Home Sweet Home: Vees-Vipers

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Vees Record: 28-11-0-3 59 points (1st Interior Division)

Vees Home: 13-5-0-1

Vees vs. Interior Division: 17-6-0-1

Vees vs. Vipers: 4-1-0-0

Vees in January: 5-2-0-0

Vipers: 14-20-0-7 35 points (6th Interior Division)

Vipers Away: 7-11-0-3

Vipers in January: 3-4-0-0

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Vees power-play vs. Vipers: 3-23

Vees penalty-kill vs. Vipers: 12-13 (2 SHG)

Vees Scoring vs. Vipers

# Player Goals Assists Points
11 Sam Mellor

3

5

8

12 Wade Murphy

3

3

6

77 Troy Stecher

0

6

6

17 Mike Rebry

3

0

3

65 Sean Flanagan

1

1

2

23 Louie Nanne

1

1

2

81 Travis Blanleil

1

0

1

8 Ryan Gropp

1

0

1

89 Brad McClure

1

0

1

27 James De Haas

0

1

1

19 Cody DePourcq

0

1

1

74 Cam Amantea

1

0

1

FT_OnDeck-shdwThe Vees return home…finally. After trying to remake the movie Planes-Trains & Automobiles last weekend, the Vees are set to kick-off a six game home stand as they host the Vernon Vipers. Tonight is the Vees first home game since January 5th, when the topped the Surrey Eagles 3-2 in double-overtime. Remember that game? On that night Troy Stecher scored on a breakaway in the three-on-three “pond hockey” period.

It was a bit of an odyssey for the Vees last weekend, starting in Powell River on a Friday and ending their road trip on Sunday afternoon in Coquitlam. They won dramatically in overtime against the Kings 5-4 (Sinz the OT hero), and then put up back-to-back 6-3 scores on Alberni Valley and Coquitlam.

The Vernon Vipers, who were “sellers” at the January 10th roster deadline, are on a bit of a role, as they won two of three on their Island Division road-swing over the weekend. The Vipers out-gunned the Nanaimo Clippers 6-4 Friday, skated past the Cowichan Valley Capitals 3-1 Saturday and narrowly lost 1-0 to the first place Victoria Grizzlies Sunday. That’s four out of six points on their first road trip since trading away Adam Tambellini, Aaron Hadley and Pearce Eviston. Not Bad.

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Home sweet home. The Vees are back on home ice for the first time in 19 days as they start a weekend double-dip at the SOEC. The Vees went 3-2 on their five game road swing through the middle of January, and were one odd-goal (Merritt) and two disallowed goals (Surrey) from maybe, just maybe, running the table.

The Vees play eight of their next 10 games at the SOEC and don’t hit the road again until February 16th when the make a visit to Merritt. The Vees have only played at home twice in their last nine games, and haven’t played back-to-back home games since December 7th & 8th; they won both of those games by a combined 12-2 score.

This team seems to be peaking just at the right time as well, rattling off four straight wins and five in their last seven games. This is the Vees longest win streak since they won six in a row from September 21st to October 6th. That six game streak is tied for the longest win streak in the BCHL this season, and only matched by Prince George and Chilliwack.

Outside of the wins, another encouraging sign is the Vees offense, as they’ve put up 17 goals in their last three games and have scored five or more goals in their last four contests. The scoring isn’t just coming from one line as 10 players have combined for those 17 goals; only Mike Rebry had a multi-goal game on the weekend.

Yet another good sign is seeing Wade Murphy and Sam Mellor find the score-sheet on Sunday. The two have been snake bitten in recent weeks. Murphy snapped a seven game goal-less drought against the Express with his first period snipe. Mellor got a monkey off his back too, when he had a shot deflect off his body for his first “gino” in six games; take it which ever way possible. The silver lining in all this would be the Vees getting 13 of 17 goals outside of the Vees top three scorers.

Good timing on the scoring, as the Vees coaches would say, and maybe for the first time this season, the goaltending wasn’t up to snuff on the weekend. Hey, both goaltenders had their moments where they looked great but both had moments where they looked “off.”

Chad Katunar let in an early goal Friday against Powell River and never did look comfortable. One night later he had two go by him on the first three shots he faced and was replaced by Nic Renyard; rust was evident. Renyard was admirable in relief of Katunar on Saturday, especially in the third period when the Bulldogs were buzzing. He got the nod a day later but wasn’t 100 percent, as he fell ill during the second intermission. As discussed Thursday night’s on Coach’s corner (shameless plug), it was a bit of a role reversal for the Vees. For the majority of the season, the Vees relied on strong goaltending as scoring hasn’t come easy. But on the weekend it was the Vees maybe relying on their scoring to make up for the goaltending. It happens and that’s just par for the course with a 56 game schedule. The silver lining (here I go saying that word) is the balance the Vees seem to find in their game. Goaltending helping out the offense and the offense helping out the goaltending; the Vees are finding ways to win regardless.

All signs point to Chad Katunar getting the call tonight against the Vipers and that’s as far as the Vees coaching staff will go. I suspect the decision on Saturday’s starter all depends on Friday’s result.

The Vees will still be without Rob Mann and Travis Blanleil for this weekend’s games. Blanleil has been skating with the team this week and looks to be getting stronger every day. The coaching staff says he was eager to go this weekend but likely, if all things go well, will be in the line-up next weekend. Mann continues, to rehab a lingering lower-body ailment and looks to be getting closer every day to “game” shape. I would say Mann is still a couple of weeks away. Hopefully we can see number 71 back in a Vees jersey in early February.

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Well “these” Vernon Vipers have won two of their last three, had a player named the BCHL Player of the Week, and two others were given Honourable Mentions.All  happening without Adam Tambellini, Aaron Hadley and Pearce Eviston. Those three were traded on January 10th as the Vipers looked to be a team building for next year, when they play host to the 2014 RBC Cup. However, this seems to be a much different Vipers team. A team that maybe is playing more “loose” and playing with a renewed sense of purpose and confidence; like the Vipers we are used to seeing.

Without the three mentioned above, the Vipers seem to have a new identity as a team that’s all about hard-work that incorporates more of a north-south brand of hockey. There is a dangerous line in Mason Blacklock, Andrew Tegeler and Dexter Dancs. Three big bodies that are above average skaters for their size, and clearly a line that has found their scoring touch. Tegeler and Blacklock teamed up for four goals and eight points against Nanaimo and the line finished with 13 points in two games (shutout Sunday).

More blue-collar types on this roster to look out for include Liam Boar, Colton Sparrow, Braedan Russell and Brandon Persley. No, these names don’t jump out at you as scorers, or dangerous offensive types, but they’re savvy veteran players who can be a handful. The players I listed above don’t take shifts off, finish their checks and will be coming at the Vees from start to finish.

The Vipers are getting some good goaltending as well, as Austin Smith went 1-1 over the weekend, but posted .971 save-percentage and a 1.01 goals-against in his two starts. The loss was a 1-0 nail-bitter to the BCHL’s top team in the Victoria Grizzlies.

Timely scoring, hard work and good goaltending tends to put you in a position to win on a nightly basis. Can the Vipers keep it up against the Vees?

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About frodgers

Director of Broadcasting & Media Relations for the Penticton Vees
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