GM 52 Preview: Vees in Trail

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Watch PPV Vees Logo-2 Vees Record: 34-14-0-3 71 points (1st Interior)

Road Record: 15-7-0-2

vs. Trail: 2-1-0 (7-2 Vees, 5-2 Trail, 7-6 Vees)

vs. Interior: 20-9-0-1 (Road: 10-3-0-1) 

Last Game: Feb 22nd 5-2 L vs. Cents

Last 10: 7-3-0-0

Trail Smoke Eaters Record: 23-27-0-2

Home Record: 14-10-0-1

vs. Interior: 13-17-0-1

Last Game: Feb 20th 2-1 win vs. Merritt

Last 10: 5-4-0-1

FT_TheNumb3rs-shdw Vees power-play vs. Trail: 2-11 (1-4 on the Road)

Vees Penalty-kill vs. Trail: 6-9 (1-3 on the Road)

Vees Scoring vs. Trail:

Murphy  2-5-7             Amantea  1-1-2           DePourcq  0-1-1

Nanne  5-1-6               McClure  1-1-2

Mellor  1-3-4               Rebry  1-1-2

De Haas  1-2-3            Balson  0-2-2

Stecher  1-2-3             Gropp  1-0-1

Sinz  0-3-3                   McCallum  1-0-1

FT_OnDeck-shdwV2The Vees will need to turn the page quickly on last night and get set for another tough test in the Trail Smoke Eaters. Trail is currently just two points back of the fourth and final playoff spot in the Division, which is held by the Salmon Arm Silverbacks. It’s a challenge, jumping on the bus and driving four hours to the Kootenays but the Vees will need to ready for a scrappy and desperate opponent.

Last night was a frustrating experience, as the Vees, despite doing many good things, were 5-2 losers at home to the Merritt Centennials; the Cents’ fourth straight win over Penticton to close out the season series.

The first twenty-minutes was a tight-checking affair as both teams didn’t give up much. The Cents’ power-play came to life in the second, stinging the Vees twice in the middle frame. Then there was that third period which saw the Cents’ score twice in 10 seconds and pulled away from the Vees with three goals.

Like I said, it was a frustrating night, as the Vees, even though they surrendered five goals, were pretty good defensively. Merritt only had 24 shots and were held to single-digit shots in the first and third periods. But it’s back to the drawing board as the Vees can’t dwell on Friday’s outcome.

Trail has been idle since Wednesday when they beat the Cents’ at home 2-1. They haven’t played a whole heck of a lot of hockey in the last couple of weeks. The Smokies for the longest time played the most games out of any team in the Interior Division and in the last two weeks have only played four games. They haven’t played on back-to-back nights since January 26th & 27th.

In one of the more odd scheduling quirks, tonight marks the first of four meetings in the final two weeks of the regular season between the Vees and Smokies. The Vees will play four of their final five against Trail; Smokies battling the Vees four straight times to close-out their schedule.

By the time March 10th rolls around these two teams will probably have a healthy dislike for each other.I will probably cringe at the sight of orange by then too.

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Turn the page. Move on. Press the reset button.

Pick the saying that best suits you but simply put the Vees have to let last night’s loss go. It was tough and I bet it felt like a punch in the gut but today presents a new challenge and another chance at two points.

Yes it was a four point swing in the Cents’ favour as the Vees lead atop of the Interior Division shrinks from six to four points; a win would have bulged their lead to eight. But a win tonight and Merritt loss at home to West Kelowna, puts the Vees back up by six with four games left. No they won’t be looking for help and will want to take care of their own business first. But my point is the landscape can change significantly from game-to-game in the BCHL.

I know the Vees put 34 shots on the Merritt goal last night but I would like to see this team put more pucks at the net tonight. I thought the Vees passed up too many good lucks at the night. Instead of taking that shot, the Vees were guilty of trying to force that one extra pass to finish off the rush. Were the Vees over passing last night? At times I think they were, as they had a handful of good rushes that never materialized because of the over passing. Trail’s rink, the Cominco Arena, forces you to simplify your approach so the Vees won’t have the option really. Tonight it needs to be a north-south game, with lots of traffic and pucks to the net. Once they get the puck they need to get in the zone quickly, make a b-line for the net, and make sure bodies are going to the crease for the secondary opportunities.

 The biggest key for me is establishing a presence inside the Trail end. Like I said, they need to take a simpler approach in Trail, as things tend to happen quicker then most rinks. No real bad shooting angle, with the square corners and lively end-boards, the puck can  really jump around. Tough to really stick-handle in the offensive zone, as the most contested area of the ice will be below the circles. Getting the fore-check established early, forcing turnovers and cycling the pucks along the walls can do wonders for a team in this rink.

 The Vees also should expect a strong push from Trail off the start tonight. No need to panic early, as a well-rested Smokies squad will come after the Vees off the opening face-off. They need to make the safe play and don’t give away pucks. The Vees had a tough start in their first visit to Trail as they got caught running around inside their own zone. They can’t hang onto the puck too long tonight because if you do you can get in trouble. Quick passes, smart reads and finding your outlet pass will be the keys going forward.

As I write this, the Vees appear to be going with the same line-up tonight. That means Chad Katunar will, as I understand, get the start in Trail. He was pulled in the third period last night but I don’t think that was all on him. I wouldn’t fault him on any of the four goals against. Katunar did have that tough start in Trail in October so he will be out to prove something. There might be one change upfront to the Vees forwards but that will become more clear as we approach game time.

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About frodgers

Director of Broadcasting & Media Relations for the Penticton Vees
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