1- Man Between the Pipes: Olivier Mantha didn’t have a heavy workload Friday but he was very good in the win. He only faced 23 shots but 10 of those came in the third but it wasn’t just the puck he was challenged with. Mantha had a lot of traffic around his net and by my count was bumped into or knocked down at least five times. PG only took one goalie interference penalty (late in the game) but the Vees had a case for at least two others to be called.
PG game planned was to send a lot of bodies to the net and get in Mantha’s face; get him off his game. But as he says in the interview below, he didn’t let it get to him, as he was focused just on picking up the win. I wouldn’t have blame him if he decked a Spruce King or two after some collisions but Mantha didn’t allow himself to get rattled. He showed great composure and poise and that was key in getting the shutout. His rebound control was excellent and he read the puck well. Had to battle through a lot of bodies in front but continually found the shot and when he made the save, kicked the puck into safe areas; no juicy rebounds.
He has started two games at home, has won them both and has picked up shutouts in both games. In his two wins at the SOEC, Mantha has stopped all 41 shots he’s faced and the Vees have outscored the opposition 7-0. Mantha now leads the league in shutouts (2) after Friday’s goose-egg of PG.
2- Special Teams: The power-play wasn’t firing on all cylinders but the penalty-kill sure was. The Vees were a perfect 5-for-5 on the PK, including a short-handed goal which turned out be a big insurance marker. The Vees probably took more penalties than they would have liked to, including a couple of stick infractions that were preventable but the PK was there to bail them out. The two PK units were aggressive, great on the fore-check at or inside the PG blue-line, which really caused problems for the Spruce Kings breakout. When PG was in the zone the Vees pressured the puck carrier as they didn’t allow the Spruce Kings a whole lot of time or space. The Vees were good with their sticks not allowing any cross-zone passes, especially backdoor plays. When the Spruce Kings got a shot off the Vees were great at getting a piece of their body in the way of the rubber. The number 1 PK unit at home in the BCHL was flexing its muscle. Basically a lot of fundamentally sound things they Vees were doing on their PK was the reason for the clean-sheet.
DePourcq’s short-handed goal in the second was all about pressure and hard work. Travis Blanleil was pressing the Spruce King player at the blue-line, not allowing him to freely go through center. That pressure forced the turnover and DePourcq didn’t hesitate to jump up and take the puck into the zone. Below is Cody DePourcq talking about scoring that big short-handed marker.
3- Sticking With It: No, it wasn’t pretty at times tonight but the Vees didn’t let frustration derail them. The Spruce Kings played the Vees tough, as they were aggressive with their fore-check and were a speedy bunch. The Vees defensively, regularly had to go back for dump-ins in vulnerable spots, knowing a hit was coming but did so without complaint; they took their lumps. There was a good chunk of this game spent along the boards and in the corners; the trenches. There was no easy shifts tonight, as both teams were going after the puck carrier. Lots of scrums can be tiring but the Vees didn’t waver and kept going back for more.
Yes, there was moments the game started to develop a good back-and-forth as both teams skated well, but as DePourcq said above, there was a lot of neutral zone play too. It wasn’t the cleanest games from the Vees, as they were somewhat off on their execution but they persevered; didn’t get caught up in individualism. They rolled up their sleeves and went after it.