There’s a reason why the game is sixty minutes and three periods long. The Vees were reminded of that on Friday.
It took the Vees two periods to hit their stride but by then they simply ran out of time against the Centennials. The first forty minutes the Vees couldn’t get themselves on the right track, marred by poor execution at both ends of the ice. In their own zone the Vees had a hell of a time contending with the Cents’ fore-check pressure, as they were on more than one occasion hemmed in behind their goal. The Vees looked a little uneasy at times too, getting rid of the puck too early resulting in careless passing that didn’t do them any favours trying to get out of their zone. That running around appeared to tire the Vees in the opening period and the Cents’ took advantage by winning pucks time and again.
Despite their struggles, it was the Vees grabbing the lead on a goal by Ryan Gropp, which came against the flow of play. After a stretch of Merritt pressure in the Vees zone, Cody DePourcq found himself in a shooting position at the other end of the ice. DePourcq’s shot was blocked but Gropp was “Johnny on the Spot,” to bury his third of the year. Out-shot and up until that point outplayed, the Vees were fortunate enough to have the lead. However, they couldn’t build off of it and the Cents eventual manufactured a goal of their own.
The Cents’ to their credit never didn’t waiver after the Vees scored, as they continued to press and were aggressive on the fore-check; it was that aggressive fore-check which produced the tying the goal in the dying moments of the first. Brendan Lamont took a pass behind the net from Silvan Harper and stuffed the puck under the pad of Chad Katunar on a wrap-around with 16 seconds left. Late goals are momentum killers and especially when you’re at home. The Vees were guilty of not putting a body on Lamont, as he was untouched as he came out from behind the goal. Katunar would want a redo on that goal but the Vees defense didn’t do him any favours either.
The Vees were looking to be better in the second but it was the same old story yet again. Nothing much changed for the Vees, nothing for the better anyway. The Vees didn’t seem to be on the same page with one another, as they were having a tough time stringing passes together and make any real serious foray into the Cents’ zone. Just like one week ago, the Vees were tied with the Chiefs after the opening 20 minutes but failed to push ahead in the middle period. This was eerily similar, as the Cents’ scored two goals less than two minutes apart; Chilliwack scored two in a short spell last Saturday as well. Sebastien Pare gave the Cents’ their first lead of the game in the latter half of the second. After finding the puck at the blue-line, Pare broke down the left-wing and stuffed the puck short-side on Katunar. Another goal a Cents’ forward was allowed to go right to the net without any impediment or contact from a Vees defender. Pare looked like he caught Katunar cheating off his line and found daylight at the near post.
The turning point in the game came minutes after the Pare goal, as Brandon Bruce poked in a third Cents’ goal, just 1:39 after the Pare struck. The goal was deflating, as both Cents’ goals came with under four minutes left in the second. The Vees could have lived being down 2-1 going into the third but down two is a whole different story. The goal itself was like a punch in the gut, a puck that slowly trickled through the legs of Katunar and sat free in the crease. Bruce beat everyone to the puck and poked it across the goal-line; again, another Cents’ goal within feet of the net and another situation where a Cents’ forward was left untouched. There were defenders in the area, granted everyone, including some Cents’ players that the puck was covered. It was déjà vu for the Vees, another second period they would like to forget; another second period that proved to be the difference between a win and a loss.
The Vees looked like a different team in the third period, playing with some real purpose and started to press the Cents’ for the first time all game. Desperation, a sense of real urgency was shown and it resulted in some lengthy time in the Cents’ end. For the first time all game the Vees were really testing Cents’ goalie Tyler Steel, who up to that point, had a pretty quiet night. The Vees were aggressive on their fore-check , a fore-check that was giving the Cents’ all sorts of problems below their circles. The issue was the Vees weren’t seeing the results early, as time continued to tick of the clock with the Vees still down two. Their second goal, cutting the deficit to one, came from an unlikely source to say the least. AP defenseman Derek Hughes found the back of the net right off a face-off. Cody DePourcq won the face-off back to Hughes and his wrist-shot from the point eluded Steel and sailed in for his first BCHL goal; great moment. However time was the biggest issue for the Vees, the goal coming with just under five minutes left, plenty of time to mount a comeback; or so you think. Credit the Cents’ for bottling up the middle of the ice and standing up at their blue-line, they weren’t giving up any room on their side of the red-line late. The Vees couldn’t muster any real quality looks, as they couldn’t get their attack going with the goalie pulled in the final minute.
The Vees have to realize they need to play with that urgency they showed in the third throughout the entire game; play desperate. The good thing out of all of this is the Vees are right back at it on Saturday as the travel to Chilliwack to face the Chiefs. The Chiefs won Friday, their third in a row, and now are tied with the Vees for 1st in the BCHL. The Vees are mad, p-o’d and will need to channel that against the Chiefs if they want to stop the slide.