VEES: 13-2-0-2 CHIEFS: 10-5-1-1
VEES HOME: 6-0-0-1 CHIEFS AWAY: 6-3-0-1
September 7th: Vees 2 @ Chiefs 1
November 3rd: Chiefs @ Vees
November 10th: Vees @ Chiefs
The Setup: The Vees and Chiefs meet for the second time this season; their first encounter since opening night in the BCHL at the Showcase on September 7th. On that night it was the Vees winning 2-1 courtesy of a late third-period goal from Wade Murphy. Due the Showcase schedule, the two teams will play once more, next Saturday in Chilliwack; one extra game in what should be a two-game season series.
The Vees were idle on Friday doing some scoreboard watching as the rest of their division made up the one game in hand they had on Penticton (Merritt, West Kelowna, Vernon and Salmon Arm). With the exception of Trail, every Interior Division team has now played 17 games, with the Vees holding a six point gap on Merritt, who sits second.
The Chiefs were in Trail last night and it wasn’t the result they wanted. The Chiefs dropped a 5-4 decision to the Smoke Eaters, a lost that stings that much more considering they built up a 3-1 lead 10 minutes into the first period. The Chiefs saw it slip away as the Smoke Eaters scored four of the next five goals, including two in the third, to complete the comeback.
The Vees Beat: The Vees have had plenty of time to stew over their 3-2 overtime loss to the Grizzlies last Saturday. A week between games has given this team plenty of time to make adjustments ahead of their encounter with the Chiefs. Adjustments are a plenty, as the Vees will have to adjust to not having four regulars in the line-up due to the WJAC. Their top defensive pairing of Troy Stecher and James de Haas is gone, so too is two-thirds of their top line in Wade Murphy and Mike Rebry. It is tough to try to fill the void left by the quartet but the Vees coaching staff has gone through this before.
Last year the Vees missed five players over a five game stretch and only lost one of the four, and that was in OT. Tonight and the next two games, presents opportunities for others to step up and show they can handle an increased role. Last year, then AP’s, Alex Jewell, Dexter Dancs and Jordan McCallum proved they could play at the Jr. ‘A’ level and those performances went a long way in earning them a spot on this year’s roster. Who will show they can contribute and be a “go-to guy” over the next week? Time will tell.
There is some good news amidst the WJAC, as Chad Katunar and Dexter Dancs, camp cuts, will be in the line-up for the Vees. Both will be highly motivated players, wanting to be leaders and prove too that maybe being cut was a mistake. Also the injury bug appears to be squashed, as both Cam Amantea and Louie Nanne will dress tonight. Brad McClure doesn’t look any worse for wear after his scary spill last weekend either. It will be interesting to see if McClure, Nanne and Ryan Gropp will be put back on a line, as the three were dynamite together last Friday. Judging by practice yesterday, they won’t be together, well at least at the start of the game anyways.
No team likes losing, especially the Vees, as they’re 3-0 after a loss, outscoring their opponents 11-2; including two shutouts. The Vees didn’t loss back-to-back game last year until the RBC Cup and have yet to do so this season.
Keys for Tonight
- Cliché heavy today, as the Vees start will be something to closely follow. They had a great start in their last outing, scoring 21 seconds in against Victoria but weren’t able to build upon it. Chilliwack played last night, in Trail and will be the team travelling on game day. The Vees should be the fresher of the two teams as they haven’t played in a week. However, hopefully the time off doesn’t mean rust. Remember the Grizz played in Trail before they came to Penticton and didn’t look any worse for wear.
- Disrupting the Chiefs top line is a must. Austin Plevy, Luke Esposito and Josh Hansen have been an offensive force for the Chiefs through 17 games. Hansen scored twice last night in the loss and the line finished with four points. Hansen has been quite the story, already surpassing his entire goal output from last season and he’s just seven points shy of last season’s point total.
- Get in Gillam’s kitchen if they want to score. The 20 year-old is one of the BCHL’s best puck-stoppers and won’t be easy to beat. Gillam didn’t play last night and will be fresh for tonight’s contest. The Peterborough, Ontario product was frustrating to play against in the playoffs last spring and is again up to his old tricks. The biggest knock against Gillam or more so against the Chiefs, was the fact he had to be air-tight every game last season for the Chiefs to win; didn’t get a lot of run support. This year the Chiefs are scoring more and that means less pressure on him to be superman every night. The Vees will have to crash the net, put traffic in front and pelt him with rubber.
The Other Guys: The Chiefs, after a slow start, came to life in October winning six of nine games vaulting them near the top of the Mainland Division. However, recently the Chiefs have hit a speed bump, as they’ve dropped three of their last four games, including their last two on the road.
With all that said, this will be one of the Vees toughest opponents to date, as the Chiefs are always a tough team to play against. This is a team that has returned almost half their roster from last season, as 10 Chiefs are back, 10 who remember losing to the Vees in the Interior Conference Semi-Finals. If you recall the Chiefs were on the end of a couple historical records the Vees set last season. It was Chilliwack who was the team the Vees beat to record their BCHL-record 30th straight win and were the team the Vees defeated for their CJHL record-tying 40th straight win. Throw in the playoff setback, and this is a group I’m sure wants to win tonight.
Harvey Smyl coached teams are hard-working, in your face type teams that simply don’t quit. The Chiefs will finish every hit and make you feel their presence when they don’t have the puck. Throw in the fact they’re scoring more this season and this will be a grind to say the least for the Vees tonight.