Well, the Vees did what they wanted to do in game one and at the top of the list was winning. They scored first, took the leading into the first intermission and never really looked back after a rocky opening five minutes. Their depth shined through with four goals from four different players and two goals came from outside of the top-six. Their power-play got a big goal early and for an added bonus, they got a goal from the blue-line.
After what looked like a lethargic warm-up, Salmon Arm put together a solid first five minutes. They had lots of pace, were getting to loose pucks, laying the body and hemmed in the Vees for a bit. But that Nanne rocket seemed to pop their balloon so to speak and they never really recovered.
1) The Start: I continually hammer this point but the Vees really do seem to thrive on good starts. Yeah, it sounds cliché but starts make or break this team. Fortunately, it was the former and not the latter tonight. The ‘Backs did have a good push early and the Vees seemed to be a little caught off guard in the first five minutes. But they got their bearings and settled themselves after just one shift; one shot.
Sam Mellor showed his great vision, as he threaded the needle on a cross-ice pass, blue-line to blue-line as he found Louie Nanne breaking down the left-wing. Nanne took the pass in stride and let go a blast that sizzled past the arm of Adam Clark on the far-side.
This was a big moment as it was Salmon Arm forcing the issue early, as the Vees had some trouble with the ‘Backs fore-check and were a tad bottled up. But Mellor made a nice play at his blue-line to find Nanne at the far-side of the neutral zone. With one pass and one great shot, the Vees turned the table and took the wind out of the ‘Backs sails.
Deflating moment no doubt for Salmon Arm, as they had some good pressure early but had nothing to show for it and it fact were saddled with an early deficit. Scott Robinson said in the pre-game show that they had to limit the Vees chances to have a chance at winning; the Vees proved why.
So the Vees get the first goal (22-2-0-3 when scoring first in the regular season) but really got it going on their first power-play. Salmon Arm was dinged for an elbow and the Vees wasted little time in seizing the opportunity. John Siemer drives in a rebound off the end-wall just 17 seconds into the power-play and boom; the Vees are up by a pair of goals. Big moment for the man-advantage, as the Vees power-play struggles in the regular season were well documented.
Even though the ‘Backs have been the comeback kings of late, it seemed like the two-goal lead might as well have been a four-goal lead. Certainly disheartening to have come out the way you planned all week but to only cough up two goals in three and a half minutes.
Back to the Vees, they are a feel-good group that needs some positive reinforcements right now. The Vees did what they wanted to, more importantly they executed and got off on the right foot. Give them an inch and they will take a mile.
2) Physical Tone: Clearly the Vees wanted to be more physical and it showed tonight as they didn’t pass up any opportunities to put a shoulder into a Silverback. One criticism in their play in the past two weeks was the fact they weren’t being physical enough and were passing up hits. Not tonight.
Now this team isn’t going to try and run the opposition through the boards, it’s just not their style but making a coconscious effort to leave your mark on your opponent is crucial. I thought the likes of Jedd Soleway, Travis Blanleil, Troy Stecher and Thomas Nitsche were the core guys setting the tone. Yes there were others, as everyone was trying to throw their weight around to some degree but the guys I listed were consistent with their effort to lay the body from start to finish.
The aggressive fore-check, accompanied by the physicality didn’t allow for the Silverbacks to get comfortable and establish their ever so dangerous transition game. Brayden Sherbinin and Shane Hanna had their moments for sure, but the two were bumped a lot and I thought it did affect their play.
The Vees commitment to taking the body was evident in all three zones and maybe it surprised the ‘Backs a bit; not something seen from the Vees in the season series. The Vees will need to keep this up heading into game two, as if the third period tonight was any indication, this series will take a physical toll on the body.
3) Consistency: This point won’t be very long nor does it have to be. The Vees played a pretty sound game, especially from the five-minute mark of the first onward. Outside of those early hiccups, the Vees really controlled the pace and did what they wanted to. They were guilty of making it too easy for their opponents in recent games but that wasn’t the case on Friday. This was a team playing with an edge and it didn’t back away from that one bit. There was some fireworks in the third and I expect that to carry over to tomorrow night.