Vees Record: 23-10-0-3 49 pts (1st Interior Division)
Last 10: 6-3-0-1
Last Game: 4-2 L @ Centennials (Jan 4th)
Eagles Record: 21-10-1-2 45 pts (2nd Mainland Division)
Last 10: 6-3-1-0
Last Game: 6-3 W @ Smoke Eaters (Jan 4th)
Vees vs. Eagles: First Meeting
Vees vs. Mainland Division: 3-2-0-0 GF: 16 GA: 14
Home: 2-1-0 GF: 10 GA: 8
January 5th @ SOEC 5pm
January 11th @ South Surrey Arena 7pm
The Setup: The Vees and Eagles meet for the first time this season, and tonight marks a home-and-home of sorts, as the two will play again next Friday in Surrey. It was two different results for the two last night but their games somewhat mirrored each other.
The Vees came back from a two-goal deficit to tie in the third period, only to loose on a late goal by Merritt’s Regan Soquila. The Eagles came back from a one-goal deficit and exploded for a four-goal third period, outscoring the Trail Smoke Eaters 6-2 in the final forty minutes in a 6-3 win; where am I going with this? Both the Vees and Eagles trailed by one after the first both doing so the road, both clawing back in their respective games.
The Vees will be looking to put last night’s heart-wrenching loss behind them as quickly as possible and the only way to do that is picking up two points at home. The Vees effort and execution was on the mark last night, and will need more of the same tonight.
The Eagles are the BCHL’s hottest team, winners of four in a row since the Christmas Break, as they’ve swept Chilliwack in a home-and-home and picked up wins against Coquitlam and Trail since December 28th.
Tonight will be the Eagles only visit to the SOEC this season, unless the two teams meet in the Fred Page Cup Final.
Vees Beat: I don’t want to keep beating it to death, but the Vees played well enough to win last night, and it was a great effort with all things considered. The Vees were without six regulars and key players at that too. Their top goalie, one-half of their shutdown defensive pair, two-thirds of their checking line and two forwards from their top nine were absence from Friday’s setback. Not one to use injuries or absences as excuses, but you have to think how different the game might have been with a full line-up.
The line-up the Vees did ice was no slouch by any means, and they proved it on Friday, going right to the bitter end with a hard-nosed Merritt side. With three AP’s and only with 11 forwards for the latter half of the game, the Vees had a chance to take a 3-2 late but it wasn’t meant to be.
In my three keys I stressed compete level was going to be the most crucial thing for the Vees going into Friday’s game. They did come out and worked their tails off, as everyone seemed to have the jump that was needed. Take away the first 64 seconds and the Vees were doing what they wanted against Merritt.
They will need that same effort, even maybe reach back for something extra against a confident Eagles squad. Surrey is flying high, as they’ve rattled off four wins in a row and show now signs of slowing down. The Eagles can skate, and skate with the best of the them, and the Vees will have to be ready right off the start. Remember the Eagles play on the big, Olympic-sized ice at home, and Matt Erhart coached teams play an up-tempo brand of hockey much like the Vees.
In saying that, the Vees don’t want to get into a track-meet with the Eagles, and start trading chances at both ends of the ice; the Vees have a short bench and need to be smart in how they play. The Vees will have to look at slowing down the Eagles through the neutral zone by taking away time & space and passing lanes. I’m not suggesting the Vees sit back and play a 1-2-2, but rather step up in open ice, pressure the puck carrier and force the Eagles into bad decisions. The Vees can’t allow the Eagles to come at them with speed, as they have too many weapons that will hurt you when they have room to operate.
Keys vs. Surrey
- Compete: Once again the Vees will need to be ready to battle right off the start. They’re playing their second game in as many days, which usually isn’t something to talk about, however they’re short-staffed and a few players had some hard minutes in Merritt. Remember the Vees were battling back from one and two-goal deficits and doing so in the tight confines in Merritt. That can take a toll on a player’s body, as they might have some heavy legs this morning. However the Vees need to have their feet moving,if they don’t the Eagles will make it a long night.
- Structure: This is crucial in executing key number one. The Vees need to play smart, and not necessarily just hard.The Vees can’t afford to start missing assignments and get caught chasing after the puck all night long. The players need to stick their assignments, play a structured game when it comes to their fore-check, defending through the neutral zone and playing without the puck inside their own zone. Each player needs to know his assignments and execute; individual play will get the Vees in trouble.
- Work it Out: The Vees did this last night, and it almost nearly paid off. They didn`t panic when they went down early and didn`t waiver when Merritt went up by two. The Vees coaching staff always comments on sticking with the “process” and not deterring from the game plan. Last night the Vees gave up an early goal but kept on track and stuck with their game plan, which eventually helped bring them back level. If it isn’t working early tonight, the team can’t panic and get into self-inflicting individualism; see last home game on how that panned out. The Vees need not panic, but work through the challenges they will face tonight.
The Opposition: Surrey will be a handful tonight for the Vees, a team that has won four in a row and five of their last six. The Eagles have been on a tear since the Christmas Break, sweeping the Chiefs in a weekend home-and-home and picking up wins over Coquitlam and Trail.
They are a stingy squad of late, only surrendering six goals in their last four games, which includes two clean sheets for Michael Santaguida. In their last four games, the Eagles have averaged four goals per game and have only averaged 1.5 goals against; that’s good.
Defensively it starts with goaltender Michael Santaguida who’s twice been named the BCHL Player of the Week; most recently on Monday for the week ending December 30th. He has 16 wins, a tidy 2.17 GAA and a sparkling .936 save-percentage, and he’s 4-0-0 against the Interior Division this season. Santaguida isn’t big by any means, standing just 5’9 and weighing it at 175. What he lacks in stature, he makes up for in athleticism and the numbers don’t lie. His strong start to his first BCHL season hasn’t gone unnoticed, as he recently committed to Vermont for next season.
On the blue-line the Eagles are led by Devon Toews, who is having a season to remember.The second-year defenseman out of Abbotsford leads all defenseman on the Eagles with 24 points in 28 games; just five back of his total from last season. Toews isn’t overly big at 5’11 but for what he lacks in size, he makes up for in hockey sense and speed. The Vees will have to be weary of number six every time he hits the ice tonight.
Helping out with the offensive production from the blue-line is Craig Wyszomirski who has 22 points in 32 games. Wyszomirski plays like the 20 year-old he is, dependable, smart and capable of providing some pop from the back-end. I’m sure the Vees will see a lot of Toews and Wyszomirski carrying the puck and leading the rush tonight.
No Troy Paterson for the Eagles on the blue-line, as the newly acquired defenseman in still recovering from an injury and won’t play tonight, I suspect; he didn’t play last night in Trail.
Up front Brady Shaw, (remember him?) leads a well-balanced Eagles offense, as six players have 25 or more points. Shaw leads the way with 20 goals and 36 points, six ahead of Michael Stenerson. Shaw is your prototypical power-forward who uses his size to create time and space. Shaw was acquired from the Coquitlam Express For Brandon Morley earlier this season and hasn’t looked back since. In 22 games since the trade, Shaw has 14 goals and 27 points, compare that with Morley’s 11 points in 17 games for Coquitlam, and I think you know who got that better in that trade. Yes, they may be different players but the value of each I would argue was equal at the time of the trade.
The Vees will have to look out for Michael Stenerson (10-20-30), Drew Best (12-17-29) and Demico Hannoun (13-15-28) to name a few. Basically this is a team with an offense by committee approach, as they have a few different looks that can hurt you on the score-sheet.