Revenge is a dish best served cold. The Vees are looking to rebound in the win column, as they host the Coquitlam Express in the back half of home-and-home set tonight. 23 hours ago, the Express scored three unanswered goals, two in the third period off the stick of Ryan Rosenthal, as they took a 3-1 win on home ice; just their fourth home win this season.
The Vees have won back-to-back games just once since October 12th, as they been alternating wins and losses for the last thirty days. Last night they had an opportunity to make some hay in their Division, with both West Kelowna and Salmon Arm losing but instead, they lost hold of first place with Merritt and Vernon winning their games. The Vees could have been four points up on Salmon Arm and five on West Kelowna, but the ‘Backs shaved a point off the gap between third and fourth after they lost in OT.
The coaching staff wasn’t happy with last night’s result and have made some corresponding moves, as they’ve sent a message to the players. The Vees will only go with eleven forwards, as they will opt to dress seven defensemen. The line-up move, is a reminder that no one player should feel comfortable; you earn your position in the line-up on merit, not reputation.
- The message has been sent and now the onus is on the 18 skaters that are dressed tonight to respond accordingly. The urgency wasn’t at the level it needed to be Friday, especially in the third period when they were down a goal. Yes, they held the Express to just six shots but only mustering four shots in the final twenty minutes is unacceptable. The players know that and now it’s on them to not let that happen again.
- Dressing 11 forwards gives the coaching staff some flexibility throughout the game. I’m sure will see various line combinations based on the time of the game and the situation. Last night Riley Alferd played his way onto the Ben Dalpe and Brad McClure line and likely will get a crack at starting with them. Remember, Alferd is a centerman by trade, so he or Dalpe could see action on other lines or even the other two centermen in Cody DePourcq and Max Coatta.
- Clint Filbrandt and Jarod Hilderman draw back into the line-up on the blue-line. You’re getting two motivated players, who want to prove they below in the everyday top six. Hilderman has sat out the last four games and Filbrandt did not play last night. Those two will come in and provide some juice to the blue-line. Hey, there’s eight defensemen with only six/seven spots for every game. Competition usually brings out the best in players and that’s the hope tonight.
- The Vees have shown they know how to bounce back after a loss. They’re 6-1-0 on the season and have outscored their opposition 30-16 in those seven games. After losing 5-3 to Nanaimo one week ago, the Vees came out like gangbusters on Wednesday and rolled over the Vernon Vipers 5-2.
- This team should have a chip on their shoulder and need to challenge that anger properly. Playing mad doesn’t mean trying to take off someone’s head off but rather playing with an appropriate edge. The Vees need to make life more difficult for the Express defense when on the fore-check and need to take the puck to the net with a purpose. Get in Gordie Defiel’s grill, get bodies in front of him and fire the rubber his way, at every opportunity.
- The power-play has cooled off somewhat in the last few games. Just one power-play goal in the last three games (1/13) and the PP has been shutout in the last two. Need to find a way to manufacture a goal tonight; might be the difference between a win or a loss.
- Brad McClure and Brett Beauvais had their point streaks end last night. Beauvais’ ended at seven games (1-13-14) and McClure’s six (7-5-12). Max Coatta’s modest three game streak was snapped as well (2-3-5).
- Those three had their streaks end but Cody DePourcq pushed his to four. He now has three goals and six points in those four games. In the Vees last home game, DePourcq had a goal and three points, all in the second period, against the Vipers.
- But it can’t be just McClure, Beauvais or DePourcq carrying the offense. The Vees need others to step to the forefront. Good teams get scoring from up and down their line-up, the Vees have had that at times this season, and most recently on Wednesday.
- The Mainland Division has given the Vees some trouble this season. They’re 1-2-1-0 in four games and still winless on the road (0-2-1). Now, the only game at home against a Mainland Division team (PG) resulted in a 2-0 shutout win. The Vees need to be as jacked up for games like tonight, as they are against the Vernon’s and West Kelowna’s.
- I was stressing how the Vees had not lost in regulation before last night when leading after one (now 11-1-0-2) but maybe I need to stress the importance of their third period’s. Lately they’ve given up too many goals in the third (outscored 4-0 in the last two games). They’re 11-0-0-2 when leading after two but 0-4-1-0 when trailing after forty minutes. Get the lead, build on it in the second and finish off strong in the third; foot on the gas pedal all night.
- The Express got a much-needed win at home and now are looking for a much-needed win on the road. They’ve dropped their last three road games, after storming out to 7-0-0-0 record away from home to start the season. They were shelled 12-2 in Langley on October 24th, and were hit hard for six against in Chilliwack on November 16th.
- They might be a bit fragile on the road and are playing in the SOEC for the first time this season. This building always presents challenges for visiting teams, especially for those on their first time through. The Express are 2-1-0 on the road against the Interior, picking up wins in Merritt (4-2) and Trail (5-2); two buildings that isn’t particularly easy to take points out of.
- How fresh are the Express big guns? They barely used their fourth line last night, a smattering of shifts throughout the sixty minutes and played with just five defensemen for 58 minutes. By my observation, the Express rolled their top two lines heavily and mixed in their third line on occasion. They didn’t have what I would call regular shift in the latter stages of the second and third period. The Pieper brothers, Adam Rockwood, Corey Mackin and Ryan Rosenthal played a lot last night. Now the Express are on the road throughout the afternoon and you got to wonder, how much gas those five will have in the tank when the second and third periods rolls around?
- Adam Rockwood is playing some good hockey of late, as he has one goal and eight points in six of his last seven games. Rockwood scored his first goal in 10 games last night, and funny enough his last tally came on the road, against an Interior Division team, back on October 12th in Merritt. He was dangerous last night and to his credit competed his butt-off. He was not just playing hard in the offensive zone, as he I regularly saw him below his circles battling for pucks behind his own net.
- When Rockwood scores this season, the Express are a perfect 5-0-0-0; need to contain number 17 tonight.
On the Broadcast: I’ll chat with both coaches pre-game, as I’ll tee-up the back-half of this home and home. In the first intermission, we will play the highlights of last night in case you missed the game. In the second intermission, Blake Butzow chats about his long road back to playing after a battle with meningitis.