End of a busy weekend. Let’s keep this short and sweet.
The Vees wrap up their Island Division road trip this afternoon against the Alberni Valley Bulldogs at Weyerhaeuser Arena in Port Alberni. They Vees have a lot to play for today, as they will be making up one game in hand on all but one of the five other Interior Division teams. Last night’s loss in Nanaimo stung but a win this afternoon and the Vees will have a share of first in their Division and still have games in hand.
Saturday was nearly a complete road effort from the Vees, as they did pretty much everything that was asked of them. There were only two or three moments of mental lapses and in hockey that can be the difference between a win and a loss. The two issues at hand were on the game tying-goal and game-winning goals. On the tying goal the Vees threw the puck into traffic, than failed to block a wrist-shot from the blue-line. Similar story on the overtime winner, as they had an opportunity to reverse the puck away from danger, but there was a communication breakdown and the puck went to Nanaimo’s Nic Gushue and you know what happened after that.
The rotation it net continues for the Vees, as Olivier Mantha will get the start between the pipes. Outside of that change, it’s the same line-up from the last two nights. The Vees said they will dress 12 forwards and 7 defensemen in warm-up and make a final line-up decision after. So, do we see Blake Butzow this afternoon? Time will tell.
As said off the top, it’s a new day and the Vees will have to file away last night’s result in Nanaimo but can use it as a learning lesson. As mentioned, a pair of mental lapses turned the game in favour of Nanaimo. The Vees now know, like Friday, they have to be sharp from minute one to minute sixty. It’s important not just to be physically ready but mentally as well.
The Bulldogs have been playing pretty well since these two teams last met on October 5th in Penticton. They’re 3-2-0 in their last five games and 4-6-0 in their last 10 games. That might not seem very impressive to the casual observer but it’s a vast improvement, stats wise, from the start of their season. They’re coming off a 2-1 loss Friday in Nanaimo but that game, as the score would tell you, could have gone either way. Head Coach Kevin Willison and his Assistant Adam Hayduk have made some tweaks to the ‘Dogs line-up that seem to have got this team moving in the right direction. The biggest area of improvement may have been in goal with Connor LaCouvee and Tyger Howat providing some stability. LaCouvee has won four of his seven starts with the ‘Dogs and by all accounts they look like a much different team when playing in front of him.
Alberni Valley is similar to the Vees first two opponents on this trip, in the sense they’re a hard working group that likes to go hard at the opposition. They’re aggressive on the fore-check, are relentless on the puck and don’t take a shift off. They’re not the most skilled team but do have a very formidable trio in Hunter Stewart, Tryg Strand and Justin Georgeson. Those three are top three in team scoring and the Vees will have to be conscious of them every time they step on the ice.
This is the third and final regular season meeting between these two teams. A quirk in the schedule with the Bauer BCHL Showcase, means these two non-divisional opponents play each other three times this season, compared the traditional two-game season series.
On the Broadcast: Both coaches will join me pre-game from Port Alberni, as I will tee up the third and final meeting between these two teams. In the first intermission, I will have the highlights from last night’s result in Nanaimo. In the second intermission, I will air a feature that ran on the Subway BCHL This Week show on the Team 1410. Penticton native and former Penticton Knight, now Phoenix Coyotes Assistant GM and Vice President of Hockey Ops Brad Treliving talks about his time in the BCJHL.