(A snapshot of how this game played out)
The shoe was on the other foot on Saturday night. After being humbled on home ice Friday, the Vees went into West Kelowna with a determined effort, literally fighting their way to a 4-2 win.
The Vees split the weekend home-and-home series and swept the four games in West Kelowna this season; looking much better than their performance one night ago.The Vees looked like a completely different team, and played just that much better than a scrappy Warriors side.
The Vees are now 23-9-0-3 and are only one of two teams to have single-digit losses in the BCHL; Victoria being the other. The Vees now pad their lead to nine points atop of the Interior Division; Merritt was idle again on Saturday.
The Vees revamped their line pairings and it paid immediate dividends. The new-look line of Sam Mellor, Wade Murphy and Jedd Soleway were terrific, combining for eight points.
Mellor and Murphy had big bounce-back games after so-so performances last night. Mellor finished with one goal (the game winner) and three points. Murphy “chipped” in with three assists. Both extended their points streaks, Mellor running his up to 10 games, Murphy seven.
Soleway was no slouch, finishing with a pair of goals, the Vees second and fourth of the night. He scored at key moments and was dynamite down the middle. Soleway gave the Vees a counter-punch to dynamic centerman Max French, who is deadly in the face-off circle. Tonight, Soleway was strong on the draw and his physicality caused havoc in the Warriors zone.
It wasn’t just that one line, even though they had their hands all over this one. Brad McClure scored a clutch goal at the end of the first, even though it might have had an odor to it. The Vees are now 16-0-0-1 when leading after the first period. This team just thrives on holding a lead down early, like a shot in the arm to carry through in the final two periods.
Truly was an entertaining game, with back-and-forth action, and both teams trading punches through forty minutes. It really had it all, goals, hits, fireworks and drama, yes drama.
Thomas Nitsche had a pretty tidy outing in his Vees debut. Nitsche started the game with Troy Stecher, but saw time with both Sean Flanagan and Bryan Sinz at one time or another. I liked what I saw, as he moved well for his size and was just a “steady-eddie” on the blue-line.
Good to see the power-play get a goal and at a much needed time. Yes, the Warriors scored a power-play goal of their own, but the man-advantage showed signs of life and hopefully it can get on a roll.
The Vees were better with their passing and decision making with the puck. A lot more crisp passing and not as many turnovers. There were times early on that the Vees were guilty of trying to force passes across the zone that just weren’t there. However, the Vees were better with the puck and didn’t trip all over themselves so to speak.
Tough to see both Travis Blanleil and Cody DePourcq go down with injury as both didn’t finish the second period. Blanleil suffered a lower-body injury after a nasty collision at center ice with Adam Plant. I didn’t see the DePourcq injury but both will be reevaluated early next week. Credit the Vees for finishing the game with 10 forwards and not missing a beat.
Plenty of bad blood in this one, as tempers flared more than once, as well as a handful of scrums after the whistle throughout the game. Both teams were pushing, shoving, face-washing and jawing at each other all game; a real playoff like feel to this one.
Chad Katunar’s third period performance might be overlooked with all the fireworks in the late going. Katunar was great during a two minute sequence when the Warriors had the goalie pulled. They were pressing, throwing everything at the Vees net and Katunar came up with some big saves late.