- I think the blog title is fitting when you look back at this game. The Vees looked like a “hungry” team, no I don’t mean they didn’t have a sufficient pre-game meal. When I say hungry, I’m talking about how they were hard on the puck, were quick to get to loose pucks and won a lot of battles in the corners and a long the boards. Basically, this team played with a hint of desperation and it showed.
- You could sense their determination right away; like on the opening shift. The Trench line lobs the puck into the Merritt zone off the opening face-off, then win a race to the puck, and then Cody DePourcq wheels out on the wrap-around to score just 13 seconds in. That goal set the tone.
- Speaking of the Trench Line and tone setters, would be remiss not to mention Travis Blanleil. Yes, he took a pair of penalties but his massive hit on Jason Bird also was a key moment. At the time, the Vees just scored and Blanleil absolutely leveled the much bigger Bird with a great shoulder-to-the-chest hit. Blanleil answered Scott Patterson’s invitation to drop the gloves and landed a couple of good shots before the take down. If the Vees weren’t on the right track before that sequence, they certainly were after. After the Blanleil hit and scrap, the Vees cranked it up a few notches and scored twice more before the period ended. Oh, and how about his dish to Brad McClure on his second goal late in the second period? Yeah, McClure made a heck of a play but a play like that needs a pass like Blanleil’s.
- How about the new guys? Both Erik Benoit and Nic Pierog looked very good in their home debuts; it was Pierog’s first game as a Vee. Benoit finished with three assists and was named the second star and was unlucky to not have scored. He had at least two quality scoring chances that come to mind and both of those were dekes close to the net that he couldn’t finish off. Pierog also had a handful of chances to put the puck in the net and he hit the post. Pierog didn’t look out-of-place on a line with Ben Dalpe and Brad McClure and the three seemed to have instant chemistry. Speaking of chemistry, Benoit and his new line-mates in Steen Cooper and Jack Ramsey combined for two goals and six points. All three were very good at pressuring the Cents’ on the fore-check and both Ramsey’s and Cooper’s goals were the result of pressuring the puck carrier.
- Remember, Benoit had only one full practice underneath his belt and Pierog didn’t even step on the ice with his new team before this afternoon’s contest. Both bring plenty of experience AND championships but also much-needed size and poise. Just wait until the two get settled in.
- Nice to see the power-play get on the scoresheet but more importantly it looked dangerous again. It will go in the books as a 1-5 performance but the Vees could have easily had two / three power-play goals this afternoon. They were plagued by miss cues with open nets and were the victim of a handful of untimely bounces. For me, it was good to see both PP units zip the puck around and create opportunities. Once you’re stagnate, you’re in trouble. Cooper had a great setup to McClure on the Vees only power-play goal. The face-off was won to Cooper, who then kept his feet moving, found some open ice before zipping a saucer pass across to McClure on the back-door.
- Defensively, it was a pretty tidy performance from the Vees, who again, held their opponent to less than 30 shots on home ice. Single-digit shots against in the first and third period and yes they did give up “15” in the second but scoring chance wise, I don’t think Merritt had a whole lot in that frame. Show of hands who were puzzled by the shot clock tonight? Oh, so I’m not in the minority on that one. Good.
- The only time the Vees were really in trouble in their own end is when they fumbled the puck and guess what, that’s when Merritt scored. I can only think of those two occasions where the Vees weren’t smart with the puck inside their own zone. If it’s only going to be a couple of times a game, I think the coaching staff can live with that. For the most part, they got to pucks quickly, made quick but smart decisions and never really got themselves in trouble inside their blue-line.
- Vees now have a handful of days off between games before a big showdown with the Vipers in Vernon next Friday. That will be fun.