GM 6: Into the Snake Pit

GM 6

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Vees

Teams

Vipers

4-1-0-0

Record

1-2-1-2

3-1-0-0

Away / Home

0-0-1-2

8-28 (28.57%) 1st

Power-Play

4-25 (16%) 11th

26-30 (86.67%) 4th

Penalty-Kill

21-25 (84%) 9th

Max Coatta (5)

Goals

Mason Blacklock (5)

Beauvais/ Dalpe / McClure (4)

Assists

Dallas Calvin / Michael McNicholas (4)

Max Coatta / Brad McClure (8)

Points

Mason Blacklock (8)

Season Series

September 25th @ Kal-Tire Place / October 25th @ SOEC

November 20th @ SOEC / January 10th @ Kal-Tire Place

January 24th @ Kal-Tire Place / February 14th @ SOEC

February 22nd @ Kal-Tire Place

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The Penticton Vees and Vernon Vipers tangle at Kal-Tire Place for the first of seven meetings this season. Tonight is just the second time the Vees will play a divisional opponent in their first six games; Trail twice two weeks ago. Meanwhile tonight is the Vipers fifth match-up against an Interior Division opponent in this just their seventh game.

Both teams are coming off weekend losses, both one-goal setbacks. The Vees dropped a 4-3 decision in Prince George last Friday. Jake LeBrun’s hat-trick powered the Spruce Kings to their third consecutive home win over the Vees dating back to March of 2012. Gavin Gould scored the overtime winner Saturday, as the Merritt Centennials erased a 2-0 deficit and edged the Vipers 3-2 in overtime at Kal-Tire Place (formerly the Wesbild Centre).

After tonight, these two teams don’t meet again until exactly one month from tonight; October 25th in Penticton. Tonight is the start of a busy week for the Vees, as they play three games in four days; the Vipers in the same boat.

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The Vees are coming off their first loss of the season, a 4-3 setback in Prince George Friday. Jake LeBrun led the way for the Spruce Kings, bagging a hat-trick, including the game winner, as the Sprucies extended the Vees losing streak in PG to three (last win March 9th, 2012).

The Vees were off to a good start on Friday, as Cam Amantea opened the scoring just past the six-minute mark as he finished off his own rebound after going hard to the net. The Vees got off-track after that, as Price George scored three straight to close-out the first.

Ben Dalpe and Brad McClure chipped away at the Sprucies lead and got the Vees back on even terms. Dalpe scored the lone goal of the middle frame, on the power-play, to bring the Vees within one heading into the third. After the Vees were handed a five-minute power-play and then a five-on-three on top of that, McClure pulled the Vees even just under six-minutes into the final frame.

Jake LeBrun used a Prince George power-play to mute the celebration, as he scored his third of the night twelve-minutes into the third period. His hat-trick goal didn’t come without controversy, as the Vees argued LeBrun kicked the puck in; video evidence showed they had a legit beef.

Turning to this week, this morning the Vees announced a trade with a familiar partner, as the team sent 18 year-old forward Max Becker (Princeton) to the Salmon Arm Silverbacks for future considerations. If you remember, the Vees have acquired three former Silverbacks in the last two seasons and sent three players to the Shuswap last season alone.

The Vees were carrying thirteen forwards and playing time was at premium between Becker, Josh Blanchard and Anthony Conti. All three are young players with college commitments and all three deserve ice-time. Conti is averaging a point-per game and Blanchard has a goal and an assist in four games; something had to give. Becker will have the opportunity to play more in Salmon Arm and play in key situations and better himself before heading to Princeton. Max is a great kid, who is very personable and was quite popular inside the Vees dressing room. I will miss having Max around and wish him nothing but the best in Salmon Arm.

The Vees will be without forward Jack Ramsey tonight as he heads off to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to play in the second annual USA Hockey / CCM All-American Prospects game. The top 40 NHL Draft eligible American born players will converge on the Consol Energy Center to play in a game in front of a bevy of NHL and College scouts (Ramsey All American Prospects Game story).

The game is on Thursday but players are summoned from their club teams starting today but the good news is Ramsey will make it back JUST in time for the Vees home opener on Friday. When I say just, I mean hours before puck-drop, as he flies back Friday morning and lands in Penticton in the early afternoon. Ramsey is my second intermission guest tonight and we will talk about his adventure getting to and from Pittsburgh.

Turning my attention to tonight’s game and it won’t be a gimme by any means for the Vees. Despite the two teams sitting at the opposite ends of the Interior Division, Vees-Vipers games usually brings the best out of both teams. The Vees know their opponent wants nothing more than to beat their longtime rivals to get back on track and snap a five-game win less skid. The Vees remember are coming off a loss where they didn’t play the way they did in their first four games. It wasn’t typical “Vees Hockey” in PG Friday as they were undisciplined and were turnover happy in their own zone.

That loss in retrospect might have done the team some good, as they lost focus on the finer details of their game after riding a season opening four-game win streak. The setback Friday proved this team is still gelling and learning and success doesn’t come so easy in the BCHL, as any team can win on any given night. I expect a more focused and sharper group than what we saw Friday.

How is this team going to be successful in Vernon? Well it starts with their….start. This team has had terrific starts in all five of their games, as they have been the team to score first. But it’s about building off the success at the beginning  of the game and carrying that through the opening twenty-minutes and onto the last two periods. The Vees had a solid first ten-minutes in Prince George Friday but let their foot off the gas and were quickly burned for three against. The Vees will have to have their foot down on the gas pedal from start to finish tonight and not give the Vipers any opportunity to grab momentum.

Success tonight comes from rolling up the sleeves and getting their noses dirty too. Vernon is a big team, boasting size both on the back-end and up front. All but one of the Vipers defensemen is at or above 6’1 and their D-core average out to 6’1 and a half and 205 pounds; that’s a lot of player. Up front, nine of their fourteen forwards are 6’1 or taller and five are 6’2 plus. The Vipers will try to use that size to lean on the Vees, if it’s in the corners, along the boards or in front of either goal. Friday in PG the Vees weren’t consistent enough in getting to the “dirty areas.” The Spruce Kings scored all four of their goals near or on top of the Vees crease. In order to be successful, the Vees will need win the majority of puck battles; fight for every inch of contested ice. They can’t concede any battle for a puck in any part of the rink, as they thrive on puck possession; you wear out your opponent if they’re always chasing.

When it comes to their own zone, the Vees are going to have to steer the Vipers big bodies away from their net; don’t let anyone in a white sweater setup shop in the crease. Olivier Mantha had to contend with quite a bit of traffic Friday in PG and was knocked down several times. The Vees can’t let that happen to Hunter Miska tonight, as a goalie of his caliber will usually make the initial save if he sees the puck. The Vees for the most part have been pretty stingy when it comes to surrendering secondary chances around their net and that will be needed against the Vipers. Don’t let a guy get two-three whacks at any puck around the crease.

Recapping the Keys:

-Hit the Ground Running: be ready from the start and don’t let the foot of the gas; push the pace of play.

-Roll Up the Sleeves: It’s going to a grind at both ends of the rink; fight for every inch.

Stick to the Blueprint: The Vees can’t afford to differ from the plan at hand. Stick to what makes you successful. It’s a process and the Vees can’t waiver if the results aren’t immediate. It might take well into the second or even the third period before they can pull ahead. Don’t get discourage and get sucked into individualism.

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Forget about the record. The Vipers will be coming out ready to play. The Vipers likely have a hint of desperation in their game tonight, as that is what coaches preach when their teams are in a bit of a funk. The RBC Cup hosts only have one win from their first six games and are still looking for their first win at home.

The Vipers are coming off a 3-2 overtime loss at home last Saturday at the hands of the Merritt Centennials and have lost four in a row since a tie with the Chilliwack Chiefs on September 8th. The Vipers did build up a two-goal first period lead against Merritt but saw the visitors strike twice in the second and again eighty-one seconds into the four-on-four period.

Despite their early season struggles, this is a roster that boasts a lot of dangerous pieces. Mason Blacklock (5-3-8) leads the team in scoring and has been a key cog for their offense. Former Vee Dexter Dancs (3-2-5) and former Eagle Demico Hannoun (2-3-5) are two others the Vees must keep tabs on. Blacklock, Dancs, Hannoun, Dallas Calvin (1-4-5) and Brendan Persley (0-2-2) provide more than enough size up front. This group of sizable forwards can score too as their numbers indicate and will be looked upon to lead the Vipers offense. One name I left out of that group is Craig Martin but not for a lack of skill but a lack seasoning. The very talented forward missed most of last season with an ankle injury so it will be interesting to see how he responds tonight. If you go by his stats (3-3-6) it seems Martin is getting back into the swing of things and that’s not good news for goalies around the BCHL.

Staying on the theme of smaller players, Michael McNicholas is similar to Martin in stature and style of play. Martin may be two inches taller but both weigh a buck seventy-five and are dynamic forwards. McNicholas is shifty with very good hands and who can make something out of nothing. It’s not just the sizable forwards up front the Vees D-core will be concerned with.

The Vipers back-end did take a hit recent when their Captain Ryan Renz and veteran defenseman Josh Bryan both went down with an injury. Renz was nicked up in a game against Salmon Arm two weeks ago and I’m not sure when Bryan was hurt. Not entirely certain on the status of these two but I will get a better understanding as we near game time. Renz and Bryan are two twenty year-old defensemen who were counted on to eat up some important minutes for this team.

Danny Todosychuk has seen a lot of time between the pipes in Vernon but Austin Smith did play last Saturday against Merritt. It’s no secret the Vees are rotating their goalies on a game-by-game basis but it remains to be seen who will take the reins in Vernon; if that’s the plan. Todosychuk was recently getting the bulk of starts but I wouldn’t rule out Smith starting tonight and possibly be the guy going forward.

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About CBeauchemin

Director of Broadcasting & Communication for the Penticton Vees
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