It’s a quick turnaround for the Penticton Vees, as less than 24 hours after beating the Merritt Centennials 5-4 they’re back at home, hosting the Surrey Eagles at the SOEC at 6pm. The Vees and Eagles are playing for the first time since April 21st, when the Eagles won game six of the Fred Page Cup in double-overtime; championship clinching goal scored by Adam Tambellini.
They’re only eight holdovers, four on each side, from that playoff series last spring as both rosters have gone under significant makeovers.
As mentioned, the Vees gutted out a 5-4 win in Merritt one night ago. Captain Brad McClure wore the hero cape again, as he scored twice in the third period, including the game-winner with just forty seconds left in regulation. Brett Beauvais, Anthony Conti and Steen Cooper also found the back of the net for the Vees. They had three separate two-goal leads in the game (2-0, 3-1 & 4-2) but had trouble shaking the pesky Cents’. The power-play was red-hot, as the Vees went 3-5 on the man-advantage and bumped up their league-best power-play to over 24 percent.
Hunter Miska was terrific in-goal, stopping 38 of 42 shots to pick up his tenth win. Miska was at his best in the second period, when the Cents’ threw 15 pucks his way and only Diego Cuglietta snuck a shot by him. Miska had two eye-popping saves on Friday, once robbing Daniel Nachbaur on a Cents’ two-on-one rush, and then making a miraculous leg save on Jeff Wight at the top of the crease.
The Vees will go with 11 forwards up front again tonight, as Kienan Scott has been called up from the Summerland Steam. Scott started the season with the Alberni Valley Bulldogs and leads the Steam in scoring with 11 goals and 25 points in 19 games; he’ll wear number 23 tonight. The only other change comes in-goal, as Olivier Mantha will look to win back-to-back starts after Wednesday’s 4-1 win over the Cents’. Still sidelined are Cam Amantea and Josh Blanchard, both out with injury and Travis Blanleil is serving his second game of a two-game ban; he’s eligible to return on Wednesday.
Matthew Dawson, Colton Mackie, Brett Mulcahy and Nicolas Pierog are the only holdovers from last year’s Fred Page and Western Canada Cup championship team, which advanced all the way to the RBC Cup in Summerside, PEI. The Eagles are coming off a 4-3 come-from-behind win in West Kelowna on Friday, a game in which they scored three third period goals; they’ve won three of their last five games coming into tonight.
- The Vees own the league’s second-best home record (11-2-0-2), three wins behind the Powell River Kings (14-4-1-0). The Vees are tied for the fewest regulation losses at home too (2) and remember, they’ve played four fewer home games than PR. Their going up against a team that’s right in the middle of the pack when it comes to road records. The Eagles are 7-8-0-0 on the road this season, which is 9th-best out of 16 teams; though they’ve dropped six of their last eight road games.
- On the second game of back-to-backs, the Vees are a respectable 6-2-1-2, outscoring the opposition 43-29 (+14 goal differential).
- Will fatigue be a factor? Both teams played last night, both on the road. The Vees only had 11 forwards at their disposal last night and the Eagles also just had 11 regular forwards in their line-up Friday. The Eagles dressed 12 but Danny Vlanich, who’s penciled in as the fourth-line center tonight, is a defenseman playing out of position. Not one team has a distinct advantage over the other coming in, but whose legs will hold up as the game moves into the second and third?
- Kienan Scott is the Vees AP tonight, as mentioned above, he’s from the Summerland Steam, where he leads his team in scoring. He’s not unfamiliar with the Vees or the BCHL, as he started the season with the Alberni Valley Bulldogs.
- Olivier Mantha starts tonight and has solid numbers against the Mainland Division this season. He’s holds a 2.12 goals-against average and owns a .905 save-percentage against Mainland teams; he’s also has one shutout (versus PG).
- Brad McClure doesn’t appear to be cooling off anytime soon. The Vees Captain now has the outright lead in goal-scoring in the BCHL (24) with his two from last night. He’s riding a five-game point streak, where he has seven goals and 12 points.
- Brett Beauvais is right behind McClure, as the rear-guard extended his point streak to five games too. His first period power-play goal on Friday, pushes his goal-scoring streak to four games. During the point-streak, Beauvais has four goals and nine points.
- Ben Dalpe quietly extended his point streak to five games as well. Dalpe chipped in with two assists last night and now has two goals and six points in five games.
- Dalpe’s and McClure’s new line-mate, Steen Cooper, is fitting in nicely in Vees land. In two games, Cooper has a goal and three points. He scored his first as a Vee and fourth of the season last night on the power-play in the third period.
- Vees will be looking to do something tonight, they haven’t done since September 14th; that’s win four-in-a-row. That night, in Trail, the Vees won 7-0 and won their fourth in a row to start the season. Since then, their longest winning streak is three games, which was matched with last night’s win.
- The power-play is red-hot, as it was 3-5 last night in the win and is humming along at a hair under 37 percent in the last five games (7/19). The Eagles PK in ranked 12th and on the road it’s ranked 11th. 13 of their 25 power-play goals against have come on the road. If the Vees conditioning pulls through, they may be able to draw the Eagles into penalty trouble. But they have to keep their feet moving in order for that to happen. Both teams can skate very well but who’s going to win the endurance battle?
- The Eagles are a team that turned over a lot of key pieces from last year and the list reads like a BCHL All-Star team. No Michael Santaguida in net. Devon Toews, Craig Wyszomirksi and Jordan Klimek are not patrolling the blue-line anymore; Ryan Fraser-Lee is out long-term with a lower-body injury. Up front, the Eagles graduated the likes of Brady Shaw, Michael Stenerson, Adam Tambellini and Trevor Cameron. They had to deal Demico Hannoun and Kevin Kilistoff as part of future consideration deals. Compounding matters, is two key returning players are hurt in Captain Brett Mulcahy and Colton Mackie. Nic Pierog is healthy and seems to have picked up where he left off from last spring’s post-season; Pierog has 18 goals (a team best) and 27 points.
- Yes, a lot of talent has left, that’s what happens at this level but the Eagles have done a good job at restocking the cupboards. Twins Jonah and Nathan Renouf are a dangerous 1-2 punch that play on the Eagles top-line. Jonah had two points in Friday’s win and his point streak now sits at six games. Nathan has points in five of his last six and 18 points in just 13 games, since coming off a long-term injury.
- Danton Heinen is making good strides, as the 18 year-old has 13 goals and 29 points and not too far behind is Joseph Drapluk (88-16) and Braeden Russell (6-12-18); the secondary scoring is there.
- Matt Dawson, a young-faced 16-year-old AP that saw ice in the Fred Page Cup last April, is now a 17 year-old that plays on the Eagles top D-pairing with fellow 17 year-old Michael McEachern. By all accounts Joeseph Drapluk’s brother Brian does a lot of heavy lifting as well on the blue-line. Both Dawson and Brian Drapluk each had points in Friday’s win over West-k; Dawson with a pair
- Like Penticton, it appears to be somewhat of a goalie rotation between junior hockey veteran Devon Fordyce and 16 year-old rookie Bo Didur; odd to write that. Fordyce is four years older but just has played one more game than Didur (13). Again, by reading the post-game stories from Friday, it sounded like Didur was terrific in net, stopping 32 shots. This is what Eagles play-caller Chris Wahl wrote when summarizing Didur’s performance against West-K, “Rookie Bo Didur’s 32-save effort included stops that bordered on the impossible.” Didur is penciled in as the starter tonight, going by the line-up sheet the Eagles submitted this morning.
On the Broadcast: I’ll talk with both coaches in our pre-game show that gets going at 5:40pm. In the second intermission, Hunter Miska chats about his 38-save performance on Friday.