Even though all but seven players are gone from last years squad and only four from that seven played tonight, the Vees again had a flair for the dramatic at Royal LePage Place. If you didn’t follow the team last season, the Vees had a couple of last-minute wins against the Warriors in West Kelowna and tonight had the exact same feel to it.
The Vees came back from a two-goal third period deficit, including trailing 3-2 with just sixty-eight seconds left, to earn a 3-3 tie with the Warriors in their pre-season opener. Cam Amantea was credited with the game-tying goal with just thirty-seven seconds left in the game. After the game, Amantea told me he thought Max Coatta’s shot went off his leg and then by the goalie; he never did touch the puck with his stick.
It was one of the more crazier exhibition results I’ve seen recently. It goes down as a 3-3 tie but it was much more exciting than it reads. After trailing 2-0 since late in the middle frame, the Vees scored two goals inside the final five minutes to come all the way back. The two coming unofficially 1:59 apart. Just as they climbed out of a hole they were thrown into another, as the Warriors looked to have scored the game-winner with just sixty-eight seconds left.
Off the ensuing face-off the Vees worked the puck in the Warriors zone and pulled the goalie for the extra attacker. Alex Coulombe made a great play at the blue-line to keep the puck in, as he threw the it towards the front of the net. Anthony Conti quickly pumped a shot off, which was stopped but the rebound bounced to Max Coatta, who apparently had his shot go off Cam Amantea and JUST through Warriors goaltender Cody Porter. No one, on either side, reacted right away, as both teams didn’t seem to know where the puck was. A delayed reaction ice until referee Ward Pateman signaled a goal and pointed to the puck just sitting across the goal-line. Crazy Stuff from West Kelowna. Again.
Check the game story at the top for the blow-by-blow account of tonight’s exhibition opener. Both teams went with a more youthful line-up, as the Vees only dressed four returnees; the Warriors two. The quality of hockey actually impressed me, as it was much better than I anticipated. The two teams settled into a nice rhythm in the first period, as there wasn’t many whistles early and both teams were rolling through their lines. Yes, mistakes were made but few and far between compared to a typical exhibition contest with lots of youngsters. Both teams had their feet moving early and both had a good transition game, creating a nice ebb and flow through the first two periods.
- The youngsters had an impressive showing, and for the most part the majority of the younger players in this game (96’s + 97’s) didn’t look too green. From the Vees perspective, their third and fourth lines made solid contributions all night. Yes, their fourth line was caught a couple of times, including what looked like the game-winning goal by the Warriors with sixty-eight seconds left. But, I thought Bo Brauer, Corey Mackin and Tanner Wishnowski strung together more than a handful of good shifts.
- Bo Brauer really impressed me with how he used his size and strength. It’s one thing to be big but it’s another thing to know how to make the most of it. Brauer clearly showed he understood how to use his size to his advantage. He was great on the fore-check, and worked well with the puck down low in the dirty areas.
- That also can be said for the Vees third line of Anthony Conti, Shane Bennett and Cam Amantea. The three didn’t try to be fancy, as they had a simple approach all night and it worked well. Conti was great on the fore-check, creating problems whenever he went after the puck carrier. Amantea and Bennett fed off Conti and resulted in that group establish a good cycle game down low.
- The Vees first line was Warren Foegele, Max Coatta and Josh Blanchard. The three manufactured some chemistry early and that line kept getting better as the game went on. The three teamed up for a big goal to tie the game-the first time and it was pretty. All three have skill but also were a handful on the fore-check.
- It’s clear this years team will be a pain on the fore-check. A lot of the Vees success tonight came from taking time and space away from the Warriors. The Vees created a lot of turnovers by taking away the middle of the ice.
- The defensemen had their moments throughout this one. At times the Vees were sloppy in their own zone but that’s to be expected this early into exhibition. But with that said, they also made quite a few plays and were solid for the most part.
- I thought Patrick Sexton was one of, if not the best Vees defender on Sunday. He’s not a flashy player but he’s steady and reliable and that’s all coaches ask for at this level. He seemed to rarely make a mistake and if there was one committed, he quickly recovered to negate a chance against.
- Hunter Miska looked sharp in his Vees debut. He stopped all fifteen shots he faced and showed-off his trademark work ethic. He never gives up on a play and that showed in his thirty-minutes of work. Remember, he has only been playing the position for four years.
- The Warriors will be a handful this season, as their forward group will be quite talented. There were a few that played tonight that likely will be on this team next month. Liam Blackburn showed why he was one of the best players in the BCMML not named Matthew Barzal last season. The former Cariboo Cougar was shifty and picked up two points in the tie. Matt Anholt looks like a good pick for Captain, as he was everywhere tonight and he scored the Warriors first tally. Another name to remember is Carl Hesler; man did I say his name a lot.
- Overall I would grade the Vees first exibition game as a “B.” It surpassed my expectations considering the circumstances but, as always there is room for improvement; that’s why there is four games left.
I spoke with Cam Amantea after the game and I will post that interview in the morning. Thanks to all that tuned-in on our internet broadcast. There was some buffering issues in the third period but that might have been to the heavy traffic. It was great to see how many were listening and engaged. Stay tuned on details about a possible broadcast tomorrow.
UPDATE: My post-game interview with Cam Amantea