Vees Thump Tribe, Sweep Weekend, End ’14 on Winning Note

GAME STORY 

BOXSCORE  

  • Sometimes by watching warm-up you can get a good feel on how a team is going to play. Prior to tonight’s game I was casually watching the two teams warm-ups and they were vastly different. I glanced over the Vees warm-up (I it see quite a bit) but I caught myself doing a double-take when scanning through the Warriors pre-game routine. They were quiet, weren’t really zipping around their own zone and weren’t snapping the puck around. They looked a lot less energetic than the Vees and that’s where I thought the Vees had a chance. My Colour Commentator Trevor Miller both made some remarks to each other during the pre-game.
  • That warm-up definitely was a foreshadow of things to come, as the Vees got off to another great start, scoring the only two goals of the first to take a 2-0 lead into the dressing room. Remember, the Vees only had 10 forwards dressed, nine regulars but you couldn’t tell they were short-staffed by the way they played; no tired legs.
  • Lewis Zerter-Gossage built upon last night’s performance, as the confidence he showed from Friday carried over into Saturday. He made a nice play on the Vees first goal to get the puck on the left-wing and then have the sense to make a drop pass to Patrick Newell, who went post and in. Zerter-Gossage only finished with two assists, and I say “only” because it felt like he had more points by the way he played tonight. Again, he was dominant in the offensive zone and has built up some great chemistry with Newell.
  • Speaking of Newell, he had himself quite the night, bagging his first career BCHL hat-trick. Impressive given the fact Newell isn’t 100 percent, as he’s been battling an illness this week. He may looked a bit pale and sounded hoarse but it didn’t affect him on the ice. All three of his goals were nice and in their own unique way. His first was a nice shot, as he picked the corner of the net from the left hash-mark. His second came at a critical time late in the second period restore the Vee two-goal lead. He showed great sense to flip the puck from behind the goal-line, back out front and off the defenseman and goalie, before it trickled across the goal-line. He left little doubt on his third goal, as he put a laser in the top corner that popped the  water bottle. With his three goals tonight, Newell has now passed Riley Alferd for the team scoring lead with 35 points. The kid is starting to really come into his own.
  • I said this on Twitter but I’ll reiterate it here. I’ll never tire of seeing players score their first BCHL goals, especially the young guys. Great moment for call-up Taylor Ward who scored the Vees second goal, his first career BCHL goal, and in just his second game. Ward didn’t look like a wide-eye AP with the puck, as he hammered a one-timer into open net after a nice cross-ice pass from Zerter-Gossage. Watching Ward react to scoring his first goal was priceless and the Vees players were as ecstatic. Kudos to Zerter-Gossage, as you could tell he made a conscious effort to try to set up Ward for a scoring chance.
  • I said the Vees would need some contributions from the likes of Connor Chartier and Dakota Conroy if they were going to be successful this weekend. Well they each had a goal and an assist in Saturday’s win. Chartier scored his first in eight games, when he scored on a two-on-one with Conroy in the third. Funny how a player like Chartier can’t buy a goal lately but breaks the slump by having a pass go off his shin before going through the goalie. Conroy’s goal gives him three in as many games and four in his last five games. This weekend was why the Vees went out and got Chartier and Conroy and the two stepped up when they needed to.
  • For the most part this weekend the Vees kept the Warriors top players at bay. Yes, Cotton scored in the second but Liam Blackburn, Jonathan Desbiens and Michael Buonincontri were held off the scoresheet Saturday. In fact, Blackburn, who is second in BCHL scoring, only has two assists against the Vees in six games this season. Desbiens and Gelsinger, who have been Vees killers this year, only combined for one assist this weekend. Coming into this weekend’s action, the two combined for five goals and eight points in the previous four games against Penticton.

 

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Game #36 Preview: Act Two in West Kelowna

Dec 20

LISTEN 

WATCH 

Venue: Royal LePage Place

Game Time: 7pm

Season Series: Oct 10th 4-3 Vees, Oct 11th 4-0 Vees, Nov 5th 3-2 Warriors, Nov 29th 4-3 Warriors, Dec 19th 4-2 Vees, Dec 20th at Warriors, January 20th at Warriors.

Vees Road Record: 13-3-1-1

Vees Record vs. Interior: 16-4-1-0

Vees Leading Scorer: Riley Alferd 17-17-34

 

Warriors Home Record: 8-6-0-1

Warriors Record vs. Interior: 9-9-0-3

Warriors Leading Scorer: Liam Blackburn 14-37-51

 

Act Two: 24 hours after the Vees 4-2 win at the SOEC, the two teams go at it again up the highway in West Kelowna. Tonight is the back half of the weekend home-and-home series and the Warriors now look to hold serve on home ice. The Vees did just that last night, building up a 3-1 first period lead, before taking their third win in five games against West Kelowna.

The key for the Vees was holding onto the lead, something that troubled them in their last two meetings with West Kelowna. They were an impressive 21-2-1-0 when leading after two periods going into last night’s game. I mention that stat again because the only two losses the Vees suffered this season when taking a lead into the third, was at the hands of the Warriors. So, it was huge to score the fourth goal early in the third period and then hang onto said lead.

A pretty gutsy effort from the Vees, considering they are missing six regulars from their line-up, which accounts for 41 percent of their offense. Today gets a bit more challenging, not only are they going into the opposition’s barn but they’ll be short two more forwards. Friday the Vees had three call-ups in their line-up but tonight they will only have one AP. Taylor Ward will play his second career BCHL game after making his Vees debut last night.

No doubt, a significant challenge faces the Vees tonight, with only nine regulars in their line-up upfront but it’s the last game before a lengthy Christmas break. They just have one game left before they can go home and see friends and family. Time to empty the tank.

Focus In: The returnees on this Vees squad know what happens when you’re too busy thinking about holiday plans before the final game prior to the annual Christmas break. One season ago, the Vees were in the exact same situation, heading up to West Kelowna for the final game before Christmas break. It wasn’t good. Quite the listless effort, as the Warriors thumped the Vees 4-0; it could have been worse.

I mentioned they have just one game before going home to friends and family but they have to realize there’s two big points on the table tonight. No one wants to go into an extended break on a losing note, as they would have to stew about a loss for quite some time. Remember, the Vees next game after the Christmas break isn’t till January 2nd when they host the Vernon Vipers. A win would make the break that much sweeter and shorter.

Tempo, Tempo, Tempo: When the Vees play at RLP, the tempo seems to at a higher level than any other rink. For whatever reason, it’s an up-and-down game in West Kelowna, especially with two great skating teams like the Vees and Warriors.

The transition game will be paramount, as going from defense to offense and vice versa is always key in a rink like RLP. Both teams can get up and down the ice in hurry so positioning and not getting trapped will be stressed. The Vees have to be aware of where they are on the ice at all times, especially with a shorter bench, as they can’t have tired legs stuck out on the ice. If that happens, then it can be odd-man rushes going the other way and that’s nothing but trouble.

Veterans Leading the Way: Friday the Vees veterans stepped up when they were asked to and they’ll need the same thing tonight. With a shorter bench, the guys in the line-up will be taxed with more hard minutes and especially their go-to guys. The likes of Alferd, Amantea, Cooper, DePourcq, Sexton and veteran junior players in Chartier and Conroy will be counted on. Even newbies like Lewis Zerter-Gossage and Patrick Newell will need to do some heavy lifting with the offense.

The guys mentioned above did lead on Friday and need a repeat performance tonight. The Warriors will have a chip on their shoulder and will want to salvage a weekend split, especially on home ice. The Vees can’t rest on what they did last night, as they’ll get a big push from the Warriors. Yes, these players will be taxed with more minutes then they’re accustomed too but they have over week to rest tired legs. Two points going into the break can sooth any aching muscles.

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Post-Game #35: Feisty Vees win Final Home Game of ’14

GAME RECAP 

BOXSCORE 

  • Well, the Vees did something they couldn’t do in the previous two meetings with the Warriors and that’s hold a third period lead. In the previous two games, the Warriors came back from 2-1 and 3-2 third period deficits in their last two trips to Penticton. Great to see the Vees add an early goal in the third to give themselves some breathing room and then hold the Warriors at bay.
  • That Dakota Conroy goal was so crucial because of the previous history with the Warriors. Early goal, coming just four-minutes into the third and it was shot of confidence the Vees needed after those last two dramatic losses to the Warriors. Conroy tracked down a loose puck in the deep slot and let go a wrist-shot that eluded Scott Patton. Instead of griping the stick, holding on to a 3-2 lead, the Vees allowed themselves to take a breath and relax-somewhat.
  • How about that first period? The coaching staff wasn’t happy with the effort level on Wednesday and challenged the team prior to the game. The response was immediate, as the Vees showed a lot of jump off the get go. They had a lot of energy and spent a lot of time in the Warriors end. The first goal was a good example of the determination the Vees had on Friday. Pat Newell took it hard to the net but was stopped by Scott Patton, who made two excellent saves. But the Vees stayed with it and got some luck too, as LZG threw the puck back in front and it was put it by the Warriors defenseman.
  • What was key for me wasn’t just the Vees scoring first but scoring again. Nothing is worse than scoring and then doing nothing to build on the momentum. The Vees didn’t fall in that trap, as they drew a penalty and then scored on the power-play. Again, determination, as Cody DePourcq scored with just six-seconds left in the man-advantage. Great hand-eye coordination showed by the Co-Captain, as he batted the fluttering puck out of mid-air and over Patton’s arm. Did laugh to myself when there was a small protest coming from the West-K bench. Really? Arguing a high-stick? C’maaaan.
  • Speaking of responses, great to see the Vees leaders do just that and lead on Friday. DePourcq scored the second goal and fellow co-captain Patrick Sexton scored the third goal. Great vision by Zerter-Gossage to spot Sexton creeping into the left-circle and he hammered a one-timer on the far side. Talk about timing, as that was Sexton’s first goal in 26 regular season games, going back to February 14th of last season. That goal was big, because West-K had just made it 2-1 five-minutes earlier. The Vees get a two-goal lead back but more importantly momentum heading into the second. Sexton is one of the best shutdown defensemen in the BCHL, a throwback player. Great to see him chip in offensively tonight and when guys like him score, it’s a huge boost for the team.
  • Lots going on in that first period, as the Vees scored three times and there was some fireworks at the tail end of the frame. The emotion boiled over after Mitch Newsome threw a hit on West Kelowna’s Tanner Campbell. This just eight seconds after the Vees scored. There was a penalty being called on Newsome, the hit deemed high, but before the infraction could be called, Newsome and Mac Ferner engaged in some fistacuffs. Great scrap between the two, as both threw some heavy right-hand bombs but neither buckled. I didn’t know Newsome had that in him but he showed he can go toe-to-toe with one of the toughest players in the BCHL. Now, I didn’t see the hit, as I was busy trying to write down the scoring play in my statbook, so I can’t comment on the play in question. The interesting thing was Newsome was allowed to stay in the game, as Ferner’s instigator penalty apparently wiped out his game misconduct. Newsome did have to sit in the penalty-box for 17 minutes, serving his two-minute minor, five-minute major penalty and 10 minute misconduct.
  •  Tough break for West Kelowna, not only losing Ferner for the rest of the game but possibly longer. It appeared Ferner either hurt his hand or shoulder during the scrap, as he was favouring his arm as he skated to the visitors tunnel. The Warriors fortunately had seven defensemen dressed but that still didn’t soften the blow of losing Ferner.
  • The second period played off of the first, well the first 10 minutes anyway, as it was a bit of track meet. The two teams did settle in defensively in the latter half of the second, as the middle of the ice was harder to get to. That’s how the last 30 minutes of the game went, still a great pace but a lot of the play was kept to the outside. Got to credit the Vees for keeping the Warriors big guns relatively quiet on Friday. Yeah, they out shot the Vees and had their chances but the Vees never let West Kelowna take over any part of the game. Yep, there were scrambles around the net but only a couple of times did those scrambles have you holding your breath.
  • Staying on the defense for a moment, it was a much improved performance by the Vees inside their blue-line. Much better with the puck on their stick, as they made quick reads and got the puck out cleanly for the most part. When they didn’t have the puck, they did a good job of keeping the Warriors on the perimeter or up high. Not a lot of shots came in “Grade A” areas. Also, as usual, there was some timely blocked shots and the defense has to share the credit with the forwards. Didn’t see that much running around by the Vees in their own end Friday.
  • Hunter Miska’s performance in goal was pretty darn good, as looking back on it he probably should have grabbed one of the three stars. He tracked the puck very well and there were quite a few saves he had to make when the puck was dancing around his net. One sequence in the second stood out for me, as he had the sense to duck and not let the puck bank off his helmet, when it came back in front off the glass. He made the initial stop, the puck bounced back in front and then he got the rebound too. Another great save was a lunging blocker stop late in the third when the Warriors were pressing. Miska timed it perfectly, sliding across to his blocker-side, thwarting Liam Blackburn at the post. Miska lunged out and knocked the puck away from Blackburn who was trying to force it in with any part of his body.
  • Lewis Zerter-Gossage, is starting to get back to the player we saw at the beginning of the year. Played big and had some great puck control throughout the game. It seemed like he and Pat Newell had something going every time they entered the offensive zone. LZG’s confidence is growing game by game and you can see that by some of the moves he makes when he’s in close quarters; the puck is on a string.
  • OK, I saw something from the Warrior’s Jason Cotton that you usually only see in video games. Cotton, twice, turned over his stick, putting the toe of his blade on the top of the puck and then spun the puck around his body before putting it through his legs; all in one fluid motion and off the rush. He did it in the second and in the third and he made it look easy. Impressive.
  • Also, have to tip my cap to the Warriors fan bus. They were noisy from start to finish, regardless of the score and contributed to a great atmosphere. They forced the Vees fans to be louder and it created an awesome enviroment; felt like a playoff game
  • IMG_0378
  • Now, this is just a random of picture of Vees Assistant Coach Steve Cawley talking to the referee at the end of the first period. I just had to put this on here. Coach Cawley having a friendly chat with the ref. Maybe discussing holiday plans?
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GM #35 Preview: Vees Host Warriors in Final Home Game of 2014

Dec 19

Venue: SOEC

Game Time: 7pm

Season Series: Oct 10th 4-3 Vees, Oct 11th 4-0 Vees, Nov 5th 3-2 Warriors, Nov 29th 4-3 Warriors, Dec 19th at Vees, Dec 20th at Warriors, January 20th at Warriors.

Vees Home Record: 13-2-1-0

Vees Record vs. Interior: 15-4-1-0

Vees Leading Scorer: Riley Alferd 17-17-34

 

Warriors Road Record: 10-4-0-4

Warriors Record vs. Interior: 9-8-0-3

Warriors Leading Scorer: Liam Blackburn 14-36-50

 

 WJAC Update: Good Hockey Canada story on Dante Fabbro and Tyson Jost. CLICK HERE 

What’s on Tap: The Penticton Vees (26-5-2-1) host the West Kelowna Warriors (18-10-0-5) for the fourth and final time at the SOEC tonight. This already is the fifth meeting between these two divisional foes and they’ve split the first four games in the seven-game season series.

West Kelowna has won the last two meetings, both at the SOEC and both by one goal; three of the first four meetings have been one-goa games. Back on Saturday, November 29th, the Warriors came away with a 4-3 win after a somewhat controversial game-winning goal by the Warrior’s Brayden Gelsinger inside the final half-minute of regulation. That win for West Kelowna ended the Vees six-game winning streak and the Warriors are accustomed to that, as they ended the Vees season-high 13-game win streak earlier in November. The Warriors have won two of three games at the SOEC this year; their only loss was a 4-3 decision back on October 10th.

This is the start of a home-and-away weekend series between these two Okanagan Valley rivals. They do it all over again tomorrow at Royal LePage Place in West Kelowna, and then it’s the annual Christmas break for both teams.

Vees Beat: After starting December with three straight wins, the Vees are winless in their last three (longest winless streak of the season) but they’ve picked up points in two of their last three. The Vees are coming off a disappointing 5-1 loss in Merritt on Wednesday night, as the Centennials power-play stung the Vees for two goals and handed them their first loss since November 29th. The Vees coaching staff weren’t happy with the overall effort on Wednesday and that will need to change going into a weekend double-header against the Warriors.

The Vees are still missing six regulars, four at the 2014 World Junior ‘A’ Challenge in Saskatchewan and two on the sideline with injury. Jack Ramsey was hurt last Sunday and missed Wednesday’s game against Merritt and will not play this weekend either. Matt Serratore is on the injured reserve recovering from a broken leg and won’t be back until late January.

To help fill the holes up front, the Vees have called up two players from the Okanagan Rockets of the BCMML. Sam Binfet, who played Wednesday, will be in the line-up again tonight, as will his Rockets teammate Brandon Whistle. Whistle, from Kelowna, will be making his BCHL debut tonight; he’ll wear number 94. Also in the line-up is 16-year-old Taylor Ward, who’s making his BCHL debut too. Ward plays next door at the Okanagan Hockey Academy.

Sizing up the Opposition: The Warriors are playing some good hockey in December, as they’ve won three in a row and four of their past five games. The Tribe beat the Trail Smoke Eaters 5-3 at home on Tuesday and that’s after a 5-1 drubbing of the Coquitlam Express last Saturday.

The Warriors boast plenty of offensive weapons, including leading scorer Liam Blackburn who’s second in the BCHL scoring race with 50 points in 33 games; Blackburn has four points in his last three games.  It’s not just Blackburn, as the Warriors have three other players over the 30-point threshold. Jason Cotton (16-20-36), Brayden Gelsinger (12-23-35) and Jonathan Desbiens (17-14-31) are all averaging a point per-game. Desbiens has been a thorn in the Vees side, as he has 3 goals and 4 points in as many games against the Vees this season.

The Warriors did have some injury concerns of their own, as both their goalies, Andy Desautels and Scott Patton, were missing from the line-up Tuesday; no word on their condition for tonight.

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Post-Game #34: Unbeaten Streak Ends in Merritt

GAME RECAP 

BOXSCORE 

  • Full marks to Merritt for the 5-1 win and ending the Vees five-game undefeated run. The Vees had tied their last two and won the previous three before that; they were 3-0-2-0 in December entering tonight. Merritt got some timely scoring from their power-play and depth scoring from their line-up in the win. You could tell they really wanted the ‘W’ tonight, as it was their first against Penticton since the two teams first met on September 27th. They also scored five goals in that game, winning 5-0 in Merritt. In fact, the Vees have now given up over four goals just twice this season and both have been against the Cents’ and in Merritt.
  • Talk about depth scoring, Merritt got goals from their second and third lines and one from their back-end. Their top line didn’t get an even-strength point and not one player in their top-six in team scoring got a goal.
  • Hey, the Vees were missing six regulars, four at the World Junior ‘A’ Challenge and two injured. They only dressed nine regulars upfront and the roster was filled out by two AP’s. Not only were they missing six but six key guys and it showed. The Vees just didn’t have their usual jump on Wednesday. It seems like every team in this league goes through these rough patches and the only thing the Vees can do is ride it out; it’s a long season.
  • Despite the score-line the Vees had some chances in the first period to make some noise. Riley Alferd intercepted an errant pass up the middle but hesitated too long in the slot and eventually missed the net. Lewis Zerter-Gossage made a nice deke in close quarters but maybe was guilty of one too many moves, as his backhand attempt sailed over the net. Despite what the boxscore said after the first, the Vees looked pretty good, the only damage coming on a Cents’ power-play but those missed chances came back to haunt them.
  • As mentioned, the one goal in the first came on a Merritt power-play but came off the rush. Cole Chorney, by himself and outnumbered, made a nice move to cut to the middle from the right-wing and put a backhand over Brendan Barry’s glove. Now, I know Merritt was on a power-play but the Vees had the puck carrier outnumbered but couldn’t get the puck off of Chorney. It looked like the backhand attempt by Chorney went off a Vee stick before ramping into the top corner. Just one bad sequence that stands out in the first twenty-minutes.
  • Now, Merritt did ring a couple shots off the post / cross-bar in the first. Gavin Gould, Diego Cuglietta and Michael Ederer all clanked shots off the iron. From a Merritt, perspective, you could argue the Vees were lucky to only be down 1-0 after 1.
  • I though a key turning point could have been a late first period penalty-kill by the Vees. After they went down 1-0 they started to string together a couple shifts but then were dinged for a late roughing penalty. The Vees did keep the Cents’ off the scoresheet on that power-play attempt but were helped by a post and some blocked shots. All things considered, I thought the Vees were looking good heading into the second down just 1-0.
  • A bit of a back-breaker at the time was the second Merritt goal as it again came early. Colin Grannary scored two minutes earlier than Chorney did in the first to double the Cents’ lead. The second goal by Merritt was an early Christmas present from the Vees. A Penticton forward fumbled the puck right to Grannary at the blue-line and he broke in alone on Barry from the top of the circles. Grannary’s deke appeared to go off both posts before Michael Ederer poked it in, but the goal was credited to Grannary. That goal stung because the Vees had some good moments early in the second to only see it get flushed away with a turnover.
  • Now, the Vees showed some resolve after the Cents’ goal, as Merritt ran into penalty-trouble and the Vees capitalized. Well, the Vees almost squandered the three straight power-plays, including an extended five-on-three but Dakota Conroy got them on the scoresheet. Conroy took a pass out of the corner and from the slot went over Jonah Imoo and off the middle bar. During that stretch of power-plays, I thought out loud the Vees needed to score to get back into the game. When they did, I thought here’s where they’re going to roar back. It just didn’t happen.
  • Another back-breaker, later in the second, was Merritt doubling their lead before the intermission. Again, it might have been different if the Vees would have made it to the second intermission down 2-1 rather than 3-1. It was a frustrating sequence all around, as the Vees actually had three legitimate chances, short-handed, to tie the game at two’s. Cody DePourcq, Cam Amantea and Connor Russell all had great looks while short-handed. Those three short-handed scoring chances came on back-to-back Cents’ power-plays inside the final six-minutes. DePourcq’s wrap-around got through Imoo’s legs but sat precariously in the Cents’ crease before being swept to safety. Amantea had a point-blank back-hand padded away by Imoo after Steen Cooper centered from behind the net. Russell cranked a slap-shot on a three-on-one rush, yes, a short-handed three-on-one rush. Russell was the trailer on the play but didn’t get all of it and Imoo laid down the pillows. To compound matters, the Cents’ went right back up the ice and scored after Russell’s shot was stopped. A kick in the Christmas ornaments. Instead of possibly tying the game, the Vees were staring at a two-goal deficit.
  • I got the feeling that third goal was the straw that broke the camel’s back for the Vees. They were looking so good on their two penalty-kills late in the second, harassing the Cents’, forcing turnovers and creating chances, but saw that all get washed away on a goal with just 55 seconds left in the middle frame. Gawh.
  • Again, some credit needs to be passed on to the Cents’ for scoring on the chances they created. The Vees left some goals on the table, so did Merritt but the home side found a way to score at the critical times. The 3-1 goal was huge, as Jake Clifford got it up ice and from the right-circle blasted it by Brendan Barry. Again, a key goal and at a critical time for Merritt. That’s something that eluded the Vees Wednesday: scoring in critical moments.
  • The two goals in the third seemed to be a formality more than anything thing but what chance the Vees did have was squashed by another early goal. Grannary picked up his second of the night when he one-timed a feed from the corner. The Vees were caught watching the play in the corner, as Grannary snuck into the middle of the ice and put the puck over Barry’s blocker quickly four-minutes in. Sam Johnson finished things off when he pounced on a turnover and put the puck in on the short-side off a foray into the Vees zone.
  • It wasn’t all doom and gloom Wednesday as there was some positives to take out of the lost, most notably the youngsters. I really liked the way both AP’s played in Tak Anholt and Sam Binfet. Binfet was really good away from the puck, as he made several nice defensive plays and never was a liability on the ice. Anholt had a few sniffs around the Merritt net and didn’t miss by much on a rebound, as he was inches away from his first BCHL goal. Not easy for the 17-year-old Binfet and 16-year-old Anholt to come into an environment like Merritt. Both handled the situation quite well and most importantly, didn’t have that deer caught in the headlights look.
  • Vernon did win Wednesday, thumping the Surrey Eagles 9-0 at home, so the Vees lead atop of the Interior shrinks to 10; odd to say shrinks and 10 in the same sentence. Still a healthy gap and the Vees afforded themselves some slack with their good start. Now it’s a big home-and-home weekend ahead with West Kelowna. Friday night will be crucial, as the Vees want not only get at least one win during this challenging five-game stretch but they want to go out on a winning note in their last home game of 2014.
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GM #34 Preview: A Mid-Week Clash in Merritt with the Cents’

Dec 17

WJAC UPDATE: Team Canada West, which has Gabe Bast, Dante Fabbro, Demico Hannoun and Tyson Jost on the roster, finished round-robin play Tuesday with a 3-2 shootout win over Russia. Jost and Bast scored in regulation and then Jost scored the clinching goal in the shootout.

Canada West finished the round-robin with a 1-1 record and now face Canada East in one of two quarter-finals today. The all Canadian match up is scheduled for 5:30 pm PST. You can watch for FREE online, at http://www.fasthockey.com or go to http://www.hockeycanada.ca/wjac.

Venue: Nicola Valley Memorial Arena

Game Time: 7pm

Listen: EZ Rock AM 800

Watch: www.fasthockey.com

 

Season Series: (3-1 Vees) Sep 27th 5-0 MER, Oct 8th 4-2 PEN, Nov 21st 3-2 (OT) PEN, Nov 22nd 5-3 PEN, Jan 16th at MER, Jan 23rd at PEN, Feb 20th at PEN

Vees Road Record: 13-2-1-0

Vees Record vs. Interior Division: 9-9-0-1

Vees Leading Scorer: Riley Alferd 17-17-34

 

Cents Home Record: 9-5-0-0

Cents Record vs. Interior Division: 9-9-0-1

Cents Leading Scorer: John Schiavo 17-20-37

Facing Adversity: The Vees will be challenged even before they step onto the ice Wednesday against the Centennials. Already missing five regulars, the Vees will be without a sixth, as Jack Ramsey will sit out with an undisclosed injury. Ramsey left Sunday’s game in the third period when he was hit by the Chiefs Jesse Lansdell; Lansdell was given a five-minute major penalty.

The Vees are already missing four who are at the World Junior ‘A’ Challenge and Matt Serratore who’s recovering from a broken leg. With Ramsey out, the Vees are losing one of their best two-way forwards, one who sees time both on the power-play and penalty-kill. Riley Alferd is all that’s left of that “US” line that was so good for the Vees this season.

The Vees will have at least one AP in their line-up for tonight’s tilt with Merritt. Tak Anholt has stayed in Penticton and will play his second straight game with the Vees. They’re also trying to secure one if not two more AP’s for tonight’s game but there’s no confirmation yet on whom else will dress up front.

Making “Cents” of the Opposition: Tonight is the first game for the Centennials since their 6-3 home-ice loss on Saturday to the Salmon Arm Silverbacks. Merritt was actually leading 2-1 to start the third and scored early to take a 3-1 lead, but Salmon Arm scored three goals in just under seven-minutes to take a 4-3 lead. They added a short-handed goal and an empty-netter inside the final three-minutes to seal the dramatic come from behind win and leave the home team a bit stunned.

That game left a bad taste in their mouth but overall, the Cents’ have been playing some pretty good hockey of late. They’ve won three of their last five including a hard-fought overtime win in Prince George on Friday. They’ve also won two of their last three and have picked up at least one point in four of their last five games; three of their last five have gone past regulation.

The Cents’ have a few missing bodies too, as veteran defenseman Malik Kaila and Cole Arcuri haven’t played since mid-November. Kaila’s last game was on November 14th and Arcuri’s was on November 16th. BCHL veteran forward James Neil hasn’t been in the Cents’ line-up since November 8th.

The Cents’ sit fourth in the Interior Division, five points back of West Kelowna for third and 19 points back of the Vees. The Cents’ maybe can point to their divisional play as a reason why they’re in fourth, as they’re just 9-9-0-1 against the Interior this year; they’ve lost five straight to divisional opponents.

John Schiavo leads the Cents’ in scoring, like he did when these two teams played on November 21st and 22nd. Schiavo has 17 goals and 37 points, four points better than Gavin Gould who’s second in team scoring. Shane Poulsen has been a horse on the blue-line for the Cents’, especially with the injuries to Arcuri and Kaila. Poulsen is fourth in team scoring with 27 points in 31 games but also chews up big minutes.

Season Series: The Cents’ did win the first meeting between these two back on September 27th in Merritt (5-0) but the Vees have since won the last three games. As mentioned the Vees took that home-and-away series back on November 21st and 22nd, winning 3-2 in overtime at home, before winning 5-3 in Merritt. After tonight these two don’t meet again until January 16th. The seven-game season series wraps up on February 20th in Penticton.

Bend but Don’t Break: That pretty much sums up what road teams have to do in Merritt. Not the easiest of confines to come in to and try to take two points out of. The Vees did manage a 5-3 win back on November 22nd in their last visit to Nicola Valley Memorial Arena. They actually trailed 2-1 and 3-2 in the third period of that game before scoring three unanswered goals to sweep the weekend home-and-away series.

Not much of a neutral zone in Merritt, as the cramped conditions make for a very quick transition game, as teams can go from defense to offense and vice versa in a hurry. In such situations, puck management is the be all and end all. The Vees have to be smart when they have the puck in their own zone (hint: the glass is your friend in Merritt). The less time they spend inside their own blue-line the better. Skilled plays are almost completely negated when you’re playing in this barn. Breaking out of your own zone might involve a steady diet of short passes or clear outs off the glass. Where teams can get in trouble is when they try to force things a bit too much and that’s usually trying to go up the middle one too many times. Like I said earlier, less is more.

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Vees Hold Steady in CJHL Rankings

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From the CJHL:

With most of the CJHL’s best players now playing in Kindersley for Canada East and Canada West at the World Junior ‘A’ Challenge, the rest of the CJHL is still carrying on with their regular season games. The top teams in the country are still rolling along and padding their leads atop their respective leagues this past week.

The Penticton Vees have widened the gap in the Interior Division of the BCHL, while the Chilliwack Chiefs remain on top of the Mainland Division, and the Nanaimo Clippers push farther ahead in the Island Division by virtue of a solid three-game winning streak. In the AJHL, the Camrose Kodiaks, Spruce Grove Saints, Brooks Bandits, and the Okotoks Oilers, continue to shine in Alberta and remain the top teams in the league.

In Saskatchewan, the Melfort Mustangs have surged past the Kindersley Klippers, with both teams now separating from the rest of the SJHL. The Portage Terriers continue to roll with an astounding .934 winning percentage, while the Winnipeg Blues have snuck ahead of the Winkler Flyers for second place overall in the MJHL, but the Blues still having two games in hand over the Flyers. The Fort Frances Lakers thumped the Thunder Bay North Stars on December 13, and have opened a three-point cushion in the SIJHL. In the NOJHL, the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners have moved two points up on the Soo Thunderbirds, but the T-Birds still have two games in hand.

The Aurora Tigers are the first team to earn 25 wins in the OJHL, but the Georgetown Raiders and Cobourg Cougars remain within striking distance of the Tigers. The Carleton Place Canadians and the Ottawa Jr. ‘A’ Senators continue to dominate the CCHL, with the Cornwall Colts and more recently, the Pembroke Lumber Kings, both starting to win consistently.

The Titan de Princeville are holding onto top spot in the standings of the LHJQ, while in the MHL, the Woodstock Slammers remain in first of the overall standings, and the Pictou County Weeks Crushers widened their grip on top spot in the Eastlink Division.

Top 20 Rankings

  1. Portage Terriers (MJHL) (1)
  2. Camrose Kodiaks (AJHL) (2)
  3. Penticton Vees (BCHL) (3)
  4. Carleton Place Canadians (CCHL) (6)
  5. Aurora Tigers (OJHL) (5)
  6. Woodstock Slammers (MHL) (4)
  7. Spruce Grove Saints (AJHL) (7)
  8. Brooks Bandits (AJHL) (10)
  9. Melfort Mustangs (SJHL) (11)
  10. Kindersley Klippers (SJHL) (9)
  11. Soo Thunderbirds (NOJHL) (8)
  12. Kirkland Lake Gold Miners (NOJHL) (12)
  13. Georgetown Raiders (OJHL) (14)
  14. Fort Frances Lakers (SIJHL) (13)
  15. Ottawa Jr. ‘A’ Senators (CCHL) (15)
  16. Okotoks Oilers (AJHL) (16)
  17. Winnipeg Blues (MJHL) (17)
  18. Cobourg Cougars (OJHL) (HM)
  19. Chilliwack Chiefs (BCHL) (18)
  20. Les Titan de Princeville (LHJQ) (19)
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