1) A Chance to Defend Their Crown: That’s what the Vees wanted to do at the start of the playoffs and now get to do so starting next Friday. The Vees weren’t anointing themselves heading into this season. The coaches would just say they wanted the Vees to finish in the top three of the Interior Division and anything above that that was gravy. The Vees exceeded expectations throughout the Regular Season and in the playoffs as well.
This team retooled earlier in the year after only bringing back four returnees from last season. They made some key trades to get the likes of Brock Balson, Sean Flanagan, Thomas Nitsche and in January they nabbed John Siemer. All four have played a significant role in the playoffs and are proving their worth.
So many moving parts from new recruits, returnees and players coming in through trade, yet this team still won their Division and now the Interior Conference. It’s pretty hard to try to repeat as a league champion at the junior ‘A’ level, as teams going through so much roster turnover year-to-year. The Vees silenced their critics and now are just four wins away from another championship.
2) Patience: The West Kelowna Warriors were emptying out the gas tank in game five and had quite push through the game, which saw them pressure the Vees end throughout. Though the Vees had some stretches stuck in their own zone, they did not hit the panic button and start to press. It was a team that kept their cool and didn’t start getting caught up in individualism.
The Warriors are a team laden with veterans and players with extensive experience at the junior ‘A’ level. They did finish only two points behind the Vees for a reason, and throughout the series showed they were for real. Tonight again the Warriors were desperate and came at the Vees time and again. However, credit the home team for taking their licks and hanging around as the game moved into the third period. Now they needed some luck, but good teams manufacture puck luck?
The tying goal was on a simple play, where DePourcq won the race to the puck and centered a pass in front from the corner. AP Josh Blanchard made a heads-up play by crashing the crease and having the puck go off his skate and in. Then the game-winner came early in overtime where the Vees looked more confident and comfortable.
As I wrote throughout this series, good teams find ways to ride out the highs and lows and find consistency. The Vees have done that so far and that’s why they’re going back to the BCHL final.
3) Rope-A-Dope: I don’t know if the Vees performance was exactly that, but they did do a good job of keeping themselves within arms reach of the Warriors. Chad Katunar was a big reason why, as he was again excellent, especially in the second when he stopped fourteen of fifteen Warriors shots. The only puck to get behind him was off a mad scramble in his crease; no fault there.
Though they didn’t have sustained pressure for lengthy periods tonight the Vees did still create some good chances and were opportunistic. Good teams don’t usually need a lot of chances to be successful; quality over quantity. The scoring chances were at a premium tonight but the Vees didn’t quit and kept soldiering on. Tonight reminded me of a boxer making his move late in the fight, the eleventh-twelfth round, when his opponent starts to tire. The Vees took their licks but dished out some devastating blows too tonight.