Tonight is the Vees fourth game in their last five against the Mainland Division, as they entertain the Chilliwack Chiefs at the SOEC; puck drop is 6pm. The Vees dropped a 5-4 decision last night to Langley and saw their record drop to .500 in November (5-3-0-2). They want nothing more than to end this challenging month with a “W.”
The Chiefs had their own back-and-forth affair at home last night, as they watched a 3-1 first period lead slip away, in Powell River’s 8-5 win at Prospera Centre. The Chiefs have had their struggles this season and just have three wins in their last 10 games. They’re last in their Division and 15th in the BCHL but that doesn’t mean this game is a lay-up for the Vees. The Chiefs are 2-2 in their last four and proved they can beat the top teams in this Division, when they doubled-up West Kelowna 6-3 back on November 22nd; on the road to boot.
- I’m starting to sound like a broken record, I’m starting to sound like a…The Vees are 7-2-0-1 coming off a loss this season and have only lost back-to-back games once since September 25th. They’ve been inconsistent, alternating wins and losses for the better part of two months now. The coaching staff has used the expression “two steps forward, one step back” when describing their team. We saw it this week, a character win in West Kelowna on Tuesday, which saw this team play one of their best well-rounded games. But last night was the opposite, a performance riddled with defensive miscues and mental errors; a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde scenario.
- CLICHE ALERT: The start will be key for the Vees. A disappointing first twenty-minutes Friday, which saw them go down two-again. Playing catch up hockey can take a toll on the body and be a mental grind as well. Frustration starts to seep in and that’s when mistakes can happen. The Vees need to right the ship and get a good start-get their feet underneath them. A good first period can translate into a good second and that into a good third. They need to put their best foot forward this afternoon. They’ve surrendered the first goal in three straight and have been outscored 5-1 in their last three first-periods.
- Give Brad McClure some support; the guys shoulders might wear out. McClure put up another two goals and four points in the losing effort against Langley; he can’t keep doing it all. Nice to see Ben Dalpe score again and here’s hoping he’s going to go off on a bit of a tear. The Vees need more out of guys like Max Coatta (one goal in four games), Riley Alferd (one goal in five games), Brendan Lamont (one goal since arriving), Cam Amantea (one goal in five games) and Anthony Conti (one goal in four games). Coatta and Conti have shown they can put up some numbers and Amantea and Lamont know their way around the net; not go-to guys but more than capable in a supporting role. This team is built not on high-end skill but depth and balance. Time to restore the balance upfront.
- Special teams hasn’t been an issue, as the power-play is sitting atop of the BCHL and they’re 3-6 with the man-advantage in their last two games. At home the PP is clicking at just over 23 percent which is also a league best. The PK has been right up there too, now third in the BCHL and 16-17 in the last 5 games; 9-9 in the last two. I’ve liked what I’ve seen from both sides and last night they won the special teams game. Chilliwack is in the middle of the pack in the special teams department and the Vees will need to find a way to take advantage of that.
- Need to be much sharper without the puck tonight obviously. Smarter reads and put pucks into safe areas. Playing it safe isn’t the worst thing in the world, as the simple approach is needed at times. Friday the Vees tried to put pucks into areas where there simply wasn’t a played to be made. Puck management will be stressed against the Chiefs. When they have the puck in their own end, find an outlet, forwards need to come back and support-on the goal side. Sometimes a simply chip up off the glass is in order and that’s a whole lot better than a turnover in the slot.
- To be honest, I don’t know a whole heck of a lot about the Chiefs. Their struggles have been well documented this season but they seem to be playing better hockey of late. They’re 3-7 in their last 10 games but a respectable 2-2 in their last four. They have the highly skilled Austin Plevy (12-17-29) in their arsenal, along with a solid supporting cast in Zach Diamantoni (4-17-21) and Matthieu Tibbett (6-11-17).
- One revelation has been 17 year-old rookie defenseman Carter Cochrane, younger brother of former Chief forward Tanner Cochrane. Carter has 11 goals and 27 points from the blue-line; a point per-game average for the rookie. He had two goals last night in a losing effort to Powell River. I’m told he skates exceptionally well and obviously can handle himself in the offensive zone. The Vees will have to keep tabs on 27 in crimson tonight.
- Spencer Tremblay, a 20 year-old former Western Leaguer has brought some stability to the Chiefs crease. He’s 2-2 in five starts and owns a very respectable .919 save-percentage; one percentage point better than Hunter Miska but a smaller body of work. He had like an 87 save performance in West Kelowna last Friday or something. Well, it wasn’t that high but he did stop 58 of 61 Warriors shots in a 6-3 win. That’s good.
- Earlier I talked about the Vees needing to have a good start and well, the Chiefs have had struggles playing from behind. They’ve only won once when they surrender the games first goal and have only scored first in 14 of their 27 games. Also have just one win when they trail after the first period. They, like the Vees, will be wanting to have a good first period showing. They did last night, taking a 3-1 lead on the Powell River Kings but the wheels fell off in the second.
On the Broadcast: Courtesy of Marc Fitzgerald, voice of the Chiefs, we’ll air an interview he did with former Chief goalie Mitch Gillam. Gillam scored, yes scored, in his collegiate debut for Cornell last week; some good stuff. In the second intermission we will chat with our Grant Kings Men’s Wear Player of the Month for November (you’ll find out who at puck drop).
Mo Update: Thanks to all those who’ve generously donated to the teams Movember Campaign. WAIT?!? You haven’t?!? Well you still have until midnight! Click on that great looking ‘stache over on the right-hand side —>