Vees Record: 25-11-0-3 53 pts (1st Interior Division)
Last 10: 6-4-0-0
Last Game: 5-1 W @ Rivermen
vs. Island Division: 3-1-0-2 (Road: 1-1-0-1)
Powell River Kings Record: 17-18-2-4 40 pts (4th Island Division)
Last 10: 3-4-2-1
Last Game: 5-2 W @ Silverbacks (Jan 13th)
Vs. Interior Division: 5-6-0-0
September 29th Vees 4-0 @ South Okanagan Events Centre
The Setup: The Vees and Kings meet for the second and final time in the regular season tonight. The Vees took the first encounter way back on September 29th 4-0, in their 2012-2013 season opener.
The Vees are in Powell River for the first time since winning the Fred Page Cup last April in four games. Both teams have seen significant player changes since then, the Vees only have four returnees from that squad; Powell River 10.
The Vees are trying to get on a roll, winning convincingly last Saturday in Langley, and will want to get off on the right foot on this three game swing. The Kings put together convincing wins at the tail end of their Interior Division road trip last weekend. After losing 6-2 in West Kelowna Friday, Powell River rattled off 6-0 and 5-2 wins over Vernon and Salmon Arm respectively.
The Vees Beat: The Vees got two pieces of good news this week when it comes to their roster. Chad Katunar is back with the team after a two-week leave of absence and will start tonight. Louie Nanne is also back after missing last weekend’s road trip to the Lower Mainland. Nanne is good to go and will play alongside Wade Murphy and Mike Rebry on the top line. That means the Vees are only missing Rob Mann and Travis Blanleil as both are rehabilitating lower-body injuries.
The Vees are on the final stretch of a five game road trip that spans the last 14 days. They were kicked out of the SOEC in early January for the Continental Cup of Curling and now have three games left to play before returning home next Friday. The good news is they’ve been a good road team this year, with a 12-6-0-2 record, which is the second most wins in the league, behind Chilliwack and Victoria who each have 13.
Tonight marks the fourth Vees road game against an Island Division opponent. The Vees have split their first three, winning in Cowichan Valley (3-0), but losing in Nanaimo (4-2) and in Victoria in double-overtime (3-2). Chad Katunar is 2-1-0-2 against the Island Division but is 0-1-0-1 on the road. However he picked up the shutout over PR in September.
With the return of Nanne, the lines will look different again tonight, but with any success should stay intact throughout the weekend. With Nanne up on the first line, Siemer goes to the second line with Jedd Soleway and Brad McClure, That bumps Ryan Gropp to a line with Sam Mellor and Brock Balson. Cody DePourcq will be on an energy line with Jordan McCallum and Cam Amantea. I almost have to use quotations when saying “first,” “second” or “third line” because, as you can tell this team has depth. That’s going to be key tonight in the match-up game.
Three Keys vs. Powell River
- Depth: With the addition of John Siemer last week, the Vees have a pretty darn good core of forwards. When looking at the four units can you really point out a “weak link?” The “fourth line” was terrific on the weekend, as Jordan McCallum scored a pretty goal on Saturday and the Vees got big minutes out of Cody DePourcq and Cam Amantea. Fred Harbinson isn’t shy to through this line out against the oppositions top two lines and we likely will see that at some point tonight. When playing on road trips like the one Vees are undertaking, you need to get big minutes from up and down your bench. Tonight is crucial to get all four lines going and not taxing certain players with extra minutes. Powell River may be able to match up against one to two lines but what happens when you start moving down the line-up? Look for Gropp, Mellor and Balson to have a big game or any of the top three lines for that matter. Powell River is without their top scorer in Evan Richardson as he is serving a one game suspension that picked up against Salmon Arm last Sunday.Can the Vees attack the Kings depth and gain leverage in the match-up game?
- Discipline: Kind of cliche, but if the Vees are going to get two points, they will need to stay out of the penalty box.The Kings have the fourth best power-play in the BCHL and are fourth at home on the PP as well. The Kings have seven players with three or more power-play goals, six if you subtract Richardson from the equation. The Vees are on the road, starting a three game swing in two and a half days; no freebies for the opposition. Once you take a lot of penalties, you’re shortening your bench because only a certain number of guys play on the PK. Penalties lead to a shorter bench, that leads to tired legs and you know where that can go.
- Counter-Punch: Like last Saturday, the Vees are facing an aggressive fore-checking team in Powell River. The Kings aren’t shy about sending two fore-checkers in deep and they aren’t shy of laying the body either. The Kings defensive is an active group as well, guys like Jordan Burns, Jordan Benton and Noah Henry (Remember him?) are a few who tend to jump into the offensive zone. With that, if they can utilize their transition game, the Vees will have chances the other way. Stepping up, putting sticks and bodies in skating lanes will cause turnovers. The Vees will be an aggressive team on their side of centre ice, as they will try to trap the Kings up ice.
The Opposition: Like for the majority of the season, the Kings are a bit banged up coming into tonight’s contest. They won’t have Luke Ripley, the second highest ranked BCHL’er the NHL Central Scouting list. Ripley is dealing with an upper-body injury, that also forced him to sit out last Sunday’s game. Also out is leading scorer Evan Richardson (8-25-33) who is serving a one-game suspension assessed after Sunday’s win in Salmon Arm. Richard fought in the first period and was given an instigator which was his second such penalty this season, and under the Jr. ‘A’ supplement that’s a one-game ban. Not sure what the status is on Jarryd Leung, as he missed all three games last weekend. Regardless, you get the idea the Kings have been hit with the injuries to various players at various times this season.
- For a detailed background on the Kings, check out the Kings of the Castle blog.
No Richardson does hurt, as he is not only their top scorer but an excellent face-off man as well. That might be key in the territorial game, especially with special team face-offs at either end of the ice. The Kings are still in good hands without Richardson, as they spread their scoring throughout the line-up. JP Villeneuve (18-11-29), Drew Dorantes (11-16-27) and Matt Scarth (10-8-18) can pack an offensive punch. The Kings get scoring from pretty much everywhere, as 10 players have 15 or more points, and two defensemen are in that top ten; three in the top 11.
Like every year under Kent Lewis , the Kings are strong in-goal and that’s the case with Jonah Imoo. The second year puck-stopper was lights-out at the World Junior ‘A’ Challenge for Team Canada West, and since that tournament, he’s 8-4-2-0; very strong numbers. Imoo was the starter against the Vees in game four of the Fred Page Cup last year and will likely be the starter tonight. The Kings brand doesn’t usually incorporate lots of scoring (last weekend would argue otherwise), but does stress defensive responsibility and few chances against. The Kings usually don’t give up much in the way of scoring chances, as they thrive in 2-1 / 3-2 games. The Vees will have their hands full trying to get pucks past Imoo and the Kings D.
Radio Leftovers: Lots of stuff going on the broadcast tonight from Powell River. In the first intermission I will play an interview with Noah Henry I did this morning. The former Vee talks about his time so far in Powell River. Also, if everything goes as planned, I will have a chat with the newest Vee John Siemer. As always, both coaches will be on the pre-game show and Vees Assistant Coach Steve Cawley jumps on the post-game show.
Puck drops at 7:30.