The Vees and Trail Smoke Eaters tangle once more at Cominco Arena. The Vees are looking to sweep the two-game weekend set, after posting a 5-1 win Friday. Max Coatta stole the show, recording his first career BCHL hat-trick and finished a game-high four points. Coatta and his line-mates Jack Ramsey and Cody DePourcq finished with four goals and seven points; the line juggling worked.
Olivier Mantha was superb in net, stopping all but one of the 30 shots he faced and that was a late power-play goal with under three minutes left. Speaking of special teams, the Vees PK was excellent despite the one goal against, finishing 6/7 and now sits at 86%. The power-play was oh for but did generate some quality chances. The man-advantage usually takes longer to smooth out the wrinkles; it will come.
Last night’s score is irrelevant when approaching this game tonight. As my second intermission guest tonight, Max Coatta said,”Last night was last night and we have to start all over again.” The Vees can’t be complacent and feel good about their weekend based on one game. A big carrot dangles in front of them tonight, as they can sweep the weekend and be the first team in the BCHL to four wins.
Trail will have a chip on their shoulder after how last night played out. Being beat 5-1 in your home opener won’t sit well with any team, especially Trail, who’ve come out and said publicly they need to be better early in the season to have a crack at the playoffs. If you recall last year, Trail, as Head Coach Bill Birks put it, “Were one of the worst teams before Christmas, but one of the two best after the break.” Trail will want to put last night behind them in a hurry and salvage a win this weekend; never to early to talk about divisional races.
Vees 3-0-0-0 (1st) RECORD Trail 1-1-0-1 (T-4th)
Vees (Away) 2-0-0-0 SPLIT Trail (Home) 1-1-0-0
(*Each team has one home/ away game at the Showcase)
Vees PP: 2/11 PK: 13/15
Trail PP: 4/13 PK: 12/12
Sept 13th Vees 5 @ 1 Trail / Sept 14th Vees @ Trail
Dec 11th Trail @ Vees / Jan 11th Vees @ Trail
Jan 25th Trail @ Vees / Feb 5th Trail @ Vees
Feb 21st Trail @ Vees
The Vees played nearly a perfect road game Friday, as they were fundamentally sound in all areas. They got the secondary scoring they were looking for, outscoring Trial 5-0 at even strength, they kept the league’s best power-play to just a consolation marker late and didn’t give up a whole heck of a lot of chances. Lots of boxes had red check-marks in them Friday.
However, as I alluded to above the Vees can’t be feeling too good about themselves. Last night was great, but they can’t let their foot of the gas. Trail will come out just as hard as they did Friday, if not a little harder considering the score. One thing that keep the Vees honest, is the competition for playing time. Josh Blanchard had to sit last night, as the Vees been rotating personnel upfront. Now Blanchard should draw back in, meaning someone will have to come out. The coaching staff will make that decision based on performances from Friday. The players are fully aware the numbers game, as there is only room for 12 upfront on any given night and the team is carrying 13. This battle for playing time means no one should be feeling too comfortable heading into tonight’s contest.
One change that is expected is in goal, as Hunter Miska is the probable starter. Fred Harbinson has said there is no goalie controversy and there isn’t a problem. How is having two goalies playing at a high level a problem? It looks like it’s a simple rotation game-to-game until further notice. Miska was very good against Alberni Valley last Saturday and deserves the nod tonight.
Keys for Tonight:
- Same script as last night. The start will be important in how this game will play out. The Vees will need to pick up where they left off Friday and not let Trail feel good about themselves. A good start can just be eating up minutes in the Trail end off the get-go and getting all four lines rolling. A goal would no doubt be big, as if they can get one or two early ones, Trail might start to think “Here we go again.”
- Tone. Simply put. Vees didn’t shy away from the physical element of last night’s contest. They took some punishment and dished it out as well and even were the aggressor on a few occasions. Teams are starting to realize this Vees squad has some bite to it, a sandpaper element. The Vees were good around their net clearing traffic and quickly were on an opposition player if he got over zealous. Tonight will be even more nasty with the same two teams going head-to-head; a bit of a playoff feel to it.
- Speed kills. The Vees were flying last night, as they thrived on the count-attack, which a staple of Fred Harbinson coached teams. The Vees were constantly coming at Trail and as the game wore on, the Vees were winning more and more of the foot races; they owned on puck retrieval. Tonight is the same story, use their speed to create space and crank up the transition game.
The Smokies will be determined to have a better showing in front of their fans tonight. Last night had all the sparkle that’s associated with home openers, except for the result. This team showed their potential a week ago at the BCHL Showcase, and those two performances generated plenty of buzz around BCHL circles.
Bill Birks will no doubt have his team ready to go tonight. Birks knows how to push buttons and get the most out of his team and there is little chance the Smokies will come out flat. They will be grumpy, they will be hungry and they will be ready. I expected a few changes on the Trail side, as they might tweak a few forward spots and do we see Dustin Nikkel start? Braeden Jones is still suspended for tonight’s game and his replacement, Nicholas Patey, scored the only Smokies goal; safe to say the kid will be in tonight.