Blake Butzow Feature Interview
Fred Harbinson Pre-Game
Better effort, different result but still no ‘W’ for the Vees. Bo Pieper was the OT hero in the three-on-three overtime period, as the Coquitlam express edged Vees 2-1 in front over 1,800 at the SOEC. The Vees did come back from a 1-0 third period deficit, when Alex Coulombe’s point-shot found its way through traffic and past Gordie Defiel late in the third period. Both regulation goals were scored from the point, as John Saunders scored midway through the first for Coquitlam and that goal looked like it was going to hold up as the game-winner until the late reply by Penticton.
The Vees frustration is somewhat eased by the results on the out-of-town scoreboard, as they got the best case scenario with them losing. Vernon and West Kelowna tied and both Merritt and Salmon Arm lost in regulation on the road. So, the Vees are just one point back of Vernon for top spot and have three games in hand. West Kelowna doesn’t gain any ground on the Vees, as they’re still three back, going into the game against the Vees on Tuesday.
Those results doesn’t mean the loss sits well with the coaching staff and players but there is positives to look at. One, this was a MUCH better effort put forth compared to Friday’s showing in Coquitlam. Guys competed, worked their butts off for most of this one and never quit. Yes, the first period wasn’t up to snuff, as the Vees looked flat but they regrouped in the second, turned up the pressure and played a pretty solid forty minutes of hockey to come back and get at least one point. Saturday is already a marked improvement, as they at least got a point and moved from third to second in their Division. However, one out of a possible four points against a non-divisional opponent isn’t OK, the team knows they missed an opportunity this weekend.
Credit the Express, who nipped a three game road losing streak in the butt and only gave up one goal to one of the best home teams in the BCHL; they can thank their goaltender for that. The Express were the better team in the first, as they looked dangerous and were at times skating circles around the Vees in their end. Penticton just didn’t look engaged and seemed to be a step behind in the opening period. The shots were even at seven through one but that didn’t tell the story. Hunter Miska made a couple of big stops, including one on Corey Mackin to keep this game within reach for the Vees.
Remember, the Vees made some significant line-up changes, not dressing two veteran players after sub-par performances the night before. A message sent to the team and it was disappointing to see them come out like they did in the first twenty minutes. But. BUT, give them credit for making adjustments and looking a whole heck of a lot better in the second and third period.
- The Vees are still winless this season when trailing after two periods, as their record drops to 0-4-1-1 when playing catch up hockey in the third. It’s hard in this league to play from behind, tonight was a good example as it wears on you You could see it at times in this game with all the hockey this team has played recently, it looked to finally catch up with them.
- Contrasting first periods for Coquitlam’s John Saunders. Not even two minutes into Friday’s game he gets booted for a hit from behind on Anthony Conti. Saturday he makes it through the first two minutes and then scores the opening goal from the blue-line. An odd one, as Saunders shuffled along the blue-line before floating it past Miska’s glove. There was traffic in front but I’m curious to know if Miska didn’t pick up the shot in time or was he screened? Either way the Vees found themselves down 11 minutes into the first period,
- Is there two Coquitlam teams or? The team before this weekend had lost three of their last 10, three in a row on the road, where they were outscored 18-3 in just their last two road games. This weekend they hold the Vees to just two goals in eight periods on 54 shots over two games. Head Coach Barry Wolff said in our pre-game chat he has been trying to drill the importance of structure into his teams game. especially ahead of this weekend’s home-and-home.
- The Express were no doubt more disciplined in their style of play but they still had guys flying around all over the place; bit of a fire drill. They got defensemen jumping up in rushes all the time and at one point in the second period, during a two-on-two rush into the Vees zone, it was Zach Hodder and Marc Biega leading the way. They’re a D pairing. Lucky for them they were off-side. Despite their two wins (a tip of the cap to them for it), the Express were vulnerable on more than one occasion but the Vees let them off the hook.
- One of my keys ahead of this one was getting more shots towards the Express net. They were better in that department, as they did put up 29 and 12 in the second period. But I still see this team being too passive at times and especially from the blue-line. More shots you guys from the points. If that shot gets blocked, you hammer it again and again until that player doesn’t want to block it anymore. When this team has success, it’s when they’re firing pucks at the net and sending plenty of traffic. Tonight it was hit and miss with getting people between Gordie Defiel and the puck.
- How do you critique scoring issues? You can teach structure, systems and defensive responsibilities but you can’t teach scoring. Despite 54 shots in two games, the Vees only have two goals and one point to show for it. I think it goes back to what I said above about being better around the net. In the sense of having more guys bother the other teams goaltender by getting in the way.
- Wait, no. You can’t be near the crease or the goaltender or else they’ll wave-off a goal.
- People can harp of the Vees forwards and their lack of production and I get that. Remember, these kids are trying, they worked their butt off tonight, it just ain’t coming right now. Hey, million dollar talents on the Vancouver Canucks are going through the same issues. It doesn’t matter the level or stage, these things happen over a season. Good teams find a way to work through these problems.
- The lines went into a blender, as with only dressing 11 forwards it created a lot of different looks for the Vees. Consistently, the trenchers again were the better players. Cody DePourcq, Travis Blanleil and Brendan Lamont were not only tasked with shutting down Ryan Rosenthal, Corey Mackin and Adam Rockwood but were the most threatening of the Vees forwards in the offensive zone. Brad McClure was pretty darn good too, as he had several scoring chances, including one in OT but it was saved by the knob of Defiel’s stick.
- Hunter Miska was the tough luck loser on Saturday, I know he only faced 21 shots but some of the saves he was forced to come up with were highlight reel material.
- Gordie Defiel, steady, not flashy but damn steady. Doesn’t seem to get rattled and LOVES to play the puck. I mean, he was out of his net for a casual stroll at times to to play shoot-ins. There were a couple of instances were his puck playing stood out. At one time he cleared the puck out of the zone on a penalty-kill himself, and the other was the time when he created a scoring chance by firing a breakout pass to the Vees blue-line from his own right-circle; the guys good.
- Power-play has hit a bit of a power outage recently. Now just 1-16 are the Vees in their last five games. If they scored just one goal on one of their three chances tonight, I’m likely writing about a win on here, not an OT setback.
- At the end of the day it’s about the process. The process of becoming a better player and a better team as the season moves along. Tonight they were better than Friday and played with more of an edge. They still will need to find a way to get more pucks in the net. Tuesday’s match up with the Warriors might be just be what they need right now, as those games usually brings the best out of the Vees.