The game was hyped up and it didn’t disappoint. It was a showdown for top spot in the BCHL as both teams were sitting on 13 wins and 28 points. This was a “see-saw” affair, as both teams took turns seizing the momentum.Yes, it’s a loss, the Vees fourth in as many games but an effort that deserved some points out of it. But hockey can be a cruel mistress and the Vees are left empty-handed and in search of their first win since October 26th.
My rundown of the evening
The Vees effort in the first forty minutes of Friday’s game didn’t sit well with anybody as they were well aware they would have to be better Saturday. However, as it would turn out, the Vees dug themselves a 0-2 hole just eight minutes in.
It’s odd because I didn’t think the Vees were lousy, being run of the rink or what ever other superlative you want to use. Yes, the shots were heavily in the Chiefs favour early on. Yes, the Chiefs took a commanding lead but the Vees were right there.
The first goal was frustrating to say the least. The Vees earned a power-play in the early minutes of the first after getting off to a good start. They were moving their feet, applying pressure to the Chiefs in their own zone and really had it going in the opening moments. Chiefs Captain David Thompson was thumbed for a delay of game call and the Vees were given a power-play and a real chance to get off to the start they wanted.
Short-handed goal against.
Credit to Josh Hansen, a sneaky play where he pickpocketed Brock Balson in front of the Vees net, as he was trying to break-out the power-play. Hansen lifted the stick, spun-around and wired a shot through the legs of a startled Nic Renyard. The power-play fizzled after that and I’m sure there were a few Vees supporters thinking “Here we go again..”
The short-handed goal galvanized the Chiefs, as they ramped up the intensity and pressed the Vees over the next handful of minutes. There persistence paid off when Jaret Babych double the Chiefs lead at 8:13. Babych found a soft spot in coverage, and found a rebound at the top of the crease and made no mistake. Sound familiar? Babych scored a near identical goal last Saturday in the second period against the Vees. Nic Renyard stopped Tanner Cochrane in-tight but the puck laid free and Babych had a gaping net to pot his sixth. Another goal-against where the Vees failed to clear the front of their net. The Vees in a 0-2 hole eight minutes into the game; not the most ideal start.
However a strange play not too long after, drastically swung the momentum in the Vees favour. Chiefs goaltender Mitch Gillam, fumbled a clearing attempt and the Vees capitalized. Gillam ventured out of his net and tried to throw a fore-hand clearing attempt off the glass but it went right to Ryan Gropp. The uber-skilled 16 year-old getting a gift and he didn’t let it go to waste. That goal was the break the Vees needed and you could see it lifted their spirits. The Vees started to put it together, shift by shift, as the ice titled in their favour and it was the Chiefs under a bit of pressure. When that Gropp goal went in, you had a feeling the Vees were going to come back and tie the game and they did just that before the period was out.
After a neutral zone turnover just outside the Chiefs zone, Brad McClure raced in down the right-wing and wired a wrist-shot over the glove of Gillam. Tie game folks. McClure showed great poise on the two-on-one rush, using Sam Mellor as a decoy and got Gillam to drop his shoulder just enough to roof the puck. McClure is a streaky scorer, usually scoring in bunches and that goal, the play itself, gave him a confidence boost. Before that goal, McClure was goal-less in his last three and had just two goals in his last seven games. It’s a confidence and mental thing. When snipers score, they feel good about themselves and believe that they can do it again in the game and McClure is the perfect example. A confident McClure is a dangerous McClure.
Moving into the second and it wasn’t the greatest of periods aesthetically speaking. The two teams traded goals, with the Chiefs holding the slight edge in shots (13-12). Both teams struggled to get any real rhythm established, as the middle stanza involved a lot of dump and chase play.Both teams fought the puck at times and play in the neutral zone was sporadic at best.
The Chiefs took the lead back on an odd bounce; Trevor Hills pin-ball shot going off a Vees skate and past Renyard. The Vees failed to clear the zone, with Alex Perron-Fontaine putting the puck on the wall to Hills. A routine play, it appeared as Hills directed a flimsy wrist-shot to the net. The puck was going to go wide on the short-side before it hit the inside of Brayden Park’s skate and slid through the legs of Renyard; when your hot, your hot.
Credit the Vees for being resilient, as they didn’t get rattled by the cheap goal against. Late in the period it was Gropp again finding the score-sheet, this time on the power-play. Gropp tracked down a rebound in the right-circle and fired in his second of the game, and fifth goal of the season into a yawning cage late in the middle stanza. Brad McClure was stuffed at the far-post but the puck squirted over to Gropp who had all the time in the world to fire the puck in.
Again, the second wasn’t the prettiest of hockey, as both teams made their mistakes in their own zones. It was fitting both teams picked up a goal on scrambles in front; neither side made a case to pull away in the period.
The third period picked up where the first left off, as both teams found their touch and tempo. For the third time in the game the Chiefs took the lead, this time getting their offense from their power-play. The Chiefs man-advantage was 3-4 one night earlier and was again threatening Saturday. After Trevor Hills was blocked in-tight, Luke Esposito whacked in a round just past the five-minute mark to put the Vees in a hole once again. Esposito’s goal padded his lead atop of the BCHL scoring board; two up on idle Wade Murphy. Like the Babych goal, this was another case of the Vees not being to get the puck out of harms way. The goal was like a slow-motion car crash. You knew it was coming but you couldn’t look away. The puck sat what seemed like days in skates just outside the Vees crease. Gah.
Trevor Hills continued to wield the hot stick as he picked up his second of the game minutes later, padding the Chiefs lead. Just shy of the eleven minute mark, Hills wired a wrist-shot off the post and past Renyard at 10:56. The goal came right off a face-off in the Vees end. Tanner Cochrane won the puck back to Hills, who moved into the slot and let it rip. This is the only goal where I would say Renyard might want a redo on. Yeah, there was traffic in front but it seemed like Renyard whiffed on the glove-save attempt. Hills goal put the Chiefs up by two with nine minutes, seemingly the game out of reach and the final minutes a formality.
But Brad McClure had other ideas.
After Ben Israel tripped over what appeared to be trench and not his blue-line, allowing Jordan McCallum to skate in but his shot was blocked. Fortunately the puck went right to McClure who quickly fired it into an open side. The block shot acted like a pump-fake that Gillam bit on, creating all sorts of room for McClure. For the umpteenth time the Vees clawing back and had over six minutes to get back on even terms.
However, just like Friday, the Vees, try as they might, couldn’t generate a quality scoring chance. The Chiefs really sealed things off and Gillam seemed to zero in after the McClure goal. The Vees had a slew of face-offs in the Chiefs end, with the extra-attacker but couldn’t get anything going with the goalie pulled.
Another loss, pushing the Vees win-less skid to four games. The first time they lost four in a row since a stretch in late January / early February of 2011. However, there were lots of positives to take out the game. Their effort level was drastically improved from Friday, as guys worked their butt off through this one. You could really see the effort level elevated by quite a few players.
Remember, the Vees with five regulars out, dressing three 16 year-olds, and three AP’s were one goal short against the Chiefs. Yes, the Chiefs had some fire-power missing in Austin Plevy and Cooper Rush but nowhere near the talent absent from the Vees roster.A real shame these two teams couldn’t face each other will full line-ups; would have been fun.
- Brock Balson had a scrap with Brodyn Nielsen in the second period. It was a mismatch as Balson, the bigger of the two, was the only one to throw and land punches. I can see why the Vees went out and got the power-forward. Balson has the size and skill and will be a treat to watch alongside Sam Mellor and Brad McClure
- Strong outings from Brad McClure and Ryan Gropp. Both scoring at times when the Vees need those guys to produce. Gropp is 16. crazy.
- Speaking of 16 year-olds, I’m a fan of Brayden Park. In his third game, Park saw plenty of ice,including time on the penalty-kill. Once Park gets a few more games in and settles into the routine of things, he will be one to watch.
- Trevor Hills was more than deserving of the first star nod. Two goals and three points Friday against Coquitlam and he does it again against the Vees. Hills, in his two games pinch-hitting for the absent Austin Plevy, as four goals and six points. He was goal-lees in his first 12 games before scoring last Saturday against the Vees. Talking about seizing the opportunity.
- The Chiefs are going to be real force in the Mainland Division / Coastal Conference. A well-balanced team with no real holes. Depth on the blue-line and a solid group of 12 forwards; a potent first-line too.
- Over 26 hundred fans were at Prospera Centre to take in the action. Nice to see the BCHL getting this support in the Lower Mainland / Fraser Valley.
- Before tonight, the second period had been the most troubling for the Vees during their win-less skid. As they were outscored 4-1 in the middle stanza, including back-to-back games were they out-scored 2-0 in that period. Much better on Saturday, staying with the Chiefs, even though the period wasn’t all that sexy. Not going into the third with another two-goal deficit was a small mental victory.