The Penticton Vees are looking to bump their two game slide when they pay a visit to West Kelowna tonight at 7pm. It’s the third meeting this season between these two Interior Division rivals, with the Vees winning the first two games, the most recent back on November 15th in West Kelowna (6-3).
Both teams have stumbled somewhat in the month of November, the Vees have posted a respectable 4-2-0-2 record but have just one win in their last four. The Warriors are 2-5-1-0 in November after posting a 12-4-0-2 record in the first two months of the season. Both teams have nearly identical records in the last five games, the Vees posting a 2-2-0-1 mark, the Warriors stringing together a 2-2-1-0 record; both with five points.
This has been one of the best rivalries going in the BCHL in the past three seasons, and one could argue the Warriors are the Vees biggest rival at the moment; an honour that’s usually bestowed on the Vernon Vipers. There is plenty of hate between these two teams on the ice, though the Vees have had the majority of success, as they’ve won eight of their last nine meetings against the Tribe going back to last year. In fact, they’ve won 22 of the last 25 meetings. Despite those numbers, these two usually are locked in tightly contested one-goal games; I expect nothing different tonight.
- The last time the Vees have dropped back-to-back games was September 20th and 25th. After that they won five of their next six, outscoring their opposition 23-11 and had two shutouts along the way. Is tonight another launching pad for success?
- After a loss they’re 6-2-0 on the season and have outscored their opponents 31-19 in those eight games. That record got scuffed up with Saturday’s double-overtime setback at the hands of the Express. However I liked a lot of things the Vees did from the second period on in that one.
- After riding a six game points streak (7-5-12), Brad McClure is pointless in his last two games, though that’s a blip on the radar. “89” has nine goals and 17 points in his last 12 games, two goals and four points against the Warriors this season. McClure has only been held pointless in six of 25 games this season. Before last weekend it was just four out of the Vees first 23.
- Cody DePourcq has elevated his game recently, the centerman has six goals and 10 points in his last 11; points in eight of his last 10. He’s now tied for third in points with Max Coatta (22) and has already surpassed his point total from last year (21).
- The one concern for the Vees is the scoring has been coming too much from these two in recent weeks. There needs to be some balance upfront and I’ll say this again, others need to step to the forefront. Ben Dalpe and Max Coatta are two guys that have been in a bit of a slump recently but are two that know how to put the biscuit in the basket. Anthony Conti who has five goals and seven points in eight games, will start on the wing with Dalpe and Brad McClure to give that line a shot in the arm; the offensive as a whole needs a shot in the arm.
- I write about the need for balanced scoring and that’s what the Vees got the last time the faced West Kelowna. Cam Amantea, Conti (2), Coatta, Brendan Lamont and McClure scored in the 6-3 win on November 15th. The Vees first three goals in that game came from three different scorers and McClure didn’t score until late in the third period. More of that please.
- After starting the month red-hot, the Vees power-play has cooled off somewhat in the last two weeks. The PP is 2/16 in the last five games and 0/8 in the last three. The Vees were 1/3 in their last encounter with the Warriors and are 3/6 on the man-advantage in the season series. Coupled that with a struggling Warriors penalty-kill (15th overall) and tonight might be the night that jump starts the power-play.
- Honestly, special teams could be the deciding factor. As mentioned, the Vees are batting .500 on the PP against the Warriors and their penalty-kill is a perfect 8/8. The Tribe PK has been in a rut all season, though they were perfect last Saturday in Vernon and scored a short-handed goal. Circling back, when these two teams play, emotions run high and that can lead to penalties. So far (small sample size), the Vees have averaged three power-plays per game against West-K. If they can get to that 1/3 mark tonight, that might be the difference. One goal between these two teams feels like 2-3 in any other game.
- Finally, its cliche but the Vees will need to find a way to take a lead into the third period. Both these teams struggle playing from behind late in games, as they’re a combine 2-11-2-1 when trailing after two but a combined 19-0-0-3 when leading after two. Both teams are excellent at protecting leads in the third, so you don’t want to be the team trying play catch up in the final twenty minutes.
- Like I said earlier, November has been up and down for the Tribe, with just two wins in eight games thus far. After a humbling 6-3 loss Friday to Chilliwack, the Tribe rebounded by tying Vernon 2-2 on the road. That doesn’t seem like much but they were trailing going into the third period and earned a tie thanks to a short-handed goal by Carl Hesler. By all accounts, the Warriors were the better team in overtime but couldn’t get the game-winner past Austin Smith.
- After the Warriors played Penticton on November 15th, they looked to turn things around, posting wins over Cowichan Valley (4-3) and Salmon Arm (6-2). That Salmon Arm game looked to be a turning point, as they hung four up on the ‘Backs in the first and in their own barn. But then it was that Chilliwack game and it’s likely the same feeling that has been going around in Penticton; two steps forward, one step back.
- I’ll say this until the cows come home, the Warriors have one of the most potent offenses, one that will a couple of reinforcements tonight. David Pope and Liam Blackburn, who were both injured the last time the Vees played West-K, will be in the line-up tonight. Pope is one of the most skilled forwards in the Interior Division, a Detroit Red Wings draft pick last June, and since coming back from injury has a goal and two points in three games. Blackburn, in his last three games (gap due to injury), has three goals and six points. Since he’s returned from injury he has an assist in two games.
- Those two are skilled but the Vees have to keep their eyes on two Texans. Carl Hesler has been on a tear, as the Dallas native has a seven game point streak going (7-3-10) and has goals in back-to-back games. Jason Cotton (from Plano, Texas) leads the Tribe in scoring (17-13-30) and has been in fine form of late, with three goals and three assists in his last six games. Cotton leads the Tribe in scoring against the Vees this season too, with two goals and three points; Hesler has a goal and three points.
- Seb Lloyd has been quite against Penticton so far, as he doesn’t have a point in two games. He seemed to have an off game on November 15th but he is a true play-maker who can create something out of nothing. He’s so crafty with the puck and can cause a lot of problems around the net; Vees will have to keep tabs on #4.
- Reid Simmonds has acquitted himself well since returning to the Warriors organization via trade. Since his return from Okotoks of the AJHL, Simmonds has two goals and four points in five games. I thought he was one of their better players against the Vees in the last meeting.
- Retooled blue-line for the Tribe, as they shipped Braxton Bilous to the Brooks Bandits recently for fellow rear-guard Zane Schartz (another Texan). Bilous was big, mean and hard to play against; classic shutdown defenseman. Schartz is smaller and more of an offensive defenseman, who has a dangerous shot and can move the puck well. Seems the Warriors were in need of more production from their back-end. However, will they miss that physical element that Bilous brought? He usually played against the Vees top forwards and was an innings eater; time will tell.
- Andy Desautels has started both games against the Vees this season but did get the hook after two periods in the last meeting. I suspect the former Western Leaguer will get the call between the pipes. He’s 0-2-0 against Penticton with a 4.20 GAA and .845 save-percentage.
On the Broadcast: A wrinkle, as it will be a “one-up, one-down” radio broadcast. Trevor Miller will have the wireless mic and be down at bench level; something that we experimented in the playoffs last year. Tight confines in the booth in West-K but Trevor will have some great insight from downstairs. Pre-Game Show goes at 6:4opm with the puck drop at 7pm on EZ Rock AM 800. My guest tonight is Captain Brad McClure, who talks about his commitment to Minnesota State, Mankato.