(From the bus somewhere between Hope and Chilliwack)
The last installment of my Fred Page Cup Preview and it’s all about the guys who score goals; the forwards. Both teams boast an impressive arsenal, as both Penticton and Surrey have plenty of talent up front. The two highest scoring teams in the playoffs go head-to-head and both teams were in the top four in goals during the regular season. The Vees were third in scoring with 197 goals, only behind West Kelowna (205) and Alberni Valley (202). The Eagles were right behind the Vees, sitting fourth overall with 195.
I’ve already written about the parallels between the two teams when it came to goaltending and defense. The forward group isn’t much different as both teams are again deep in this area, but the team two teams are going about scoring in different ways. For the most part in these playoffs, it’s been scoring by committee for the Vees, as the goals have been spread through their line-up. The Eagles too have gotten scoring from up and down their roster but it’s been mainly concentrated among three. Brady Shaw, Adam Tambellini and Michael Stenerson account for 55 percent of the teams’ goal-scoring. Take the Vees top three in scoring and their totals would only equal 36 percent of the teams total output.
Right away you notice the numbers by the “big three” in Shaw, Stenerson and Tambellini. The three lead their team in scoring and Shaw (6-10-16), Stenerson (6-8-14) and Tambellini (9-4-13) sit one-two-three in the BCHL scoring race. Shaw leads the league in points and assists and Tambellini has the most goals. The three have so far combined for a staggering 43 points.
There’s a slight drop-off after the three, as the next closest Eagle in scoring is Demico Hannoun who has nine points. Hannoun still has very good numbers, as he has three goals and the gap in team scoring from him (fourth) to eighth is just three. To take it one step further, fourth to tenth in team scoring is just a modest seven point gap.
Tambellini leads the way with nine goals but not far behind him are Brady Shaw and Michael Stenerson who each have six. Maybe it’s not much of a gap to really begin with, as two others outside of the “big three” have five goals to their name. Both Trevor Cameron and Nic Pierog have scored five times and nine different players have scored at least of the team’s 38 goals. Maybe the Eagles scoring is more balanced than it looks on paper. 14 different players have at lead two or more points and no one has less than two goals; it’s getting spread around more than some might think.
Shaw, Stenerson and Tambellini didn’t start together in game four against Alberni Valley, as Shaw played second-line left-wing with Stenerson and Demico Hannoun. Tambellini was playing with Trevor Cameron and Brett Mulcahy. In game four, outside of special teams, Shaw and Tambellini weren’t playing together. Depending on how game one unfolds, Tambellini and Shaw might be reunited in this series. The two usually share the ice during the power-play and late in games. It’s bound to happen that we will see the two wingers thrown into the mix together.
Stenerson might just be the “forgotten” one in this group of three, as the centerman has six goals and 14 points. Stenerson has been a cog in the wheel so to speak and he is a great setup man down the middle and on the power-play. Tambellini and Shaw might grab the majority of attention, but Stenerson has been right with the two every step of the way.
Outside of those three, it’s a pretty balanced group as fourth through ninth in team scoring is only separated by four points. Demico Hannoun is fourth in team scoring (3-6-9) and is part of a good “second wave” of attackers. Another key piece now the middle is Captain Brett Mulcahy who has seen been centering Tambellini and Cameron on a top-line for the Eagles. The points won’t jump off the paper with Mulcahy but he does so many other things well and a is guy who does embrace that “two hundred foot game.”
Speaking of Cameron, he’s put together a solid playoff campaign, with five goals and eight points in 11 games. Cameron’s another forward who’s under that six foot threshold but a guy who brings a little bit of everything to the table. Nic Pierog and Colton Mackie are similar to Cameron, on the smaller side but industrious forwards who just seem to be consistent game in and game out. Pierog scored a clutch game two overtime winner against Alberni Valley last round and has five goals in the post-season. Mackie is cut from a similar cloth to that of Cameron but with a bit more sandpaper, a guy that can skate, lean on the other team and mix it up when needed. Mackie was the only Eagle in triple-digits for penalty minutes in the regular season
More grit and energy comes from Joel Gaudet, Stefan Burzan and William Clark. Burzan is a bit of a tweener, a guy who is just outside the scoring group but brings a good fore-checking element and what I remember he did play on the Eagles PK; was injured though. Clark brings a noticeable physical element, as he is a handful standing at 6’6 and tipping the scales at 220 pounds. He’s another guy who thrives on playing down-low in the opposition end; eating up minutes. Gaudet is again under that six foot mark, checking in at 5’8 but like many others on this team, he’s quick and hard to play against. Gaudet, Best, Clark / Burzan make up an effective energy line that can give other teams fits in their own end.
The Vees have spread it around a little bit more than anyone else in the playoffs. Yes, they have a core leading the way at the top but the goals have been spread throughout the line-up. Louie Nanne is out ahead with five goals and 11 points but there’s not much of a gap after that. Sam Mellor is right behind Nanne with four goals and 10 points, then after that it’s three tied with nine, two sitting at eight and another two sitting at seven. The Vees top nine point getters in the playoffs are separated by just four points. On the Eagles side, four points separates third from fourth in team scoring.
Goal scoring is as tight, as Nanne and Brad McClure have a share of the team lead with five. Following them is Jedd Soleway, Brock Balson and Mellor who all sit on four. After that it’s another log jam, as Wade Murphy, John Siemer, James De Haas and Ryan Gropp all have three. 12 Vees have at least one goal so far and nine have three or more. It’s really been a team effort through two rounds, as it seems someone different is stepping up every game.
Their top-line of Nanne, Soleway and Murphy have had their moments in the playoffs and the three have strung together 12 goals and 29 points in nine games; not bad at all. Nanne had quite the showing in the West Kelowna series with four goals and a Player of the Week award. Soleway found his scoring touch as well, picking up two goals and same can be said for Murphy who had a pair of goals too. The one thing I will is the three have more to give and I don’t think they have reached their full potential- just yet. Murphy does have nine points in as many games but still is capable of scoring more and that’s the scary thing; just wait until Murphy cranks it up.
Brad McClure has found his scoring touch once again as he is tied with Nanne for the team lead in playoff goal-scoring. The other winger on his line has had a solid run, as John Siemer has eight points in nine games. The x-factor on that line will be Mike Rebry who hasn’t had much luck since October. He was arguably one of the top centerman in the league before the World Junior ‘A’ Challenge, but picked up a lower-body injury at the tournament that kept him out of the Vees line-up for over two months. It’s difficult to jump back into the line-up after missing time with an injury and being gone for that long didn’t make things easier. When it looked like Rebry was making strides and getting back to where he once was, another injured flared up in game one against West Kelowna. If Rebry can find his touch around the net, it will bring a whole dynamic to the line.
A pleasant surprise has been the production from two-thirds of the Vees third unit. Sam Mellor`s point production has come as no surprise but 16 year-old Ryan Gropp has chipped in three goals and seven points and Brock Balson has four goals and seven points and was recently named the BCHL Player of the Week. This line I think has been an x-factor for the Vees; as this trio has been able use that matchup game to their advantage. Teams primarily focus on the two other lines so some of the oppositions best checkers aren`t out against these three. It will be interesting to see what the three of them do against the Eagles and how the use the Olympic sized ice-sheet in Surrey.
Here I go saying this again, but another line to keep tabs on will be the “trench line” of Cody DePourcq and Travis Blanleil but with a bit of a new twist. Cam Amantea is still recuperating from that upper-body injury he picked in game two against West Kelowna. Josh Blanchard has joined the teams since his Okanagan Rockets lost out in the BC Major Midget Finals and has fit in nicely on the wing. Blanchard has a lot of similarities with the two regulars, a small but speedy forward who gets to pucks quickly. This line before was one of the best checking units in the BCHL and gave the opposition’s best forwards fits. It’s still pretty darn good and might still draw the task of going against one of the Eagles top two lines. Fred Harbinson has shown a lot of faith in these three in the last three games and his trust has been rewarded.