Tonight is the Vees fourth game in their last five against the Mainland Division, as they entertain the Chilliwack Chiefs at the SOEC; puck drop is 6pm. The Vees dropped a 5-4 decision last night to Langley and saw their record drop to .500 in November (5-3-0-2). They want nothing more than to end this challenging month with a “W.”
The Chiefs had their own back-and-forth affair at home last night, as they watched a 3-1 first period lead slip away, in Powell River’s 8-5 win at Prospera Centre. The Chiefs have had their struggles this season and just have three wins in their last 10 games. They’re last in their Division and 15th in the BCHL but that doesn’t mean this game is a lay-up for the Vees. The Chiefs are 2-2 in their last four and proved they can beat the top teams in this Division, when they doubled-up West Kelowna 6-3 back on November 22nd; on the road to boot.
I’m starting to sound like a broken record, I’m starting to sound like a…The Vees are 7-2-0-1 coming off a loss this season and have only lost back-to-back games once since September 25th. They’ve been inconsistent, alternating wins and losses for the better part of two months now. The coaching staff has used the expression “two steps forward, one step back” when describing their team. We saw it this week, a character win in West Kelowna on Tuesday, which saw this team play one of their best well-rounded games. But last night was the opposite, a performance riddled with defensive miscues and mental errors; a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde scenario.
CLICHE ALERT: The start will be key for the Vees. A disappointing first twenty-minutes Friday, which saw them go down two-again. Playing catch up hockey can take a toll on the body and be a mental grind as well. Frustration starts to seep in and that’s when mistakes can happen. The Vees need to right the ship and get a good start-get their feet underneath them. A good first period can translate into a good second and that into a good third. They need to put their best foot forward this afternoon. They’ve surrendered the first goal in three straight and have been outscored 5-1 in their last three first-periods.
Give Brad McClure some support; the guys shoulders might wear out. McClure put up another two goals and four points in the losing effort against Langley; he can’t keep doing it all. Nice to see Ben Dalpe score again and here’s hoping he’s going to go off on a bit of a tear. The Vees need more out of guys like Max Coatta (one goal in four games), Riley Alferd (one goal in five games), Brendan Lamont (one goal since arriving), Cam Amantea (one goal in five games) and Anthony Conti (one goal in four games). Coatta and Conti have shown they can put up some numbers and Amantea and Lamont know their way around the net; not go-to guys but more than capable in a supporting role. This team is built not on high-end skill but depth and balance. Time to restore the balance upfront.
Special teams hasn’t been an issue, as the power-play is sitting atop of the BCHL and they’re 3-6 with the man-advantage in their last two games. At home the PP is clicking at just over 23 percent which is also a league best. The PK has been right up there too, now third in the BCHL and 16-17 in the last 5 games; 9-9 in the last two. I’ve liked what I’ve seen from both sides and last night they won the special teams game. Chilliwack is in the middle of the pack in the special teams department and the Vees will need to find a way to take advantage of that.
Need to be much sharper without the puck tonight obviously. Smarter reads and put pucks into safe areas. Playing it safe isn’t the worst thing in the world, as the simple approach is needed at times. Friday the Vees tried to put pucks into areas where there simply wasn’t a played to be made. Puck management will be stressed against the Chiefs. When they have the puck in their own end, find an outlet, forwards need to come back and support-on the goal side. Sometimes a simply chip up off the glass is in order and that’s a whole lot better than a turnover in the slot.
To be honest, I don’t know a whole heck of a lot about the Chiefs. Their struggles have been well documented this season but they seem to be playing better hockey of late. They’re 3-7 in their last 10 games but a respectable 2-2 in their last four. They have the highly skilled Austin Plevy (12-17-29) in their arsenal, along with a solid supporting cast in Zach Diamantoni (4-17-21) and Matthieu Tibbett (6-11-17).
One revelation has been 17 year-old rookie defenseman Carter Cochrane, younger brother of former Chief forward Tanner Cochrane. Carter has 11 goals and 27 points from the blue-line; a point per-game average for the rookie. He had two goals last night in a losing effort to Powell River. I’m told he skates exceptionally well and obviously can handle himself in the offensive zone. The Vees will have to keep tabs on 27 in crimson tonight.
Spencer Tremblay, a 20 year-old former Western Leaguer has brought some stability to the Chiefs crease. He’s 2-2 in five starts and owns a very respectable .919 save-percentage; one percentage point better than Hunter Miska but a smaller body of work. He had like an 87 save performance in West Kelowna last Friday or something. Well, it wasn’t that high but he did stop 58 of 61 Warriors shots in a 6-3 win. That’s good.
Earlier I talked about the Vees needing to have a good start and well, the Chiefs have had struggles playing from behind. They’ve only won once when they surrender the games first goal and have only scored first in 14 of their 27 games. Also have just one win when they trail after the first period. They, like the Vees, will be wanting to have a good first period showing. They did last night, taking a 3-1 lead on the Powell River Kings but the wheels fell off in the second.
On the Broadcast: Courtesy of Marc Fitzgerald, voice of the Chiefs, we’ll air an interview he did with former Chief goalie Mitch Gillam. Gillam scored, yes scored, in his collegiate debut for Cornell last week; some good stuff. In the second intermission we will chat with our Grant Kings Men’s Wear Player of the Month for November (you’ll find out who at puck drop).
Mo Update: Thanks to all those who’ve generously donated to the teams Movember Campaign. WAIT?!? You haven’t?!? Well you still have until midnight! Click on that great looking ‘stache over on the right-hand side —>
When you’re the Penticton Vees, you’re going to get everyone’s best. Everyone’s. The thing is this team has to give it’s best too; tonight they didn’t. Just too many mistakes committed by a team that is known for its disciplined, structured and near mistake free hockey. It was a rare night off for the Vees on the defensive side of the puck, as both the defense and forwards made careless mistakes, turned the puck over in bad spots and missed assignments.
I don’t know If I see the Vees have the issues they did tonight but hey, it’s a long season and junior hockey is all about the ups and downs and how you manage them. The silver lining in tonight’s frustration, is the fact these guys will get up tomorrow / this morning and get ready for another game. That’s the beauty of being at this level, you have little time to stew over a loss and they’re is definitely a few players who will be stewing.
Credit the Langley Rivermen who were a pesky bunch and team that the Vees couldn’t close the door on. They had a great start in the first, were pushed on their heels in the second but rebounded in the third period when it counted; four wins in a row isn’t a fluke. That’s four wins over Chilliwack, Salmon Arm, Prince George and Penticton; no push overs.
For now, follow the links above to get you scoop on tonight’s 5-4 loss. It’s late and I will save my thoughts for the morning. A quick turnaround for the Vees but one they’ll gladly welcome.
Scatter Thoughts From Friday’s Loss
Troublesome start-again. Up until the last two weeks,this team has taken a lot of pride in how well they’re prepared and in turn, how well they start games. Tuesday they were on shaky ground, giving up two in the first six minutes. Friday it was the same story, surrendering two in the first eight. Now, both instances this team has found a way to claw back and erase those deficits. BUT that takes a lot of work and can be draining. Why make it so hard on yourself? This team has shown they can come out flying and have several times this season; they’re 11-3-0-2 when they score first. In their last three, they’ve given up the first goal, and in their last two, given up the first two. Not a trend that’s going in the right direction. Time to get zero’d in, the coaching staff prepares these guys like no other. Time the players start to translate that on the ice.
Puck Management-Usually a strength of this hockey team, it was their weakness Friday. In the first period, they turned the puck over far too many times in bad spots. The Vees were trying to force plays to the middle of their own zone far too often and it was creating prime scoring chances for the Rivermen. This team is usually very good at clean breakouts, as they pride themselves on a clean transition game. Friday they were bogged down by sloppy plays inside their own blue-line. The first, third, fourth and fifth goal against were direct results of poor puck management inside the Vees zone. The fourth and fifth were killer, as they came less than a minute and a half apart. The Vees Saturday will have to be much better with their decision-making and execution inside their own zone. Make hard play on the puck; make sure the puck is going to get out.
Push Back-It was there and more than once. A silver lining was this teams ability to overcome adversity and not just once. Three times the Vees came back down to tie and then in the third they grabbed their first and only lead. Even when you’re leading games, you’re going to get pushed and pressed by your opposition and it’s up to you on how to respond. The Vees came out guns a blazing in the second, turning the game on its edge and tying it up at two’s heading into the break. Then after an early goal against in the opening seconds of the third, Brett Beauvais and Brad McClure team up for a memorable four-minute sequence. McClure is “Captain Clutch” for a reason, as he setup the game tying goal in the third, then scored the Vees go-ahead goal minutes later-What. A. Shot. WOW. Two goals and four points on Friday for the Captain. The Vees didn’t wilt last night, and could have on several occasions. They showed some mental toughness with their “never say die attitude” but again, to circle back to my original thought, this team can’t keep putting themselves in tough spots.
It’s another Mainland Division weekend for the Vees and it starts tonight with the Langley Rivermen at the SOEC. Last weekend it was the Coquitlam Express taking both games of a home-and-home series with the Vees, the latter coming in Penticton, in overtime on Saturday; the Vees don’t want history to repeat itself tonight.
This week started a two week stretch of tough games for the Mainland Division leading Rivermen. Langley is in the midst of a three game road trip that started with a win in Prince George Wednesday (2-1) and wraps up tomorrow in West Kelowna. In a quirk in their schedule, after the Riv’ play Saturday IN West Kelowna, they have to scramble home for a 2pm matinee affair on Sunday against Chilliwack. Next weekend it’s another Interior road swing for Langley, as they make stops in Trail and Salmon Arm. That’s six games over in 11 Divisions split between two Divisions; grueling.
This is the second and final meeting in the regular season between these two non-divisional combatants. The two skated to an entertaining 1-1 draw back on October 19th at the Langley Events Centre; a goaltenders duel. Hunter Miska was terrific in that game for the Vees, stopping 36 of 37 including 10 shots in overtime. His counterpart, Steve Myland, was as good, turning aside 44 of 45 Vees shots, 15 of which came in the two overtime periods. Ben Dalpe scored for the Vees in the third to force overtime, after Matt Ustaski scored a short-handed marker in the second period to opening the scoring.
I will lead with this again, the Vees are looking to string back-to-back wins together for just the second time this month and third since October 11th & 12th. Their season high win streak is four and that’s very attainable over the next two weeks. But you can’t win four if you don’t win three, you can’t win three if you don’t win two and you can’t win two if you don’t win tonight.
The upside to their streaky play of late, has been the ongoing ability to bounce back after a loss. Coming into tonight’s game, the Vees are 7-1-0-1 after a loss, outscoring their opponents 34-20 in those nine games. After a Saturday’s somewhat bitter loss in OT to Coquitlam, the Vees regrouped and put together one of their best efforts of the month, in a 3-2 win in West Kelowna; now can they build off of that tonight.
The Mainland Division has presented it’s challenges to the Vees, as they’ve got just one win to their name in five games. That win was on home ice, back on October 2nd when they goose-egged the Prince George Spruce Kings 2-0. They’ve lost twice in regulation, both coming on the road, Friday a 3-1 setback in Coquitlam and in September dropping a 4-3 decision in Prince George. They tied Langley as mentioned and lost at home to the Express 2-1 in OT six days ago. Basically they’re 1-3-1 against the Mainland Division but a combined 15-5 against the rest of the BCHL.
I wrote pre-game Tuesday that special teams could go a long way in finding a win against West Kelowna, and tonight might follow a similar story line. The Vees own the leagues top power-play (23 %) but the Rivermen have the leagues best penalty-kill (87%). Langley is the most penalized team in the BCHL (139 times short-handed) and surrendered seven power-plays to Penticton in the first go-around with these two teams. The Vees speed seemed to draw penalties as the Riv’ got caught chasing and were forced to clamp on and hook. Five-on-five these two are fairly evenly matched, so it may come down to who can score on the power-play. Can the Vees Tuesday performance translate into success tonight?
Developing good habits and positive momentum early will be important, especially after the Vees last start at home. In that Coquitlam game, the Vees were flat in the first period (mind you so was CQ and the SOEC for that matter) and coughed up the first goal midway through the frame. Time to reassert home ice dominance and get after the Riv’ early. They drove all day Thursday from Prince George and didn’t skate this morning. They might be well rested but on the same hand could have some stiff legs at the start. When the Vees score first they’re 11-3-0-2; the Riv’ are 5-6-0-1 when they surrendered the opening goal. The more telling stat? Penticton is 11-1-0-2 when leading after twenty minutes and Langley is a pedestrian 1-4-0-2 when trailing after the first period. Get off to a good start, get yourselves going, get the crowd going and get some energy in the building. A good first can lead into a good second and the Vees are 11-0-0-2 when up by two; Langley 2-8-0-2 when down after forty minutes.
Contending with size will be another key area, as the Riv’ have the size advantage among the two forward groups. Of the 13 active forwards on the Langley roster, just two are below 6′; Gage Torrel is 5’9 and Darien Craighead is 5’11. Langley likes to come at their opposition hard, especially on the fore-check where they can create problems with their size and physicality. The Rivermen gave the Vees problems in their zone with that aggressive style early on in first match up. The Vees found ways to make adjustments on the fly and were a much better team in the second, third and both overtimes.
I can’t say it enough, speed kills. For what the Vees lack in size, they make for in foot speed, as they’re one of the quicker teams in the BCHL. Tuesday they looked like their old selves again the way they were skating against West Kelowna. Their transition game was spot on and they wasted little time from getting the puck from their own zone to the opposition’s end. For what the Rivermen have in size, they somewhat sacrifice in foot speed. It will be key for the Vees to have their transition game going from the start; turn the Rivermen and get them trapped.
I have not seen or heard about the line-up for tonight’s clash-yet. Hunter Miska made his second straight start on Tuesday in West Kelowna but I have yet to receive word on which goaltender goes tonight. Other than that, things seem to being sorting themselves out. Blake Butzow is looking better with every game he plays and Cam Amantea looked like his old self on Tuesday after sitting out Saturday. Clint Filbrandt and Jarod Hilderman didn’t play Tuesday and will be eager to get back into the line-up. With eight defense on the roster, it breeds competition among the Vees rear-guards and I for one think they’re better for it. The only injury on the Vees roster right now is Josh Blanchard, who is still recovering from a lower-body inquiry he picked up on the Island road trip. I imagine we will see the traditional 12 forwards and six defensemen against Langley; a coin flip for who goes in net; call it in the air.
Yes, the Rivermen are big upfront and are physical but by no means are they slugs. They have plenty of skill and speed for a team of their stature. Mitch McLain, the Captain, is the team’s leading scorer with 14 goals and 31 points in 27 games. The Baxter, Minnesota product has a good frame, standing at 6′ and weighing in at 190. He’s not easy to stop once he gets going, as he wastes little time playing an east-west game; headstrong skater
Bobby Henderson’s team isn’t going to be the type of team that zigs-zags up the ice and tries and out finesse you. No, they rather skate hard in a north-south direction and jam the puck right down your throat. Guys like McLain, Matt Ustaski (6’6 / 225) and Jakob Reichert (6’5 / 220) are a handful and are guys with decent speed and a good net presence.
What I think helps get the Rivermen going is the push from the blue-line, as they have a couple of D that can move the puck up ice in a hurry or who will lead a breakout on occasion. Viktor Dombrovskiy is a defenseman that can go from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’ in mere seconds and can be the one of those guys who will break it out of his own zone. He doesn’t have offensive numbers that will “wow” you but Dombrovskiy is one to keep an eye on when he climbs over the boards. Another one or two, good skating defensemen are Tony Bretzman and Chris Forney. Bretzman is undersized at 5’10 and 165 but has great feet. Forney is 6’2 and 188 but is another smoothing skating rear-guard who’s name I will be saying a lot on the broadcast.
The Rivermen are coming in on a bit of a roll, as they’ve won three in a row, including Wednesday’s hard-fought 2-1 win in Prince George. That win helped them claim first place in the very competitive Mainland Division. They won Wednesday without the services of Austin Azurdia, who was injured in the their win against Salmon Arm. Still, this is a very talented squad with a good handful of skilled players. No Azurdia possibly tonight but there still will be Mitch McLain (14-17-31), Will Cook (6-16-22), Matt Ustaski (11-8-19 and James Robinson (8-11-19). All four know how to put the puck in the back of the net and now it’s time to see if they can do away from the LEC and Lower Mainland games.
The Riv’ can’t help where they are geographically located in respect to their fellow Mainland Division’ers but driving to a road game outside of the Lower Mainland is a test itself, let alone facing two pretty good Interior teams this weekend, before returning home for a Sunday matinee. Looking ahead a week, they are back in the BC Interior, going to Trail and then Salmon Arm next Friday and Saturday. That’s a pretty good run of Interior Division road games in two weeks, against the likes of the Vees, Warriors, Silverbacks and Smoke Eaters.
The Rivermen continue to press on with the goalie tandem of Brock Crossthwaite and Steve Myland. Both have good records, a combined 14-9-0-1 and both have respectable goals-against averages and save-percentages. Right now it looks like Corssthwaite is the 1A, as he has the better goals-against average and save-percentage. But, Bobby Henderson isn’t afraid to rotate the two ‘tenders, depending on the schedule ahead. I would bet it’s Crossthwaite against the Vees tonight with Steve Myland getting the call tomorrow, as he faces his old team for the first time. Both have unheralded numbers but Crossthwaite and Myland are still getting “W’s” for a team that’s in a fight with PG for first.
A detailed look around the Interior Division of the BC Hockey League. “This Week in the BCHL” is a special presentation of the Okanagan Sports Network and will focus on the West Kelowna Warriors, Vernon Vipers and Penticton Vees on their quest to the RBC Cup.
The Show is hosted by the voice of the Vipers Graham Turnbull and produced by the Okanagan Sports Network
This week on the show, we hear from Ken Citron of the Vipers and Adam Osczevski of the Warriors who both tallied their first career BCHL goals. Plus Blake Butzow of the Vees and his return after injuries.
Special Teams, Again: Has been a factor in the two previous games in the season series and was again tonight. Vees put themselves in a two-goal hole then face a Warriors five-on-three for thirty-three seconds. Not an ideal situation to be in ten minutes into game. We stressed on the broadcast how that first period two-man advantage was a must kill situation and Vees Assistant Coach Steve Cawley reiterated that on the Post-Game show. The Vees needed a spark, needed to rally around something to find their footing and they did. Timely goaltending and key blocked shots helped nullify that West Kelowna opportunity. The Vees clearly got a charge out of that and minutes later drew their own power-play. They promptly score on that odd-man situation, thanks to a nice play between Brett Beauvais and Paul Stoykewych. So, instead of potentially being down 3-0 in the first period, the Vees get to the intermission just down a goal. They “flipped the switch” going into the second period, pressuring the Warriors who struggled to respond in the middle frame. That pressure led to another power-play opportunity and the Vees score again on another nice play involving Brett Beauvais and this time Ben Dalpe. Just like that it’s 2-2 and the Vees are going for the jugular. They almost took a lead into the dressing room if it wasn’t for some solid goaltending by Andy Desautels, who stopped 15 of 16 shots in the second. The power-play against West Kelowna is now 5-10 in three games, yes, that’s 50 percent and the penalty-kill is a perfect 13-13. Even though the power-play manufactured two huge goals tonight, for me the story is the PK and that sequence in the first period; turned the game around for the Vees.
Stepping to the Forefront: ”The one concern for the Vees is the scoring has been coming too much from these two in recent weeks. There needs to be some balance upfront and I’ll say this again, others need to step to the forefront. Ben Dalpe and Max Coatta are two guys that have been in a bit of a slump recently but are two that know how to put the biscuit in the basket.” That was from my pre-game write-up and Dalpe’s ears must have been burning.What a huge goal not only for him but for the team when he hammered that power-play goal. It was his first in 10 games and first since October 19th in Langley. Dalpe is a competitor and I could sense his frustration when speaking to him post-game on Saturday after the overtime loss to Coquitlam. He didn’t make any excuses then and rose to the occasion tonight. He was on the ice for that second Warriors goal, the from the set face-off. That goal ticked him off, because he had a fire lit underneath his rear-end after that. On one of his next shifts after that goal he hammered Adam Plant in the corner on the fore-check and I thought to be myself, watch this guy in the second period. It wasn’t just Dalpe or Paul Stoykewych (who scored that power-play goal after being a scratch Saturday) stepping up, as there was a whole host of others who elevated their game tonight. Jack Ramsey and Matt Serratore both were exceptional on Tuesday and arguably both had one of their better games in a Vees jersey. Ramsey looked engaged and determined every time he was on the ice. Made some smart plays with the puck, was very good in his own end and had a great scoring in the second period walking in from the goal-line. Serratore was skating hard all night, was great on the fore-check and saw action on the penalty-kill too. What stood out the most for me about Serratore was his confidence. Something that may have been lacking in his game recently. He was playing with confidence tonight, evidence by twice dangling defenders off the rush during one-on-one situations. To win games like tonight it takes everyone buying in and raising their game up a notch or two; these two clearly did.
Battle Back: It would have been easy for the Vees to throw in the towel after Jordan Masters scored those two first period goals inside seven minutes. The Vees were winless in their last two games and were coming off a poor showing in their last road game back on Friday in Coquitlam. Tonight wasn’t the ideal start but this team didn’t fold like a cheap tent. They showed a lot of mental toughness by killing off that two man-advantage when down by two goals and then chipping away at the deficit. Set aside the Vees run of success against the Warriors recently, and just look at the situation tonight. Two goals against before the seven minute mark and against one of the most skilled teams in the BCHL and your on the road. It is easy to fall into the trap of trying to take too much on when you’re playing catch up hockey; starting to become individualistic. The Vees didn’t get sucked into that, they stuck to their game plan and details that make them so successful. They played very well in their own end, I thought they did a good job of collapsing back in front of the net, as the forwards did a great job of supporting their defensemen. On the other side of the puck, the Vees had a great transition game all night, as they were spot on with their breakout pass, which allowed them to generate speed through the neutral zone. These details in a game can be pushed to the wayside when a team panics and strays from the game plan when trailing. The Vees didn’t do that, despite the early scoreline and that patience paid off in the second and third period.
The Penticton Vees are looking to bump their two game slide when they pay a visit to West Kelowna tonight at 7pm. It’s the third meeting this season between these two Interior Division rivals, with the Vees winning the first two games, the most recent back on November 15th in West Kelowna (6-3).
Both teams have stumbled somewhat in the month of November, the Vees have posted a respectable 4-2-0-2 record but have just one win in their last four. The Warriors are 2-5-1-0 in November after posting a 12-4-0-2 record in the first two months of the season. Both teams have nearly identical records in the last five games, the Vees posting a 2-2-0-1 mark, the Warriors stringing together a 2-2-1-0 record; both with five points.
This has been one of the best rivalries going in the BCHL in the past three seasons, and one could argue the Warriors are the Vees biggest rival at the moment; an honour that’s usually bestowed on the Vernon Vipers. There is plenty of hate between these two teams on the ice, though the Vees have had the majority of success, as they’ve won eight of their last nine meetings against the Tribe going back to last year. In fact, they’ve won 22 of the last 25 meetings. Despite those numbers, these two usually are locked in tightly contested one-goal games; I expect nothing different tonight.
The last time the Vees have dropped back-to-back games was September 20th and 25th. After that they won five of their next six, outscoring their opposition 23-11 and had two shutouts along the way. Is tonight another launching pad for success?
After a loss they’re 6-2-0 on the season and have outscored their opponents 31-19 in those eight games. That record got scuffed up with Saturday’s double-overtime setback at the hands of the Express. However I liked a lot of things the Vees did from the second period on in that one.
After riding a six game points streak (7-5-12), Brad McClure is pointless in his last two games, though that’s a blip on the radar. “89″ has nine goals and 17 points in his last 12 games, two goals and four points against the Warriors this season. McClure has only been held pointless in six of 25 games this season. Before last weekend it was just four out of the Vees first 23.
Cody DePourcq has elevated his game recently, the centerman has six goals and 10 points in his last 11; points in eight of his last 10. He’s now tied for third in points with Max Coatta (22) and has already surpassed his point total from last year (21).
The one concern for the Vees is the scoring has been coming too much from these two in recent weeks. There needs to be some balance upfront and I’ll say this again, others need to step to the forefront. Ben Dalpe and Max Coatta are two guys that have been in a bit of a slump recently but are two that know how to put the biscuit in the basket. Anthony Conti who has five goals and seven points in eight games, will start on the wing with Dalpe and Brad McClure to give that line a shot in the arm; the offensive as a whole needs a shot in the arm.
I write about the need for balanced scoring and that’s what the Vees got the last time the faced West Kelowna. Cam Amantea, Conti (2), Coatta, Brendan Lamont and McClure scored in the 6-3 win on November 15th. The Vees first three goals in that game came from three different scorers and McClure didn’t score until late in the third period. More of that please.
After starting the month red-hot, the Vees power-play has cooled off somewhat in the last two weeks. The PP is 2/16 in the last five games and 0/8 in the last three. The Vees were 1/3 in their last encounter with the Warriors and are 3/6 on the man-advantage in the season series. Coupled that with a struggling Warriors penalty-kill (15th overall) and tonight might be the night that jump starts the power-play.
Honestly, special teams could be the deciding factor. As mentioned, the Vees are batting .500 on the PP against the Warriors and their penalty-kill is a perfect 8/8. The Tribe PK has been in a rut all season, though they were perfect last Saturday in Vernon and scored a short-handed goal. Circling back, when these two teams play, emotions run high and that can lead to penalties. So far (small sample size), the Vees have averaged three power-plays per game against West-K. If they can get to that 1/3 mark tonight, that might be the difference. One goal between these two teams feels like 2-3 in any other game.
Finally, its cliche but the Vees will need to find a way to take a lead into the third period. Both these teams struggle playing from behind late in games, as they’re a combine 2-11-2-1 when trailing after two but a combined 19-0-0-3 when leading after two. Both teams are excellent at protecting leads in the third, so you don’t want to be the team trying play catch up in the final twenty minutes.
Like I said earlier, November has been up and down for the Tribe, with just two wins in eight games thus far. After a humbling 6-3 loss Friday to Chilliwack, the Tribe rebounded by tying Vernon 2-2 on the road. That doesn’t seem like much but they were trailing going into the third period and earned a tie thanks to a short-handed goal by Carl Hesler. By all accounts, the Warriors were the better team in overtime but couldn’t get the game-winner past Austin Smith.
After the Warriors played Penticton on November 15th, they looked to turn things around, posting wins over Cowichan Valley (4-3) and Salmon Arm (6-2). That Salmon Arm game looked to be a turning point, as they hung four up on the ‘Backs in the first and in their own barn. But then it was that Chilliwack game and it’s likely the same feeling that has been going around in Penticton; two steps forward, one step back.
I’ll say this until the cows come home, the Warriors have one of the most potent offenses, one that will a couple of reinforcements tonight. David Pope and Liam Blackburn, who were both injured the last time the Vees played West-K, will be in the line-up tonight. Pope is one of the most skilled forwards in the Interior Division, a Detroit Red Wings draft pick last June, and since coming back from injury has a goal and two points in three games. Blackburn, in his last three games (gap due to injury), has three goals and six points. Since he’s returned from injury he has an assist in two games.
Those two are skilled but the Vees have to keep their eyes on two Texans. Carl Hesler has been on a tear, as the Dallas native has a seven game point streak going (7-3-10) and has goals in back-to-back games. Jason Cotton (from Plano, Texas) leads the Tribe in scoring (17-13-30) and has been in fine form of late, with three goals and three assists in his last six games. Cotton leads the Tribe in scoring against the Vees this season too, with two goals and three points; Hesler has a goal and three points.
Seb Lloyd has been quite against Penticton so far, as he doesn’t have a point in two games. He seemed to have an off game on November 15th but he is a true play-maker who can create something out of nothing. He’s so crafty with the puck and can cause a lot of problems around the net; Vees will have to keep tabs on #4.
Reid Simmonds has acquitted himself well since returning to the Warriors organization via trade. Since his return from Okotoks of the AJHL, Simmonds has two goals and four points in five games. I thought he was one of their better players against the Vees in the last meeting.
Retooled blue-line for the Tribe, as they shipped Braxton Bilous to the Brooks Bandits recently for fellow rear-guard Zane Schartz (another Texan). Bilous was big, mean and hard to play against; classic shutdown defenseman. Schartz is smaller and more of an offensive defenseman, who has a dangerous shot and can move the puck well. Seems the Warriors were in need of more production from their back-end. However, will they miss that physical element that Bilous brought? He usually played against the Vees top forwards and was an innings eater; time will tell.
Andy Desautels has started both games against the Vees this season but did get the hook after two periods in the last meeting. I suspect the former Western Leaguer will get the call between the pipes. He’s 0-2-0 against Penticton with a 4.20 GAA and .845 save-percentage.
On the Broadcast: A wrinkle, as it will be a “one-up, one-down” radio broadcast. Trevor Miller will have the wireless mic and be down at bench level; something that we experimented in the playoffs last year. Tight confines in the booth in West-K but Trevor will have some great insight from downstairs. Pre-Game Show goes at 6:4opm with the puck drop at 7pm on EZ Rock AM 800. My guest tonight is Captain Brad McClure, who talks about his commitment to Minnesota State, Mankato.
It was made official today, as Vees Captain Brad McClure announced his commitment to Minnesota State, Mankato for next season. McClure, 20, was previously committed to Ferris State University but had a change of heart.
McClure has been everything the Vees have wanted to him to be. He’s a great leader both on and off the ice and is highly respected by his teammates. He’s the prototypical guy who backs up his words with his play. He demands the best out of himself and his teammates and that type of attitude is infectious. He’s earned the nickname “Captain Clutch” because he always has a knack of scoring a timely goal in key situations this season.
McClure is the 13th Vee to secure an NCAA scholarship on this year’s roster and joins teammate Max Coatta as future Mavs’. I’ll post an interview with the Captain on the blog later today, until then the team press release can be found below Interview is now up at the top; enjoy.