The Vees were up against it tonight, missing six regulars before this game started; a goalie, a defenseman and four forwards. They went down by two midway through the second. They lost a forward late in the second after a check-from-behind penalty.
Yet they lost on a last-minute goal by the Centennials. Only 1:19 away from getting at least one point; that in itself would of been a moral victory. The effort was there, as they were battling from start to finish but hockey can be cruel and the Vees experienced that Friday.
Many will scan the boxscore and see 4-2 and look at the shots and think this one was all Merritt. Obviously it wasn’t as this one was back-and-forth through all three periods and right up to the end, it was up for grabs.
- The absentees: Rob Mann (injury), Travis Blanleil (injury), Cody DePourcq (injury), Ryan Gropp (U-17), Jedd Soleway (Suspension) and Chad Katunar (personal). DePourcq will play tomorrow, Jedd Soleway is back next weekend along with Ryan Gropp. Katunar is back in Victoria for personal reasons and is missing both games this weekend; I don’t know what his status is for next weekend.
- The Vees wanted to get off to a good start but it didn’t happen. The Centennials scoring 1:04 into the game and won’t do wonders for a teams confidence. The Vees didn’t look comfortable early, as they looked somewhat unsettled to start the game. The opening goal was a rare defensive miscue by the Vees on Friday. Huisman got by a flat-footed defender down the middle and went up high on Nic Renyard.
- Got to feel for Renyard, making the start in a hostile building and facing the second place Centennials. The first shot he faces is off a 30 goal-scorer in Husiman.
- Outside of the shaky start, I thought the Vees really settled in after the goal and had a handful of chances of their own to even the game but struggled to get quality shots on goal; a reoccurring theme through two periods.
- One of the highlights in the first was a scrap between Bryan Sinz and Silvan Harper. Both danced at centre ice, with not many punches thrown but both got some quality licks in; fair to call it a draw.
- The second read like the first period, two teams skating well, going up and down the ice in a back-and-forth affair. Neither side was getting that many grade “A” chances in the period, as both sides did a masterful job of blocking shots and plugging shooting lanes.
- The Vees made one mistake in the first and and it cost them a goal and it happened in the second as well. Off a face-off, Scotty Patterson doubled the Cents lead on a rebound. Nic Renyard padded away the point-shot but the rebound bounced right to Patterson who banged it in. Now it’s not a glaring error, as the Vees centerman after the draw failed to pickup Patterson in front. It’s a tough play for a left-handed centerman to win the draw, spin around, and box out the forward. It was a bang-bang play but in a tight game like Friday those mistakes can loom large. But hey, only two errors defensively, that just so happen to go in. Outside of the first two goals, the Vees played a textbook defensive game on the road.
- The Vees should get credit for pushing back after the Cents’ second goal. It’s not easy trying to come back from two goals down,especially in Merritt but the Vees started to chip away.
- Brock Balson was rewarded with his fifth after a good shift in the Merritt zone. Balson just missed on a redirect in front, but he continued to press and scored from the left goal-line seconds later. It’s funny, the Vees struggled to get a quality shot on goal, but it’s a bank-shot that fools Tyler Steel.
- Wade Murphy put his team in a tough situation after he hit Richard Sabourin from behind late in the second. Immediately following the hit, Murphy fought Regan Soquila in a fiesty but even tilt. Murphy ended up with a five-minute major, a two minute check from behind penalty and a game misconduct. I expect the BCHL will review the hit and Murphy could be looking at a suspension. Remember he was suspended in September for a similar play. He’s had some issues of late with penalties and bone-head hits. Murphy is one of the best players in the league. He needs to start playing like it once again.
- The Vees tied the game on a beautiful shot by Brad McClure early in the third period. McClure kept the puck on a two-on-one rush and put it off the underside of the cross-bar and in. A signature McClure goal.
- When McClure tied it, you thought here we go again, the Vees are going to work their magic once more. They almost did, as they played in a two-two deadlock for the majority of the third and had a couple of opportunities to go ahead.
- The winner was an odd one. Regan Soquila, at the end of a shift, moved down the left-wing and put what looked to be an innocent shot on goal. Nic Renyard had some trouble with his stick, as he fumbled it in his hand, which helped deflect the puck up and over his shoulder for the winner. Truly bizarre and an awful feeling for Renyard. He played well enough to get the Vees at least a point but was victim of a freak play. I don’t think he could recreate the goal if he tried 10 times.
- Friday was the Vees first loss in Merritt since September 29th, 2009. Yes, 2009, a run of 10 straight wins. That’s over three years ago. It had been awhile.
- Tough pill to swallow, as the effort and execution was there. This type of effort usually lands you with a win or at least a tie or overtime point. Vees will need to put it behind them quickly and refocus for a tough Surrey side.
Thomas Nitsche: Looked right at home playing alongside Troy Stecher for the majority of the game. Nitsche is a calming presence inside his own zone, a veteran player who knows how to play away from the puck. He also had one of the best hits of the game in the neutral zone when he flattened Scotty Patterson.
Bryan Sinz: I thought Sinz ate up some hard minutes for the Vees and was a dependable inside his zone. Sinz takes a lot of abuse, battling in the corners and in front of his net. He blocked his share of shots too tonight and was a surprise with his puck moving ability; a little more confidence and Sinz will be carrying that puck a little longer to set up the offense.
*Really the entire back-end from Troy Stecher to Brayden Park was rock solid.
Sam Mellor: Didn’t show up on the score-sheet, as his 10 game point streak came to an end but he was everywhere. Mellor knew he was going to be leaned on heavily tonight and I thought he did everything but score. Mellor was skating, hitting and making things happen with the puck on his stick; a game’er
Josh Blanchard: Yes, the 16 year-old AP was at it again. Blanchard was part of an effective line with Jordan McCallum and Cam Amantea. Blanchard had a great chance to score as well when he just missed on a backhand in the third period. It isn’t easy coming in for your second BCHL game, and doing so in a small rink like Merritt’s. Blanchard didn’t look out of place and had some time on the Vees power-play and was playing within the final minute when they had the goalie pulled.
*Fraser Sutherland and Graham Millar were also effective in their AP roles tonight; a pleasant surprise.
Brad McClure: Scores a big goal on a wicked shot to tie the game. McClure had a strong game on the PK as well and was doing his job throughout the game. When McClure was on the ice, I didn’t see him make many mistakes, if at any. He will be a guy that will have to be a leader tomorrow.