Radio: EZ Rock AM 800
Watch: Fasthockey Pay-Per-View
The Penticton Vees (25-9-2-3) look to stoke the flames with an old rival tonight, when they travel north to face the Vernon Vipers (21-11-3-4) at Kal-Tire Place (KTP). It’s a showdown between the two top teams in the Interior Division, the Vees coming into the game with a six-point cushion on the second place Vipers.
The Vees are coming off a 6-2 romp over the Merritt Centennials Sunday afternoon, a game in which five different Vees scored and eight hit the scoresheet. Brad McClure led all scorers that afternoon, as he bagged a pair of goals and finished with three points. Erik Benoit, who was making his home debut, did so in style as he picked up three assists. Travis Blanleil (0-2-2) and Steen Cooper (1-1-2) also had multi-point afternoons.
Much of the spotlight today revolves around the CJHL and BCHL roster deadline. Teams have up until 6pm today to conduct inter-branch trades (BCHL-CJHL) and trades within the BCHL trade have to be finalized before 8pm. The Vees are at the league maximum 22-man roster and are carrying the league maximum of six 20-year-olds. For the latest news involving the Vees today, follow Fraser Rodgers on Twitter (@VeesVoice) or the team account (@PentictonVees).
November 20th was the last time these two long-time rivals met, and it was the Vees skating to a 5-2 victory, buoyed by a four-goal second period. The Vees have won the last two encounters with the Vipers (5-2 & 6-5 [OT]), since the Vernon took the season opener 3-1 back on September 21st. Tonight is the Vees first trip back to Vernon since that loss.
Cody DePourcq leads all Vees in scoring versus Vernon this season, with three goals and six points. He had a goal and two helpers in their 5-2 win over the Snakes on November 20th. Closely following DePourcq is Max Coatta (4-1-5), Travis Blanleil (1-3-4) and Brad McClure (2-1-3). Hunter Miska has started two of the three match ups against the Vipers and holds a 1-1 record with a 2.50 goals-against average and a .904 save-percentage. Olivier Mantha did get the start Sunday afternoon, so all indications point to Miska getting the start tonight; he’s 12-3-2-3 with a 2.33 goals-against average and a .915 save-percentage.
On the injury front, today is the day Josh Blanchard is activated off the Injured Reserve, as he’s been out since November 10th with a lower-body ailment. Blanchard has been practicing regularly with the team and will likely get back in the line-up this weekend.
Like the Vees, the Vipers have added two new faces to the fold, picking up Brett Mulcahy from the Surrey Eagles and the playing rights of Dylan Chanter from the Merritt Centennials; Chanter was with the USHL’s Dubuque Fighting Saints earlier this year. Both Mulcahy and Chanter are expected to make their Viper debuts against the Vees this evening; Mulcahy will be playing against former teammate Nic Pierog for the first time.
The Vipers have been a bit hot and cold of late, as they’ve dropped three of their last five and are 6-4-0 in their last 10 games. They are however, coming off a hard-fought 3-2 win over the Nanaimo Clippers last Saturday and are 11-3-3-3 at KTP this season. Like the Vees, the Vipers have a good record within their own division, posting a 11-6-1-3 mark against the Interior.
Californian Michael McNicholas leads the way upfront for Vernon, as the Manhattan Beach product has 19 goals and a team-best 53 points in 39 games. Former Vee Dexter Dancs is second in team scoring with 17 goals and 44 points. Mulcahy is the team’s leading goal-scorer, as he brings his 23 goals over with him from Surrey. The Vipes top scoring defensemen is Jared Wilson, who has five goals and 26 points from the blue-line.
Austin Smith seems to have asserted himself as the number one in-goal, for now anyways, as he’s started six of the last seven games for Vernon. The former Swift Current Bronco is 10-6-3-2 with a 2.74 goals-against average and a .913 save-percentage.
These two meet again back in Vernon on January 24th, before the Vipers pay their final visit to the SOEC this season on February 14th; the season series wraps-up in Vernon on February 22nd.