GM 9 Preview: Vees-Vipers

Vees: 7-1-0 14pts 1st Interior Division Vipers: 2-3-0-2 6pts 5th Interior Division

Last Game

Vees: 4-3 win vs. PG Vipers: 3-0 loss vs. Trail

Next Game

Vees: Oct 6th vs. Trail Vipers: Oct 6th vs. West Kelowna

The Setup: The Vees and Vipers square-off for the second of seven regular season meetings tonight. The first encounter came on September 8th at the BCHL Showcase; the Vees pulling out a 3-2 double-overtime win.

The Vees come into tonight’s game riding a four game winning-streak; taking both games last weekend versus Powell River and Prince George. The Vipers have lost their last two games, 5-2 to PG Friday and 3-0 to Trail Saturday.

Eight points separate the two teams in the Interior Division; the Vees sit first with seven wins and 14 points. The Vipers have had their fair share of struggles early on, with two wins and six points from their first seven games. For perspective, the Vipers started 7-0-0 last season before tailing off and missing out on the playoffs. Point being it’s early and things can change quickly.

Vees Beat: Penticton plays their third game of a four game home stand before embarking on the Vancouver Island road trip next week. In fact, after tomorrow the Vees don’t return to the SOEC until October 26th against the West-K Warriors. The Vees have to make hay at home while they can, and carry on that mentality they had last season. In 30 home games the Vees went 29-0-0-1; only blemish a OT loss to Merritt.  I’m not saying that the Vees have to match that record, quite frankly, I don’t know if any other team will. However the Vees have to continue to be a tough to play against at home and continue to make the SOEC one of the toughest buildings to play in.

The first encounter with the Vipers was fairly evenly played throughout the five periods. Both teams traded chances and both teams controlled periods of the game. The Vees are facing an opponent, which on paper, matches up very well. Penticton doesn’t necessarily have a distinct advantage in one area, based off the first game between the two clubs. Both teams are deep done the middle, both have a well-balanced forward group and D-core, strong goaltending and both can skate.  It’s about minimizing your mistakes tonight and capitalizing on the chances the opposition does surrender; there won’t be a whole lot. It will be a tight-checking affair and the Vees can’t be easily frustrated by their opponents; fight through the traffic and get to the net.

It might come down to the slightest of advantages tonight like line matchups, and that’s one area the Vees do have an advantage in being the home team.  At points throughout the game tonight the Vees will have the opportunity to put out who they won’t in certain situations and at times get away from the Vipers top checkers. That might be the biggest advantage tonight.

I would be remiss to overlook the special-teams battle and that is another area I would say favours the Vees. The power-plays are fairly even with both teams sitting 11th (Vipers) and 12th (Vees) in the BCHL but the Vees do have one more power-play goal; granted they’ve had eight more power-plays. The area I will be focusing on is the penalty-kill. The Vees sit seventh in the league whereas the Vipers are 9th. The Stat that jumps out at me is the fact the Vipers have taken 10 more penalties than the Vees in one less game played. In their last three losses the Vipers averaged six penalties against, which coaches will tell you is too high; three or less a game is the magic number. The Vipers were short-handed eight times in Trail, seven at home versus PG and four times in their home-opener against the S-Backs. Through seven games, the Vipers are averaging five penalties a game, which is two full points higher than the Vees.  Can the Vees get under the Vipers skin and coerce them into taking penalties?

The Other Guys:

For a thorough rundown on the Vipers check-out the Vipers blog HERE

Vernon wants to put last weekend behind them and quickly and the only way to do that is picking up two points tonight. The Vipers are talented, savvy and experienced; 13 players on the roster have played either Jr. ‘A’ or WHL.  Four of their top six players which make up the first and second lines played on the squad last season; the other two are Pearce Eviston (WHL) and Mitch Van Teeling (MJHL).

They’re plenty of weapons upfront for the Vipers, with Adam Tambellini leading a formidable group. The second-year center leads the team in scoring with seven points in as many games; Tambellini is listed as a ‘B’ prospect for the upcoming NHL Draft, according to Central Scouting. Tambellini is looking to build off an impressive rookie campaign where he put up 56 points in 55 games. What makes him dangerous is his ability to make plays at top-speed.

Behind Tambellini is arguably one of the best two-way forwards in the BCHL in Aaron Hadley. The Castlegar native leads the team in goals (4) and has six points through seven games. Hadley is pains to play against, as he’s earn a reputation as a great shutdown forward. However, he has offensive upside and is coming off a 40 point season and a World Junior ‘A’ Challenge gold medal.  Hadley plays alongside Tambellini and the two are a dynamic duo.

Also in the mix is power-forward Jedd Soleway, who possesses a nice balance of size and speed, Pearce Eviston who played parts of two seasons with the Portland Winterhawks, Colton Sparrow who is another solid two-way player and Mitch Van Teeling who put up big numbers with the Dauphin Kings.

Four of the Vipers seven defensemen played on the team last season in Brett Corkey, Geoff Crisfield, Ryan Renz and Marc Hetnik. New to the hold are Bryce Eviston, Kevin Guiltinan and Michael Statchuk. Corkey and Hetnik can provided some pop from the back-end, as both are good skaters who aren’t afraid to jump into or lead the rush. Crisfield and Renz thrive on using their size and strength to lean on opposition’s forwards.

The Vipers are deep between the pipes as well with veteran WHL’er Austin Smith getting the lions-share of starts. Joey Young is a rookie who played on a very good prep team in Boston and already as a scholarship to Union sewn up. The Vees faced Smith in the first meeting and I thought he looked solid.

I will be honest and say I’m surprised the Vipers aren’t battling the Vees for top spot in the Interior but we’re still early into the season and Championships aren’t won and lost in October. I will say this, it’s scary to think how good the Vipers can or soon will be,when they put it all together.

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About CBeauchemin

Director of Broadcasting & Communication for the Penticton Vees
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