1) All Guts: A big win by the Vees in a pivotal game three match-up. But how they won was what was most impressive. Before the game word came down that Cam Amantea was out with the flu and the Vees were going with 11 forwards and seven defensemen. But as Assistant Coach Steve Cawley said in the post-game show, there was quite a few players still playing with the flu. So not only were they short-staffed but they didn’t have a line-up that was feeling all that great.
However, with all that said, the Vees got some gutsy efforts by pretty much everyone in the line-up. Their D-core was pretty darn good in this one, playing with a noticeable nastiness that had not been seen in this series. It was great to see the big boys lean on the opposition, using their size to grind on their forwards and dish out some physical punishment.
The six on the back-end were great in front of their own net, as they battled all night and really didn’t give up much in the territorial battle around the goal. The Vees defense and forwards really did a good job at sealing off the middle of the ice as well. Rarely did a Silverback get between the circles and get a grade ‘A’ opportunity.
They also continued to set a physical tone, as a forward and defensemen didn’t pass up an opportunity to lay the body on someone in white. There were a handful of great hits and right at the top was Jedd Soleway’s heavy collision with Brayden Sherbinin late in the game; a hit that fell both players.
There were points, especially in the second when they looked to have had some heavy legs, as a lot of players weren’t 100 percent. With that said, with what they lacked in energy they made up for in determination. Hey it wasn’t pretty at times but they got the job done and hung on for a big win and set themselves up for a series win on Tuesday.
2) Veteran Leadership: Playing off what I just wrote above, it was the Vees veteran players leading the way and leading by example. How about Sam Mellor? The 20 year-old probably, outside of Troy Stecher, had the most ice-time out of any Vee. He played on two lines, his regular shift with Ryan Gropp and Brock Balson, but also played along side with Travis Blanleil and Cody DePourcq. Not to mention he also saw lots of time on the power-play and even on the penalty-kill.
It didn’t just end at Mellor, as Brock Balson, a player with plenty of junior hockey experience, scored the game’s opening goal. I thought the last two games from Balson might just have been his best in Vees colours. He was effective below the circles by using his size and strength on the puck leads to lots of success in the neutral zone.
Lets not forget about John Siemer’s wicked shot on the Vees second goal, a power-play snipe to give them a two-goal first period lead. That was huge late in the period to get that kind of run support on the road for Chad Katunar and early. Takes pressure off everyone when you have a start like that.
Rob Mann is playing his best hockey right now and maybe tonight was his best game as a Vee. I liked how he was leaning on Salmon Arm forwards, playing with a noticeable edge; if he can play mean, he will be a handful. Another twenty-year old in Bryan Sinz was just so steady and was great all night long getting pucks away from danger areas.
3) Goaltending: Hey, Chad Katunar looked like his old self again. The Vees goalie was full deserving of his 1st star selection and was probably the reason why I’m writing about a win and not a loss.
Salmon Arm had quite the push in the second and fired the most shots on goal out of any of the three periods. But Katunar was there to face all the tough tests and shots the ‘Backs were producing. Katunar made some big saves off numerous goal-mouth scrambles, was great with his rebound control and was again out being aggressive at the top of his crease. Katunar consistently had to fight through traffic to make some big saves and was excellent with those rebounds. Katunar’s at his best when he’s aggressive, cutting down the angle and not getting stuck scrambling and getting bottled-up in his net.The Vees needed a big performance out of their goalie in a game they knew they were going to get everything but the kitchen sink thrown at them. Katunar delivered.