Playoff Series Schedule
Game 1 4-2 Vees (SOEC)
Game 2 4-2 Vees (SOEC)
Game 4 Mar 19th (Shaw Centre)
Game 5** Mar 21st (SOEC)
Game 6** Mar 22nd (Shaw Centre)
Game 7** Mar 24th (SOEC)
All games are at 7pm
** If necessary
Vees Playoff Power-Play: 3-16 (1 SHGA)
Vees Playoff Penalty-Kill: 11-12 (1st in BCHL)
Vees Playoff Scoring
Sam Mellor 2-3-5 Louie Nanne 1-3-4
Brad McClure 1-2-3 Mike Rebry 0-3-3
John Siemer 2-0-2 Thomas Nitsche 1-1-2
James de Haas 1-1-2 Jedd Soleway 1-1-2
Wade Murphy 0-2-2 Troy Stecher 0-2-2
Brock Balson 1-0-1 Travis Blanleil 1-0-1
Bryan Sinz 0-1-1
Chad Katunar 3-0-0 1.67 GAA .932 SV%
Silverbacks Playoff Power-Play: 1-12
Silverbacks Playoff Penalty-Kill: 13-16 (1 SHGF)
Silverbacks Playoff Scoring
Josh Bowes 1-2-3 Shane Hanna 1-1-2
Cam Berry 1-0-1 Brett Fagerheim 1-0-1
Harlan Orr 1-0-1 Mitch Ferguson 0-1-1
Carter Lukenda 0-1-1 Brayden Sherbinin 0-1-1
Adam Clark 0-1-0 6.00 GAA .667 SV%
Angus Redmond 0-2-0 2.62 GAA .905%
The Vees can end the series tonight with a win in game four and if you include last year, they’re looking for their second series sweep in a row; the Vees swept Powell River in the Fred Page Cup in 2012. I know it’s hard to compare seasons in junior hockey with the amount of roster turnover on a year-to-year basis, but it’s an interesting little tidbit regardless.
Last night the Vees took care of business once again, as they got out ahead by two goals in the first period and added an insurance marker late in the third period for the game three win (recap of game three’s 3-1 win). Brock Balson and Jedd Soleway scored their first of the playoffs, those goals book-ended John Siemer’s power-play tally late in the first period. Chad Katunar made 29 saves and was very good in the final two periods helping preserve the win.
It was a game that was highlighted or low-lighted, depending on how you see it, by special teams. In the first period alone seven power-plays were dished out; five went to the Vees. Both referees were clamping down on the “stuff” behind the play and especially the stick work. It was a stark contrast to games one and two where little of anything was being called. Salmon Arm fans can be upset but there was some “interesting” calls that went both ways.
Again, another “big” game tonight as the Vees can put away the Silverbacks with a win. CLICHE ALERT: the fourth games is always the hardest to win. It is cheesy and very cliche but very true. Ask anyone in hockey or any other sport that has best-of-sevens. The toughest task isn’t knocking down your opponent but keeping them on the canvas once you do.
Salmon Arm will empty the tank and leave everything on the table in this one, or so you would think. It’s not just about keeping your season alive, and extending some teammates junior careers one more game, but it’s about pride as well; being swept doesn’t sit well with anyone.
Score First: Check
Carry a Lead into the Intermission: *BONUS , Check and Check
Good Special Teams: Check
Good Goaltending: Check
Lead after Two: Check
Those things all add up to wins at this level and any level for that matter. What really stands out for me is the fact how little time the Vees have had to play catch-up hockey. Heading into game four, the Vees have only trailed the Silverbacks for 24 minutes and 40 seconds in three games. That was a sequence from late in the second period to the eight minute mark of the third period of game two. Even then it didn’t feel like the Vees were trailing. Scott Robinson himself said in yesterday’s pre-game show that the game turned in the Vees favour in game two after the ‘Backs made it 2-1.
It’s good to see the Vees special teams, with all of its ups and downs in the Regular Season, shine through in the playoffs. The Vees coaches stressed they wanted to average at least one power-play goal per game and that was reiterated by Sam Mellor yesterday in my chat with him. So far the power-play is on pace, with three goals, one in each of the first three games, and sits sixth out of twelve teams. The penalty-kill is another great success story, only allowing one goal-against on twelve Silverback power-plays. Last night the PK was a perfect 6-6 and shutdown the ‘Backs at key times as well; the second period comes to mind.
Tonight it’s simple for the Vees: win and move on to the second round. Also if they end the series tonight they can buy themselves some much needed rest. If the series was to end tonight, the Vees wouldn’t start the next series for ten more days. Game one of round two doesn’t start until March 29th on Easter weekend. The Vees, like many other teams, have players dealing with bumps, bruises, sore muscles and general playoff injuries. Earning over a weeks of rest would do nothing but good for this team. I asked one Vee if the long break would be welcomed or he would want to keep on playing. He quickly smiled and said a break would be welcomed.
What to Watch For
- Once Again, the Start. Assistant Coach Steve Cawley quickly said the start, when asked what will be key going into game four on last night’s post-game show. He’s right. The Vees were able to stomp out any energy or momentum the ‘Backs may have had early in front of their fans with Balson’s tally and then Siemer’s power-play goal. Near the ten minute mark of the first period, the Vees were up 1-0 and were out-shooting the ‘Backs 6-1.The Vees did a great job of not allowing momentum get away from them or allow any drastic swings in momentum. They wanted an even keel approach and they got that and more. Tonight it’s the same story, the ‘Backs will be a desperate team and one that won’t pull any punches. They will try anything to keep their season alive and the Vees will have to match that intensity and desperation off the start. Don’t let your opponent start feeling good about themselves now.
- Owning the Ice. The Vees were the better team in all three zones in game one, had the edge in game two and it was a bit of a saw-off in game three. At times the Vees were the best team in all three areas of the ice, especially in the first period. Salmon Arm flipped the script in the second period but the Vees got back on track in the third. It’s going to be imperative that the Vees manage the puck well tonight like we saw in game three. They haven’t and can’t start giving pucks away to their opposition. Smart but hard plays with the puck will be key. Like I’ve said before, don’t give the other team chances, make them earn it. Owning the ice means being smart on zone entries / dump-ins, making good reads on your break-out and managing the puck properly in the neutral zone.
- Keep Calm and Carry On. Playing off what I said before, the Vees will need to take an even keel approach; not getting too high or too low. That means not feeling too good about themselves if they score a couple early ones. Once you do that, you start to be a tad more liberal with the puck and that’s where turnovers happen. Also if they go down by one or two they can’t start to beat themselves up. No need to panic if they don’t get the first goal or don’t have the lead after the first is over. The playoffs are about who best manages momentum, and who best deals with the peaks and valleys over the course of a series.
Who to Watch For
Wade Murphy: The team’s top point man in the Regular Season is just sitting on two assists in three games but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Murphy has been playing well and it’s most noticeable when he doesn’t have the puck. However, the Vees will need him to heat up if they’re going to have a long playoff run and he looks to be on the verge for a breakout; is tonight that game? His line has had their chances and so did he in game three.
One thing that some might not notice is that Murphy is being matched-up against the other teams best defenders and checkers. I’ve seen Murphy double-teamed and even triple-teamed regularly when he’s in the offensive end. However, him drawing defenders, getting most of the attention, is freeing up his line-mates. If Murphy isn’t getting into shooting lanes, he’s drawing traffic his way and that’s opening up space for Jedd Soleway and Louie Nanne.
I’m not concerned about his lack of goal-scoring as he is still creating chances not only for himself but his teammates. If he wasn’t in the mix, not getting to the scoring areas then maybe it’s time to put up a red flag. Murphy has been good at handling the up’s and down’s of being a goal-scorer, a go-to player. Tonight might just be the night he gets on the score-sheet.
It’s simple too for the Silverbacks tonight, win or your season is over. They can take plenty of positives out of the first three games but moral victories don’t count in the playoffs. The ‘Backs will need to find a way they can get some goals against the Vees in this series; just five in three games.
Their veterans will be the ones doing the heavy lifting tonight, guys who will be highly motivated to keep their junior careers going. Also pride is a big thing for hockey players, as no one likes being swept or wants to be associated with going down to a team in four straight. The likes of Brandon Mistal, Brayden Sherbinin, Steven Iacobellis and even Shane Hanna will have a little bit more in the tank tonight. The ‘Backs just have to lay it on the line and see how it goes from there.
What to Watch For:
- Offensive One-Two Punch: A another improvement from their top-line in Monday’s game but the ‘Backs still are looking for Alex Gillies, Steven Iacobellis and Brandon Mistal to score their first goals. Their secondary scoring has chipped in here and there in the series but it’s now time for the big guns to make something happen or their season might be over. Credit the Vees for doing a good job in containing the ‘Backs top-line and also you could say the same about the ‘Backs against the Vees top trio. However, their scorers need to start doing just that if they’re going to claw their way back into this series.
- Fire Away but On Target: Something that has plagued the ‘Backs this series is how many times they have miss-fired on scoring chances. Their power-play especially, with all of its good movement and passing hasn’t really been able to produce, as they just can’t get shots on goal from scoring areas. Again, credit the Vees for blocking a huge chunk of rubber and getting their sticks in shooting lanes but the ‘Backs need to find a solution and quick.
Who to Watch For
The Veterans: The ‘Backs leaders need to do just that tonight in this all important game four. From their top-line to their veterans on the blue-line and in-goal. Your leadership group is counted on in times like these when you have your back up against the wall. Can their go-to players, the guys who’ve been around the longest, the ones they lean on heavily produce in a key moment?
Elimination games either bring the best or worst out of players, shows who can thrive under pressure and who can’t. The ‘Backs haven’t folded up yet or given up at any point of this series, it’s just not them and especially with what they’ve done this season.