Vees Record: 34-13-0-2
Home Record: 19-6-0-1
vs. Merritt: 2-4-0
Vs. Interior: 20-8-0-1 (home: 10-5-0-0)
Last 10: 8-2-0-0
Last Game: Feb 17th 7-1 win vs. Capitals
Road Record: 14-8-1-2
vs. Interior: 19-7-1-2
Last 10: 7-2-1-0
Last Game: Feb 20th 2-1 loss @ Smoke Eaters
Vees penalty-kill vs. Merritt: 14-15 (10-11 at home)
Vees Scoring vs. Merritt
Troy Stecher 0-7-7 Louie Nanne 4-1-5
Cody DePourcq 2-2-4 Brad McClure 2-2-4
Ryan Gropp 1-3-4 Cam Amantea 1-2-3
Brock Balson 0-2-2 Sam Mellor 0-2-2
James de Haas 0-2-2 Sean Flanagan 0-2-2
Wade Murphy 0-2-2 Jedd Soleway 0-2-2
John Siemer 1-0-1 Travis Blanleil 0-1-1
Jordan McCallum 0-1-1 Mike Rebry 0-1-1
The Vees meet the Cents for the second time in six days and it’s their third game in 14 days against their Interior Division foe. This is the seventh and final meeting of the regular season, with Merritt already clinching the season series with the win last Saturday.
The Vees are coming off a convincing 7-1 win on Sunday afternoon over the Cowichan Valley Capitals; the third time this month the Vees have scored more than seven goals in a game. Wade Murphy, Brad McClure, Sam Mellor and John Siemer picked-up up three points in the win and Nic Renyard only had to make 15 saves for his ninth win.
The Centennials dropped a 2-1 decision to the Trail Smoke Easters on Wednesday. The Cents’ fell behind 2-0 early in the third period, but Silvan Harper made a game of it with a goal inside the final seven minutes. It was a missed opportunity for the Cents’ to gain ground on the Vees, as they still sit six points back with just one game in-hand. Even with the setback, the Cents’ have won five of their last six and have only lost twice in the month of February; a 5-2-1-0 mark in eight games.
Mike Rebry marked his return to the line-up with an assist in Sunday’s 7-1 win, as he setup Brad McClure’s third period goal. Rebry missed the previous five games as he was serving a suspension, stemming from the January 26th game against West Kelowna. With the exception of Brayden Park, the Vees do now have a full line-up and hopefully I can write that for more than just one game. Park is making progress as he recovers from a lower-body injury he picked up in late January.
If the Vees are going to beat the Centennials tonight, they’re going to have to look at their starts. In the last three meetings, the Cents have scored first, and have had leads heading into the third period in each of the three games. When the Vees score first they’re 22-2-0-2 but the Cents are 23-4-2-2 when they do the same. How much better are the Vees with a lead through two periods? They have yet to lose in regulation when leading after forty-minutes, boasting a 26-0-0-2 record; just 3-10-0-1 when trailing going into the third.
Rebry’s return is good news for Jedd Soleway who will have some of the workload in the circle taken off his shoulders. With Rebry’s absence, Soleway was taxed with the majority of key draws last Saturday in Merritt. The lighter workload should allow him to be a bigger part of the offense. The trio of Louie Nanne, Soleway and Wade Murphy have combined for just two assists in the last two meetings against the Cents’. Soleway and Murphy picking up power-play helpers on John Siemer’s second period goal from Saturday. The three have been dynamite together but have been held in check against the Cents’. Coming into tonight’s contest, Murphy and Soleway have yet to score against Merritt this season, as each have been held to just two assists. Nanne has impressive numbers but has been held pointless in the last three games against the Cents’.
The Vees first two lines have only one goal and three points in the last two games against their Interior Division rivals, and that was THAT power-play goal from Saturday. Granted, Mike Rebry missed the last two against the Cents’ due to his suspension but more will be needed from likes of Nanne, Soleway, Murphy, Siemer, Rebry and McClure. Murphy, McClure and Siemer all snapped significant (by their standards) goal-less droughts over the weekend and here’s hoping they use tonight’s game as a stepping stone.
The biggest key for me, the “x-factor,” will be the Vees emotional level. It was plain to see how bad the Cents’ want to beat the Vees in the last three meetings, as they seem to find an extra gear. The Vees have been guilty of not matching that fire / desire early in games and that has got them into trouble. I don’t think this will be an issue tonight, as they have more than enough reasons to be motivated for this encounter. The season series may be decided, but winning the last one is what most people remember. The Vees don’t want a bad taste in their mouth heading into the post-season.
Also there that matter of a Division title up for grabs, as the Vees with four points this weekend, and two Merritt regulation losses (in West Kelowna tomorrow) clinches the Division. Now lets not get ahead of ourselves, as the Vees will be focused on tonight’s four-point swing and you can’t win two if you don’t win the first one.The Vees know they will need to take care of business tonight. But a Vees win puts them up eight points up on the Cents’ who would have six games left. That doesn’t mean the race is over but does put the Vees in a good spot.
Merritt is trying to win their first Interior Division title in franchise history, since divisional play started in ’94-95. The Cents’ have finished runners-up twice in the Interior, most notably last season behind the Vees and before that in ’00-01. They also can still surpass last seasons point total (76) and if they run the table, they could finish with the third most wins in franchise history (37).They’re peaking at the right time too, as mentioned before they have won five of their eight games in February and seven of their last 10.
Wednesday maybe was that letdown that tends to happen when a team is riding an emotional high. As Luke Pierce talked about in our pre-game show on Saturday, they were expecting a drop off, sometime soon, with what the team had gone through in the previous week. Wednesday in Trail really doesn’t get the juices flowing like a Saturday home game against the Penticton Vees. The Cents’ know they let an opportunity slip away but I don’t expect they will be flat tonight. This is “the rivalry” for the Cents and I would say the same for the Vees. Every time the two get together it’s always more dramatic and entertaining than the last encounter.
After tonight, the Cents play three straight against the West Kelowna Warriors, the team directly below them in the standings. Merritt is five points up on the Tribe and both teams have seven games remaining in their schedule.