1) Big Guns are Firing: Sam Mellor quickly put a nine-game goal-less drought behind him with two clutch third period goals on Saturday. Louie Nanne continued his strong play at home and the top-six is coming alive.
Heading into Saturday’s game Mellor hadn’t scored since Feb 9th against the Alberni Valley Bulldogs. He’s had a few lengthy droughts before this season, but when he wasn’t scoring he was doing so many other good things. In game one he had a couple of helpers and was one of the Vees hardest working forwards. In game two, knowing his team needed a goal, Mellor found the equalizer on the power-play. When you’re struggling, sometimes it’s best to simplify things and Mellor did just that in the third period. Mellor seeing plenty of traffic forming in front of the Salmon Arm net, just put a wrist-shot towards the goal that found its way to the back of the net; nothing fancy but effective. His second and final goal of the game, was off some great defending by all five skaters on the ice when the ‘Backs had the net empty. But give Mellor credit as he tracked down a loose puck in the ‘Backs zone and just threw it on net. As the saying goes, throw the puck on net and good things happen. Great to see him have a big weekend in front of mom as well, as she made the trek to Penticton from Cranbrook to watch both games.
Louie Nanne simply loves playing at the SOEC, as 16 of his 19 Regular Season goals came at home, which means his early success shouldn’t surprise you. In game one he had a goal and an assist, and on Saturday he chipped in with one more helper. Nanne made a nice play that started the rush that led to Brad McClure’s opener in the first period. Speaking of McClure he’s heating up at the right time as well, with two points Saturday and three in the first two games of the series.
Don’t forget about my “Who to Watch For” feature in Mike Rebry, as he did end up getting two assists. Originally Nanne was credited with an assist on the Mellor power-play goal but that has since been changed. No he didn’t score but Rebry was the guy that helped setup both of Mellor’s third period goals. He had his chances, a great one right on the doorstep in the second period but all he got was a bouncing puck thwarting his tap-in and a punch to the kisser from Blake Box. Again, like I said in the pre-game write-up, Rebry is still generating scoring chances and still has a nose for the net; it will come.
AND don’t forget about John Siemer who, for now only is credited with one goal in two games, might just be the Vees best forward so far. Siemer did indeed tip that point-shot by Thomas Nitsche in the third period and his “celly” made sure everyone knew it 😉 But in all seriousness, Siemer has not only been producing but creating with his great work in the attacking end, especially with his work below the circles.
Just think, the Vees are up 2-0 on the ‘Backs despite their top-scorer, Wade Murphy without a goal and just one assist in two games. Now, that isn’t a shot at Murphy who’s actually been quite good in the first two games. It’s a testament to the Vees scoring depth and that’s exactly what you need this time of year to be successful.
2) Copy-Cats: All the talk around the BCHL in the last two weeks of the Regular Season, was the comeback kids in Salmon Arm with all those impressive come from behind wins to secure the final playoff spot. But it was the Vees, not the ‘Backs wearing the rally hat in the third period.
Remember, heading into last night, the Vees were just 3-13-0-2 when trailing after forty-minutes; just three wins. I have talked and wrote numerous times how the Vees are a team that needs to play with the lead to be successful but last night they showed me something new. Down by one to start the third, the Vees didn’t panic, but stuck to their guns and were rewarded for their determination. Now, after a rough five-minute stretch that saw Salmon Arm score twice, the Vees regrouped, settled themselves and cranked up the pressure.
They were unlucky to not have tied the game before the second period was out but in the final frame they continued on where they left in the second and exploded for three goals. That shows a lot of character, especially in that five-minute span where Salmon Arm grabbed their first lead of the series. Some teams might wilt under that type of pressure, trailing at home, midway through third and not wanting to let home-ice advantage slip away. But the Vees stuck to their game plan, didn’t suffer from individualism and were rewarded. I would categorize Saturday as a “character win.”
3) Ice Bags & Bruises But All Smiles: Both teams are banged up and that’s just the effects of playoff hockey but the Vees are showing they are willing to do anything to win; they’re selling out.
Just look at how many blocked shots they had in game two and in the first two games of the series. Saturday on the score-sheet it reads the Vees out-shot the ‘Backs 30-23 but Salmon Arm might have directed more pucks towards the goal. The Vees penalty-kill in the first two games has been a How to Tutorial: Shot Blocking. It’s not just the “grunts” either the checkers and stay-at-home defenseman who are getting their bodies in front of rubber. Just look at the likes of Louie Nanne (who might just have the most blocked shots), Brad McClure, Wade Murphy and the list can go on and on. Everyone is buying in and it’s showing on the ice.
Guys are dishing out and taking hits to make plans, putting their bodies on the line to win puck battles in the trenches and taking their licks in front of both nets to gain an edge in the territorial battle. The Vees aren’t trying to reinvent themselves but are simply doing what they have to do to win in the playoffs and it’s fun to watch. I’m getting as excited about a blocked shot at a key time, as a goal. Playoff hockey, got to love it.
On a personal note, I would like to extend my gratitude to the players, coaches, fans, friends and colleagues who’ve reached out to me in the last day. It means a lot.