The Vees took the Trail Smoke Eaters out back behind the shed on Saturday. Six different Vees found the scoresheet and 11 players picked up at least a single point, in a 7-0 thumping at Cominco Arena. The Vees swept the weekend set in the West Kootenays and outscored Trail 12-1 in the process.
The Vees are now undefeated in their first four games and sit three points clear of second place in the Interior Division. They now have a chance to run the table on their season opening five-game road trip, if they can pick up a win in Prince George next Friday.
Earlier today I wrote about how the start of tonight’s game was going to be key. Trail was humbled in their home opener Friday and would eager to put that game in the rear-view mirror. Fred Harbinson cautioned about complacency in the pre-game show and his team didn’t disappoint. If you watched or listened to the first ten minutes tonight, you would have thought it was the Vees who were thumped last night and not Trail. Penticton came right at the Smokies off the start and quickly went ahead with a goal from an unexpected source.
I was happy to see Paddy Sexton open the scoring Saturday, after being robbed of his first goal Friday by the cross-bar; that would have been short-handed too. Sexton froze the Trail forward with a head-fake, moved wide down the left-wing and scored from the circle short-side. Paddy? The hard-hitting shutdown defenseman putting on his Mike Reilly cape.
Then the Smoke Eaters ran into penalty-trouble, as the game quickly got away from the home team. The Vees manufactured three consecutive power-play goals, including two in just forty-seven seconds. Max Coatta scored on a five-on-three and Anthony Conti scored on the five-on-four second later. After Conti’s goal, you could sense Trail’s spirit was broken; shoulder slumped and long faces.
I’m not trying to pile on but I was surprised at Trail’s first period showing after what went down Friday. Bill Birks was quite upset about his team’s effort one night ago and their sluggish start. Nothing changed Saturday, as the Vees scored two more in the first than they did Friday and outscored Trail 6-0 in the first period this weekend. Friday the Smoke Eaters started to turn things around in the third period but there were few positives Saturday.
Shifting the spotlight back to Penticton, this team managed to somehow look better Saturday than they did on Friday. The first period Friday was pretty darn good, bagging a pair of goals and taking a lead into the intermission. Saturday was something else, as the Vees imposed their will. Too strong? Maybe but this team was near perfect in the opening frame. Maybe they took more penalties then they would have liked to but that also could be a result of the extra referee out there Saturday; an extra set of eyes picks up more of the “stuff” away from the play.
So the power-play was good.
The one area you could argue the Vees had struggled in Friday was the man-advantage. It never seemed to “click” but one night later it looked like an entirely different animal. Beauvais picked out Coatta on a sweet back-door feed to score the first of four power-play markers. Beauvais spotted Coatta in the left-circle and fired a pass across the zone and right in Coatta’s wheelhouse.
The Vees transition game factored in the second power-play goal. Coatta’s goal was from the traditional power-play setup but Anthony Conti scored a pretty goal off the rush. Cam Amantea made a nice play to spring Conti down the right-wing. It was a two-on-one but Conti was locked in onto the net. He barreled down to the circle and wired a shot past the Trail goaltender on the far-side.
Beauvais’ wasn’t half bad either. The D-man showed a lot of poise by wheeling into the middle of the blue-line and rifling a shot through a maze of bodies and past Dustin Nikkel. It wasn’t a bomb by Beauvais but more of a snap-shot that he kept low and on the blocker side; smart hockey player.
The third power-play goal was all about fundamentals. Chris Rygus cranked a shot from the point with Conti providing a screen in front. The initial shot was stopped but Conti, with his heels on the blue-paint, smacked the rebound through his own legs and Nikkel’s.
Hey there was a short-handed goal too! It’s like the Vees hit for the cycle. The Vees scored at even strength, on the power-play and short-handed; the only thing missing was a four-on-four marker.
Brad McClure’s short-handed tally was what you would expect from a player of his calibre. He tracked down the puck in the neutral zone, cut down the right-wing, moved into the middle of the zone and as he did, he dragged the puck into his body and buried glove-high. It was a goal that meant nothing in the box score, the last goal in a rout, but it still means something when your Captain pulls that off.
The Vees owned the special teams battle, as the power-play and penalty-kill broke out this weekend. The Trail power-play was atop of the BCHL Heading into Friday, clicking at a surreal sixty-percent. After Saturday, the Trail power-play now sits at just over twenty-one percent. At the Showcase Trail were three for five; one for fourteen against the Vees.
Going into tonight, the Vees had the league’s sixth-best power-play and eighth-best penalty-kill. After Saturday they now own the top power-play in the BCHL (30%) and the second best penalty-kill (91.67%).At this level, special teams can make or break a team and the Vees are right on track.
There were a few firsts on Saturday as well. Four scored their first as Penticton Vees and two scored their first career BCHL goals. Congrats to Paddy Sexton, Brett Beauvais and rookies Josh Blanchard and Anthony Conti. Saturday might have been that much sweeter for Conti, who scored his first two career goals against the team he broke into the league with last year; in their barn too.
Hunter Miska, let’s not forget about him. His outing was underrated, as he did make 31 saves for his first BCHL shutout. He had a cushion no doubt but he was sharp from start to finish and had to deal with a lot of traffic in his crease. He was buzzed and bumped and had to pick himself up a few times but he never let it get to him. Both Miska and Olivier Mantha are now 2-0 and each have a 1.00 goals-against average and both have save-percentages at or above .960 Whoa.
- What’s going on with the shot clock in Trail? I know were talking about shots but it was something else this weekend. At one point the shot clock read 2-1 in favour of the Smokies despite the Vees being up 3-0 in the first. The official shots on goal were 9-9 after one and supposedly the Vees only mustered four shots in the second; they scored twice. It’s run by volunteers I know. But there has to be some accountability.
It sounds petty to talk about the officiating when your team wins 7-0. But both teams each had nine power-plays at the end of the night. Even? Even. Would you not think one team would draw more power-plays over the other if the score was that lopsided? My one gripe with the two-man system is it seems officials, on any given night, are damned to call the same amount of penalties. One ref starts calling a few, it seems like the other feels obligated to catch up so there’s no disparity. I said this tonight, don’t let your officiating be influence by the score. Just call what’s in front of you.