The Vees remain undefeated in BCHL pre-season play, as they picked up a 3-1 come from behind win Wednesday over the visiting Trail Smoke Eaters. It was the visitors who jumped out to a late first period lead, but the Vees turn things around in the second period and never looked back.Through three games the Vees have two wins a tie and now wrap-up their pre-season schedule on the weekend in a home-and-home with Salmon Arm starting on Friday.
Now just nine days until the start of the 2013-2014 season, as the Vees open the BCHL calendar with an afternoon tilt September 6th versus Victoria at the BCHL Showcase; whoa.
The Vees sat quite a few regulars upfront for this contest, as Cody DePourcq was the only regular from last season’s squad; Josh Blanchard I may remind you was an AP. The Vees had plenty of experience on the back-end, electing to go with seven defenseman tonight and just 11 forwards. Despite the line-up dotted with young players, the team responded well after a sluggish start. It’s hard for a team to gel quickly, as the line-up drastically changes from game to game in pre-season. The lines are different, sometimes players playing out of position and then they’re forced try and develop chemistry on the fly.
After a not so hot opening twenty minutes, the Vees made some adjustments, got their feet moving and looked in control in the final two periods.
- The first seventeen minutes from the Vees looked like a revamp roster trying to get something going on the fly. As mentioned, it was a roster that closely mirrored Sunday’s game in West Kelowna. The “try” was there early but not the execution as the team was out of sorts. Plenty of small mistakes here and there and the passing was just off.
- Trail wasn’t lighting the world on fire either, at the seventeen minute mark, the shots were a pedestrian 6-0 in favour of the visitors. Yah, it took the Vees until just past the seventeen minute mark to officially get a puck on Trail starter Adam Todd. The Vees weren’t getting to the net and weren’t using their speed to create space.When you’re not coming over the blue-line with speed, it’s tough to get away from checkers and create open space to work the puck around. When there isn’t movement, passing lanes don’t open up and your stuck trying to chase after pucks.
- The only Trail goal was a combination of rotten luck and inexperience. Miska hung the puck up behind the net for the defender but instead of reversing or throwing it up of the boards, he tried one cute move around the fore-checker and got burned. The puck jumped off his stick and right to Tyson Witala who didn’t let the opportunity go to waste. Lesson learned the hard way, but that’s why there is exhibition games.
- Outside of that one blunder the defense looked very sharp; stingy. Trail’s game high shots for a period was nine and that was the third. The Vees held the Smokies to single-digit shots in all three periods and have done that to their opposition in the last six periods going back to Monday night against West Kelowna.
- The Vees were held without a shot until the seventeen minute mark of the first. After that they out-shot the Smokies 29-17 and outscored them 3-0. That in the final forty-three minutes of the game.
- The Vees have yet to be out-shot in any of the nine periods they’ve played in pre-season. Nine periods.
- 25-22-23. That’s the shots given up by the Vees in their first three pre-season games. That’s an average of just 23.3 against per game.
- I’m curious to hear what was said between the first and second periods because it was a completely different effort. The Vees had their legs moving in the second and third periods and started to wear out the Smoke Eaters.
- To use boxing terminology, the Smokies were the fighter that punched themselves tired. Strong in the first few rounds but gassed towards the end. The Vees hung in after a slow start but got their second wind and kept jabbing away until they delivered the technical knockout late. I think that makes sense.
- Quite the night for the special teams and that’s saying something in exhibition. Like their overall performance, the power-play had a slow start but heated up the more reps the Vees got. Cody DePourcq, Josh Blanchard and Matt Serratore looked dangerous as a trio on one power-play unit. They were great at working the puck down low and that’s exactly how they scored both of the teams power-play goals. The “peeper” finished 2-5 and the PK was a perfect 5-5.
- This team is going to really feast off its fore-check. Just watch.
- Brett Beauvais continues to impressive me the more I get to see him play. I knew he was going to be good but man he has surpassed my expectations. He’s everywhere and I mean that in a literal sense. He is solid in his own zone, wins battles in front of the net and in the corners but also leads the rush or jumps in on odd-man breaks. I bet the Bemidji State hockey staff can’t stop grinning.
- Patrick Sexton is another pleasant surprise and will soon become a fan favourite if he keeps this up. He drew a few roars from the crowd for his physicality. The kid doesn’t shy away from throwing the body. He made a few solid hits at the blue-line and even pinched to take out a Smokie at their own goal-line. It can be a gamble playing that way but Sexton so far has picked his spots nicely.
- Hunter Miska had an underrated performance in net. No didn’t face a whole heck of a lot of rubber but made some greats saves. Don’t look past his performance in the first when the Vees were struggling. He made some timely saves when the Vees had trouble getting things going. He never seemed to be out of position and the one time he was, it was a crowd-pleasing save, as he dove back across to the goal to rob a Smokie of a tap-in.
- Trail is a team that I will be closely following this year. They have eight returning players that make up a solid core. Their back-end is shaping up nicely with a top-four of Braden Pears, Braeden Jones, Valik Chichkin and the recently acquired Curtis Toneff. That’s a pretty darn good back-end in this league, and I am sure Bill Birks is looking for a solid five-guy to add.
- I do wonder if scoring might be a concern. They lost some key players in Brent Baltus, Garrett McMullen and Tyler Berkholtz upfront. Austin Audduono elected to go to the USHL but Scotty Davidson is back and so too is Mitch Foyle. Can those two rookies from last year make the jump to front-line guys? Tyson Witala will be a solid contributor to their top-six but is that enough? They have a great work ethic and guys that play with some grit. Can they manufacture enough offense to grab a top-four spot?