It’s another first place showdown in the Interior Division tonight at the SOEC. The Vees and Vipers hook-up for the third time this season, with top spot in the Division up for grabs. These two Okanagan rivals last met on October 25th at the SOEC, the Vees coming out with a thrilling 6-5 double-overtime win; Brett Beauvais was the hero, scoring on a penalty-shot in the second overtime period.
Since then, these two have been keeping pace with one another-somewhat, the Vees compiling a 3-2-0-1 record, while the Vipers have put together a 4-1-1-1 run in the seven games they’ve played since October 25th. The Vees are 8-3-0-2 in their last 13 games and the Vipers are 9-2-2-2 in their lat 15; I don’t see this pattern changing much.
After tonight, these two rivals don’t meet again until the New Year, January 10th back in Vernon. The Vipers don’t return to Penticton until February 14th; their third and final visit. So a win tonight will not only go a long way in the standings but will leaving a lasting impression for a while; like two months.
Big night on the ice and a big one-off the ice as well. It’s “College & Hospitality Industry Night” at the SOEC, as tickets are just $5, beer is $2.50 and we will be giving away a 2000 Chevrolet Cavalier, through a $2 raffle. All the info on tonight’s festivities can be found here.
- The Vees have a chance to get back on the horse so to speak after Saturday’s disappointing loss. The effort and execution were there against Nanaimo, all that was missing was the result. Not much needs to change from the Vees, outside of the fact they need to be tidier around the net.
- In talking about finish, three goals should be more than enough to win with this team and how well they play defensively. Prior to Saturday’s loss, when they’ve scored three or more goals this season, the Vees were 12-1-0-0.
- One thing I would like to see more of is traffic in front of the opposition’s goaltender. It’s cliché but it works, especially at this level. When they Vees are finding success in the offensive zone, they’re crashing the crease and putting bodies in front. This team sometimes can be late arriving in providing screens. Austin Smith (Vernon’s starter) is the type of goaltender that will stop most shots he sees; he’s an established veteran. If you’re going to score on him, you better pick your spot or have a few white jerseys parked out front.
- I’ll be closely following the first ten minutes of this one. The Vees did give up the first goal against Nanaimo last Saturday and were down 2-1 in the first to Vernon back on October 25th. Not necessarily poor starts but don’t make that much more work for yourself by playing catch up hockey. Reestablishing good habits at home is key tonight. Play with confidence and play with some swagger; use the energy given off of by what should be a large crowd.
- In saying that, the Vees can’t start cheating to create offense because that will open themselves up to trouble the other way. This team generates their chances not of the rush but more so by working the puck around in the offensive end. Sticking with the process is critical, don’t get sucked into home-run passes and individualism if things don’t come easily.
- Special teams were a focal point when these two teams last hooked-up. The Vees were 2-4 on the power-play in that 6-5 win over Vernon and a perfect 3-3 on the PK. The Vees have scored a power-play goal in each of their last five games. Vernon is known to run into penalty trouble at critical junctures. If the Vees can get them agitated, they need to cash-in on their power-play chances. Emotions can run high in games like these and the team that does the best at keeping said emotions in check, will likely come out on top.
- The SOEC has been a tough place for visiting teams and that isn’t any different for the Vipers. The Vees are 4-1-0-0 in their last five games at the SOEC versus the Snakes. The Vipers last won in Penticton back on November 23rd, 2012. In the last five games at the SOEC, the Vees have outscored Vernon 20-13.
- Hunter Miska gets the nod in-goal and will be searching for his first win against Vernon. He unfortunately was saddled with the loss in Vernon on September 25th. He played very well in that game, the rest of his team, not so much. Miska was excellent on Friday in West-K, and his goaltending performance was arguably the reason why the Vees got the ‘W.’
- The Vees would like to string some wins together heading into December but that is easier said then done. They’ve alternated wins and losses since October 16th and haven’t won back-to-back games since October 12th and 13th. Now, it’s not like they’ve been incredibly inconsistent, as the longest win streak in the Division is a measly two games. The Interior is tough, real tough, some say the toughest Division in the CJHL. First and fifth place are separated by just two points but if the Vees can get two points today and take the home-and-home with Coquitlam, they’re back in the driver’s seat AND still have games in-hand.
- Brad McClure has been on some kind of run but he can’t keep doing it all, can he? The Vees Captain leads the team in goals (16), points (32) game-winning goals (3) and power-play goals (5). He’s on a five game point streak, in which he has scored six goals and racked up 11 points. He went from the outside looking in, to second in the BCHL scoring race. He’s scored 27 percent of the Vees goals in the last five games. That’s impressive.
- The Vees can’t put all their eggs in one basket, as McClure won’t keep scoring two goals a game (I think). We’ve seen some positive signs in Max Coatta finding his scoring touch once again. Riley Alferd got a huge monkey of his back last Saturday and here’s to that leading to bigger things. This team isn’t going to score 5-6 goals every night but they’ll need to continue to get scoring from everyone. What I like is the unpredictability from this group. One night it’s Cody DePourcq scoring clutch goals and another it’s the Jack Ramsey’s and Matt Serratore’s stepping up. This is a well-balanced group that can be a handful, not by their offensive exploits but rather their relentless work ethic; they keep coming at you.
- No Mason Blacklock once again for the Vipers, as their top-line center is still recovering from an injury picked up back on October 20th. Blacklock was leading the team in scoring and was in the top three in the BCHL at the time of his injury; a big loss but they’ve persevered.
- Since Blacklock went down, the Vipers are 4-1-1-2 in eight games; points in all but one. That’s a pretty good run, considering they started 1-1-0-2 in their first four games post-Blacklock injury.
- Michael McNicholas has helped filled the void, as he leads the team in scoring (12-19-31) and is third overall in the BCHL. McNicholas had a two-goal game against PG two games ago and will be leaned on once again tonight. He’s only got one assist in two games against the Vees but he’s shifty and a threat every time he touches the puck.
- One who hasn’t struggled against the Vees in a former Vee in Dexter Dancs. The Michigan commit has two goals and three points in a pair of games against his former team. He’s a handful and hard to get off the puck and will not hesitate to crash the net.
- The Vees will have to be weary of the Vipers blue-line, as a lot of their offense in this season series has come from their rear-guards. Their defense has accounted for half their goals (4) in two games against Penticton. Jason Bird leads the way with a goal and four points; all coming back on October 25th.
- Like any good team, the Vipers like to play with the lead, as they’re 11-1-1-3 when scoring first and 7-0-1-3 when leading after one. The trick is to get them playing from behind. The Vipers are 2-5-1-1 when the give up the first goal and 1-3-1-0 when trailing after one. The key is to get on them early, as they’ve been tied or ahead after the first period in 20 of their 25 games. Get them chasing means they will have to open up and that will lead to chances for the Vees.
On the Broadcast: Both coaches will join me in the pre-game show as we tee-up the third game of the seven game season series. In the first intermission, Cody DePourcq chats about the rivalry from a player and fan perspective (Penticton native); DePourcq is in his third season and grew up watching these two go head-to-head. In the second intermission we profile forward Matt Serratore.