined for just two points last night when they combined for 53 in their previous 13 games. Luedtke was the best Spruce King forward in my opinion Thursday, with Brogan O’Brien a close second; Luedtke extended his point streak to four games with his third period goal.
  • A big milestone is fast approaching for the Vees and their Head Coach Fred Harbinson. With a win Saturday at home against Vernon, it would be career win number 300 for Harbinson as the Vees Head Coach. How fitting the milestone falls on a night the Vees face their long-time rival in the Vernon Vipers. That adding a bit more incentive to a game that really doesn’t need any more. Saturday should be a blast.
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GM #12 Preview: Seeking 8 in the Castle

Oct 23

 GAME TIME: 7 p.m.

VENUE: Prince George Coliseum


WATCHFasthockey Pay-Per-View 


OCT 23th: Vees at Spruce Kings JAN 11th: Spruce Kings at Vees

Vees logo





VEES STREAK: Seven wins

VEES TOP SCORER: Tyson Jost (7-8-15)







SPRUCE KINGS TOP SCORER: Justin Rai (10-9-19)

The Penticton Vees are in Prince George for their first and only visit to the Coliseum this season. The Vees are red-hot, winners of seven straight and looking to extend their win streak to a season high eight games. The Vees host the Spruce Kings back at the SOEC on January 11th in the return leg of the two-game season series.

Tonight is the second game for the Vees against a Mainland Division opponent and first since opening night back on September 19th. The Vees thumped the Surrey Eagles 11-2 on that night and three of their next five games will be against the Mainland Division; two versus the Eagles.

The Vees struggles in Prince George in recent years have been well documented, as they’ve lost their last three games at the Coliseum and their last win came back on March 9th, 2012. Last season the Vees dropped a close 4-3 decision to the S-Kings. Since the 2011-2012 season the Vees are 2-3-0-1 in Prince George.

Demico Hannoun and Tyson Jost continue to wheel hot sticks, as the two are riding seven-game point streaks respectively. Hannoun has seven goals and 12 point over the span and Jost has four goals and eight points. Hunter Miska, who starts tonight, has won his last six starts and has only allowed eight goals during the run; just two against in his last three starts.

Special teams might be the biggest factor in tonight’s contest. Though the Vees power-play has struggled to start the season, operating at 16 percent, they have scored power-play goals in their last three. Their power-play might be the difference tonight because the Spruce Kings are the most penalized team in the BCHL and have taken 23 penalties in their last three games; the Vees will have to make the most of their opportunities.

The Vees will be without their Co-Captains again tonight, as Cody DePourcq and Patrick Sexton remain out. There might be good news on the horizon, as DePourcq could be back this weekend and Sexton might be ready for next week’s slate of games.

The Spruce Kings return home for a three-game home stand after a busy road schedule last week. The Spruce Kings went 2-2-0 on their recent four-game road swing down to the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island. Prince George opened the trip with a 3-2 loss in Chilliwack, before rebounding with a 5-4 overtime win Powell River last Friday. Prince George then split games in Nanaimo and Port Alberni, losing 5-1 in Nanaimo Saturday, but wrapped up the trip with a 5-4 against the Alberni Valley Bulldogs Sunday.

Prince George is looking up at Chilliwack at the top of the Mainland Division, as they’re two points back of the division leading Chiefs and have played two more games than Chilliwack.

The Spruce Kings pack an offensive punch, in particular their top line of Justin Rai, Chad Staley and Jeremiah Luedtke. The three 20-year-olds are 1-2-3 in team scoring and all three are in the top 15 in BCHL scoring. Rai leads the way with a team best 10 goals and 19 points, followed by Luedtke (5-12-17) and Staley (7-9-16). Rai has as many goals (10) as the Spruce Kings third and fourth lines combined.

Prince George boasts two quality goaltenders, as Jessie Jenks and Alex Brooks-Potts have split time between the pipes pretty evenly. Jenks is 5-1-0 on the season, sporting a 3.44 goals-against average and a .911 save-percentage. Brooks-Potts owns a 3-4-0 record and has a 3.11 goals-against average to go along with a .915 save-percentage.

The Vees forwards will have to take note of the Spruce Kings size on the blue-line. As a group, their average height is over six feet and they weigh in at 193 pounds.

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Tyson Jost TSN Shoot

On Tuesday Tyson Jost stepped in front of the camera and lights for a TSN feature.  Their crew was at the SOEC shooting their “Powerade 24″ series that is regularly featured on Sportscentre. The series profiles upcoming young amateur athletes across Canada.

The feature will air on Tuesday,  November 4th on SportCentre and will be available on their website as well. Stay tuned for the finished product.

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Snake Charmers & Bear Tamers

  • This past weekend marked the third time this month the Vees have swept their weekend schedule. Think about this for a moment. In the first three weekends of October, they’ve played on back-to-back nights, all home-road splits, and have won out on all three weekends. That’s impressive.
  • There’s more to these two-game weekends than jut lacing up the skates and playing well for sixty-minutes. When teams are faced with weekend splits, one home game and one road game, it creates a full schedule. Take this past weekend for example, the Vees were in Vernon on Friday then back home Saturday. It’s not the longest trip to Vernon but you’re looking at an hour and forty-five minutes each way and it becomes a long night when you add it all up. Post-game, you pack up, head out to pickup your post-game meal, then drive back to Penticton. Unpack your gear and when you’re done and putting your head on the pillow it’s the early hours of Saturday morning. Compounding matters is the Saturday game is at 6 p.m. not 7 p.m. So everything you do pre-game is pushed up an hour. Players and Training staff have it the worst on these weekends. No, it isn’t an Island Division road trip but these weekends aren’t a cake walk either.
  • Just looking back at Saturday and it had “trap game” written all over it. The Vees were in Vernon the night prior, facing a long-time rival. They win a tight contest and then you’re back home less than twenty-four hours later playing a non-divisional opponent. Credit the Vees for not sagging on Saturday and grinding out another one-goal win.
  • What I liked about this weekend was not only the wins but how the Vees won. Everyone wants to talk about their offense and rightfully so but the Vees have quietly gone about being the best defensive team in the BCHL. They have allowed a league low 22 goals in 11 games. Their goals-against average (2.00) is over a half a goal per-game lower than the next best team (Chilliwack is second at 2.55). During this seven-game win streak the Vees have only surrendered 11 goals; just two in their last nine periods of hockey. TWO. To put that into perspective, West Kelowna allowed seven goals against Vernon Saturday and Cowichan Valley surrendered 15 goals in their two games this weekend.
  • Remember, their stingy play away from the puck has come when they’re minus two of their best defensive players. Patrick Sexton is one of the Vees best defensive defenseman and plays on the Vees first unit penalty-kill. Cody DePourcq, though a forward, is regarded as one of the best two-way forwards in the BCHL. DePourcq usually is matched up against the opposition’s top forwards and also sees significant time on the penalty-kill. Those two have been out of the line-up since October 3rd and October 10th respectively.
  • A big key to the Vees defensive success has been the man tending to the net. Hunter Miska has gone about his business and now leads the BCHL in wins (8), is second in goals-against average (1.81) and save-percentage (.935). To take that a step further, if you use, say 300 minutes as a bench mark for starting goaltenders, Miska has the best goals-against average and save-percentage. He was so sound on Friday night in Vernon and again Saturday against Victoria. You can see how confident he is right now by his demeanor in the crease. He’s one of, if not the most competitive goaltenders I’ve seen in my four years in Penticton. Miska hates, I mean HATES, getting scored on. Even in practice. When the team does flow drills, two-on-one rushes and the like, Miska is hell-bent on stopping every shot. Every shot.
  • The group of six on the blue-line needs some love as well. They’re minus their leader in Sexton but still managing to do more than enough to get the job done. Guys like Mike Lee and Miles Gendron continue to get better in each and every game. I thought Lee had his best game as a Vee on Saturday and I thought Gendron did on Friday. In what the two lack in size, they makeup for in ability and foot speed. Both are great skaters who can close gaps down quickly and turn and chase down forwards in a hurry. I really noticed Lee has this ability to use his stick and reach to disrupt a lot of defensive zone pressure from the opposition. When others maybe didn’t have their best games on Saturday, guys like Lee stepped up and filled the void; he was more than deserving of his third star recognition.
  • I’ve read this weekend how “physical” teams were against the Vees and how they “threw their bodies” at them. Yes, teams try to target the Vees physically to disrupt their game. Has it worked in short stretches? Sure. Has it led to them losing because they were “physically outmatched?” No. Yep, last night the Grizzlies had some success early on with their fore-check pressure and using their size to lean on the Vees. But as the game turned to the second and third period, the Vees, like they’ve done so many times before, adapted and excelled. When you’re throwing your weight around a lot, it usually means you don’t have the puck and you’re chasing. The Vees are a pretty quick group and their conditioning is second to none, and that has led to penalty trouble for the opposition. Now, if the Vees power-play can get on track, then teams will take notice of trying to go after them so much.
  • The Vees have had a power-play goal in their last three games but they haven’t been able to build on that. They were one for four Saturday, one for five Friday and one for six back on October 11th in West Kelowna. I’m still holding out to see them really do damage with the power-play and that will hopefully happen soon. They’ve had their looks, including last night but you also have to get some bounces and luck. That necessarily hasn’t been there for them with the man-advantage. Last night it was great to see them tie the game on the power-play after Victoria opened the scoring on a power-play of their own. Critical timing.
  • A lot of focus has been on the likes of Jost, Lewis Zerter-Gossage and Demico Hannoun and rightfully so. But the Vees have been getting some really significant contributions throughout their line-up. Look at last night, their “fourth-line” manufactured the game-winning goal late in the second period. What stood out for me was the fact the coaches put out their fourth-line inside the final two-minutes of the period. That was the Vees coaches showing faith with their depth players and that trust was rewarded with the game-winner. A big key this year has been the Vees depth and how they seem to wear down opponents by continually rolling their lines. Last night was a perfect example, the Vees kept using all four lines right up until the final moments of the third. Victoria was using their depth players early on but when they fell behind, the bench got shorter and maybe their gas tank too. That was the same story on Friday night, as Vernon heavily taxed their two lines when they fell behind. If the Vees are going to continue to have success, all four lines and three defensive pairings will have to continue to make significant contributions. This is stressed even more with their tough schedule this week, which sees the Vees play three games in four nights, with lots of bus travel. They head up to Prince George for a Thursday game, drive back home through the night and into the early hours of Friday. Then it’s a home game Saturday against Vernon, before jumping right back on the bus Sunday for a matinée in Salmon Arm. They’ll be tested physically and mentally this weekend and they need to be using a full bench. Ice time needs to spread out throughout the line-up this week to keep everyone fresh over this tough stretch.
  • Another big key for the Vees this year, has been their success against their own division. They’ve only not gained maximum points from an Interior Division game once out of eight games. Their only blemish is a 5-0 loss to Merritt back on September 27th; they haven’t lost since. They’re 7-1-0-0 against their own division and that’s a big reason why they have a six-point lead on second place. Every game is important in a 58 game schedule, but you really make hay within your own division and so far, so good for the Vees.


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Quick Recap: Vees 2 Victoria 1; Win Streak at 7



An abbreviated post-game post. I’ll have a detailed recap of the weekend on a Sunday morning post. Vees have now seven in a row with a 2-1 win over the Victoria Grizzlies.

They’re 10-1-0-0 on the year, 4-0-0-0 at the SOEC and 5-0-0-0 as the home team*. The Vees are off until next Thursday when they travel to Prince George.

*Bauer BCHL Showcase.

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GM #11 Preview: Vees Look for their 7th Straight Win

Oct 18

GAME TIME: 6 p.m.



WATCH: Fasthockey Pay-Per-View 


OCT 18TH: Grizzlies at Vees NOV 7TH: Vees at Grizzlies





VEES TOP SCORER: Tyson Jost (6-7-13)





GRIZZLIES TOP SCORER: Dane Gibson (2-8-10)

The Penticton Vees are in search of their seventh straight win Saturday, when they host the Victoria Grizzlies at the SOEC. The Vees won their sixth in a row Friday in Vernon, downing the Vipers 3-1 at Kal-Tire Place. Also the Vees are a perfect 4-0-0-0* at home and 3-0-0-0 at the SOEC.

*One home win at the Bauer BCHL Showcase.

The Grizzlies are coming off a win as well on Friday, as they went into Salmon Arm and edged the Silverbacks 3-2 at the Shaw Centre. Friday was the first of a three-game Interior Division road trip for the Grizz, who wrap up their weekend tomorrow afternoon in Merritt.

Demico Hannoun scored twice for the Vees Friday, including the game-winner midway through the second period. Matt Serratore added an empty-net goal in the dying moments of the third period. Hunter Miska was terrific on Friday, winning his fifth straight start, stopping 32 of 33 Viper shots.

Tonight is the Vees second game against an Island Division opponent and first non-divisional gam since September 20th. On that day, the Vees posted a 4-3 win over the Alberni Valley Bulldogs at the Bauer BCHL Showcase. Tonight marks the first of two straight non-divisional games for the Vees, as they are in Prince George to face the Spruce Kings next Thursday.

The Vees will ice the same line-up tonight as they did on Friday night in Vernon. Co-Captains Cody DePourcq and Patrick Sexton remain out of the line-up as they recover from upper-body injuries. Hunter Miska gets the start once again in goal.

Vees Notes:

  • The Vees had their way with the Island Division last year, posting a 9-2-0-1 record.
  • The Vees won two of three last year against Victoria. They took a 2-1 decision at the Bauer BCHL Showcase and a 3-2 victory in Victoria in February.
  • Victoria’s last visit to the SOEC was back on February 15th. The Grizz posted a 3-1 win over the Vees.
  • Demico Hannoun is riding a six-game point streak heading into tonight’s action. Hannoun has seven goals and 11 points during the streak.
  • Speaking of streaks, Tyson Jost’s first period assist Friday, extended his point streak to six games; he has three goals and seven points during that stretch.
  • Quietly, Riley Alferd has gone about putting together a five-game point’s streak. His assist Friday gives him four goals and seven points over the five games.

The Grizzlies clawed out a 3-2 win in tight contest in Salmon Arm Friday. Tied 1-1 to start the third, the Grizzlies scored twice on goals from Captain Shawn McBride and Brett Gruber to build a 3-1 lead. The Silverbacks made a game of it late, as Colton Thibault scored inside the final two minutes. Rookie netminder Sean Clearly got the win between the pipes, stopping 28 of 30 shots.

The Grizzlies are playing somewhat short-handed as newly acquired defenseman Jake Emilo was put on the 30-day injured reserve yesterday, for what is described as a lower-body injury.

Victoria is playing some good hockey of late, as they’re 3-1-0-1 in the month of October and have won three of their last four games. Their only regulation loss this month was a 4-3 decision at home against Nanaimo last Saturday.

No, they don’t have the Fitzgerald triplets anymore, as the three brothers have graduated from the BCHL and are currently playing at Bemidji State University. Those three accounted for most of the Grizzlies offense last year. This season, it’s more of scoring by committee approach for the Grizz, as they have eight players with five or more points. The top three in team scoring are all returnees, as Dane Gibson leads the pack with 10 points, followed by Garrett Forester (4-4-8) and Jay Mackie (2-6-8).

There’s also a new face behind the bench, as Brad Knight is in his first season as a BCHL bench boss. Victoria split the season with two Head Coaches last year, as Bill Bestwick was replaced by Craig Didmond midway through the season.

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GM #10 Recap: Vees Tame Snakes, Win Sixth Straight

Game Recap Oct 17



Demico Hannoun’s game-winning goal in the second period.

  • The Penticton Vees won their sixth straight on Friday and it necessarily wasn’t the way they envisioned how they wanted the game to play out. They had a slow start but did get the all important lead on the road late in the first. They got better as the game moved into the second, including their power-play padding the lead midway through the frame. In the third their priorities turned to their play away from the puck, as they snuffed out the Vernon comeback.
  • Their performance was somewhat reflective of the game its self, as both teams fought the puck at times but both teams also traded chances. Last Saturday we saw a very structured and methodical performance from the Vees in West Kelowna. Friday night the game was a bit more open, due to the fact that both teams could really skate. I guess what I’m trying to get at is there was less structure to Friday’s win than the Vees previous wins. But give them credit, they never trailed and found ways to pick up goals when they needed to.
Cherie Morgan Photography 2014

Cherie Morgan Photography 2014

Hunter Miska was, to me, the reason the Vees carried a lead into both the first and second intermission. At the start of the game the Vees were on their heels, as the Vipers had four quality looks on goal inside the first 10 minutes. Assistant Coach Steve Cawley said post-game they didn’t like their start. He said the Vees were too indecisive with the puck, especially in their own end and that created scoring chances for the Vipers. Two saves early in the first stood out for me. The first, was a left-pad save by Miska who came across sliding from right to left to thwart a cross-crease pass. The second, was a point-blank arm save off of TJ Dumonceaux right on top of the crease. The puck was dished out front from behind the net and Dumonceaux one-timed the pass but Miska got his glove arm on the shot. The second period featured his best save of the night. The fine folks over at captured this save on video.

  • Yes, that was the save of the game, as stated by the voice of the Vipers Graham Turnbull. Wow. With a player falling in his crease, Miska still manages to track the puck through traffic and as he’s falling forward, flings his glove-arm in the air to deny Luke Shiplo on the rebound.  They gave Miska the third star in building but he should have been bumped up to the second or even first star. Assistant Coach Steve Cawley said the confidence and self belief Miska has is second to none. That confidence he exudes is reassuring for the guys that plays in front of him.
Cherie Morgan Photography 2014

Cherie Morgan Photography 2014

  • The other guy that was in the running for the Vees best player award on Friday was Demico Hannoun. He clearly was  motivated to go back and face his former team for the first time and in their rink. The former Viper had the Vees first two goals and his power-play goal in the second turned out to be the game-winner. With his two goals Friday, Hannoun pushed his point-streak to six games. In his last six games the North Delta, BC, product has seven goals and 11 points. It’s not just his offense that’s impressive but his play away from the puck. Assistant Coach Steve Cawley post-game said, in all his time watching Hannoun play in this league and at the Major Midget level, this season is the hardest he’s seen him compete. Hannoun’s defensive play gets overlooked but there was one play that stood out for me. Late in the game, with the Vees up 2-1, Hannoun stepped up on Vipers defenseman Luke Shiplo and laid his shoulder into his chest to force the puck out of the Vees zone. I don’t know if we would have seen that from Hannoun last year.
  • Psst, Riley Alferd extended his point streak to five games. Alferd assisted on Matt Serratore’s empty-net goal in the dying moments of the game. In his last five games, Alferd has four goals and seven points. In 57 games last year, Alferd averaged .04 points per-game. Through 10 games this year, Alferd is averaging nearly a point-per game at .09. He’s only two goals away from tying his entire output from last season.
  • The Vees back-end might get overlooked in this game, as a lot of the attention went to Hunter Miska. But the group of six turned in another solid performance on Friday. Remember, they’ve been missing their most veteran player and Captain in Patrick Sexton since October 3rd. Mike Lee continues to take steps in the right direction, as he’s learning how to simplify his approach. His deception abilities are second to none, as he can dance around forwards like nobody else, but he’s also learning the sometimes the simple play isn’t a bad option. He’s not overly big in stature but he has this uncanny ability to get pucks off forwards; he’s great with his stick. There were one too many odd-man rushes for the coaches liking but for the most part, the D-core was very sound and hey, they only surrendered the one goal against.
  • One of these days the power-play is going to explode. They did score a key goal last night which is encouraging but the Vees has several chances to do more damage with the man-advantage. I guess the good sign is they’ve been producing chances. Their first two power-plays Friday weren’t great but power-plays three through five looked much better and they got some quality looks on net. Just before the Hannoun power-play goal in the second, Tyson Jost and Lewis Zerter-Gossage had great looks at the net during a scramble at the top of the crease. The Vipers goalie Jarrod Schamerhorn was down lying on his back but the puck somehow stayed out. Oh well, it will come. Patience.
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