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- Fourth time the lucky charm? The Vees are looking for their first win in four tries against Salmon Arm. So far, the ‘Backs have won the first three meetings of this eight game season series; the most recent a 3-2 overtime win. There can be an asterisk beside one of the games, as on October 26th the Vees were missing three of their top six defensemen due to the World Junior ‘A’ Challenge camp; the coaches won’t use that as an excuse but it was a definite disadvantage.
- Line-up news: Just when the Vees thought they had everyone going, they have another player go down. Nic Pierog likely won’t play tonight, as he’s suffering from a bout of strep throat; fun. The biggest obstacle this season for the Vees, hasn’t been necessarily physical injuries (muscle related) but sickness. Odd season, where several players have missed games due to various ailments (Knocks on every piece of wood-based office feature). Pierog is out but the Vees do get Max Coatta back in the line-up after he missed six games with an upper-body injury. Coatta’s speed and experience down the middle will soften the blow of missing Pierog.
- Cam Amantea misses his third game, as he finishes serving his three-game suspension tonight; eligible to return tomorrow in Salmon Arm.
- Olivier Mantha gets the start for the Vees, which means Hunter Miska is your likely starter tomorrow. Mantha was fantastic in Vernon last Friday, arguably one of his best outings of the season. He’s 15-6-0 on the year, with a 2.28 goals-against average, while maintaining a .911 save-percentage. Mantha has been great against the Interior, as he’s 7-2 with a .917 save-percentage.
- The Vees are looking to stretch their winning streak to three games and finish a tough January schedule on a winning note. January featured 10 games on the Vees schedule, all 10 against their division and so far they have a respectable 5-2-1-1 record this month. They last won three in a row January 5th-11th.
- If the Vees win tonight, they would match their second-best total for wins in a month. In September and November they won six games and their season-best is a seven win December.
- Look at it this way, if they win tonight, the Vees would finish January with a 6-2-1-1 mark, which is a .700 winning-percentage. Any team would take that mark in any month of the season, especially one riddled with divisional match ups.
- 11 goals in the last two games, after scoring just nine in their previous five. What’s changed? For starters, the team has found their consistency after spotty efforts the week prior. It’s cliché but a full sixty-minute effort is usually the difference between a win and a loss this time of year. During their losing streak, the Vees were guilty of easing off the gas and allowing their opponents back into games. Last weekend the Vees played with pace but did so from start to finish and didn’t have any “off moments.”
- Secondly, they’ve been finishing their opportunities, something that plagued them during their three-game slide. The Vees have been going to the tough areas and banging home pucks. When they were struggling, they weren’t getting to the scoring areas enough. The majority of their last 11 goals have come within eight feet of the net.
- That hard-nose, blue-collar type approach will help them on the special teams front, which has been dominated by the Silverbacks. The Vees have yet to earn a power-play on home ice in two games against Salmon Arm and have had just three looks on the power-play in the season series. As Fred Harbinson told the Penticton Herald ” We’ve got to push the pace with our speed in areas that force them (Salmon Arm) to take penalties.” The ‘Backs haven’t been choir boys by any means but the Vees haven’t made life hard enough on them either. Speed kills. The Vees need to turn up the pressure on the fore-check and in the transition department. If you can get your opponents chasing, then you’ll start drawing the hooking and holding penalties.
- The Vees will have to find a way to maximize their depth tonight, as the ‘Backs will be missing both Evan Anderson and Alex Gillies; two-thirds of the vaunted “GAS” line. That’s 41 goals and 95 points missing from the Salmon Arm line-up. The Vees still will have to contend with BCHL scoring leader Landon Smith, who is a handful on his own. But if they can keep Smith in check, that forces more “secondary” types to try to score for Salmon Arm, they’ll be in good shape.
- I’m circling the first twenty-minutes as key. The Vees are 20-2-1-3 when leading after one, whereas the Silverbacks are 3-8-0-1 when trailing after the first period. Salmon Arm will already be short-staffed and if you can get them to play catch up, that will just compound matters for them.
Vees Scoring vs Salmon Arm:
Cody DePourcq 2-0-2 Travis Blanleil 0-2-2
Chris Rygus 0-2-2 Cam Amantea 1-0-1
Riley Alferd 1-0-1 Erik Benoit 1-0-1
Josh Blanchard 1-0-1 Max Coatta 1-0-1
Alex Coulombe 0-1-1 Shane McColgan 0-1-1
Jack Ramsey 0-1-1 Matt Serratore 0-1-1
- Again, the biggest news coming out of the Silverbacks camp is who isn’t playing, rather than who is playing tonight. The ‘Backs are without Alex Gillies, Evan Anderson, Colton Thibault and goaltender Adam Clark; all key pieces.
- Obviously I don’t have to explain the impact of the absences of Anderson and Clark, as they’re two-thirds of the ‘Backs scoring line. Thibault is an underrated player in my books, a very good two-way forward, who was on a good checking-line with Alex Jewell and Taylor Maruya . Adam Clark has been lights-out for Salmon Arm this season against the Vees, posting a 3-0-0 record and a sparkling .935 save-percentage.
- With Clark out, it’s the first look, this season, we get at Angus Redmond. The 18-year-old goaltender, committed to Michigan Tech, is 9-5-0-3 on the season with a 2.89 goals-against average and has a respectable .909 save-percentage. Redmond has faced the Vees before, getting a couple starts last season, including the playoffs and has played at the SOEC before; the ‘Backs goaltending is in capable hands.
- After dropping four-straight, Salmon Arm has suddenly rattled off three-straight wins heading into tonight’s action. They beat the Vees on January 18th, Vernon the following afternoon and Surrey last Saturday. Their recent run has them one point up on Merritt for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Interior Division.
- Big stretch of games for the Silverbacks, including tonight, their next four games are against Penticton and second place West Kelowna. Salmon Arm plays the Vees five times in their final 12 regular season games. Their success against Penticton in the final month of the season, can very well dictate where they finish in the standings.
- Very interesting quote from Silverbacks Head Coach Troy Mick, on why he doesn’t worry about trying to motivate his players for this game, “When you’re playing a team like Penticton, it’s like when teams play the Pittsburgh Penguins. They know they are going to have to be (at) their best to beat them. You shouldn’t have to motivate guys to play them.” Clearly, the ‘Backs will be fired up and ready for this one, despite missing four regulars; they won’t be a push-over tonight.
Silverbacks Scoring vs Penticton:
Mitch Ferguson 0-4-4 Landon Smith 3-0-3
Evan Anderson 2-1-3 Alex Gillies 2-1-3
Max Becker 1-1-2 Blake Box 0-2-2
Andrew Farny 0-2-2 Cole McCaskill 0-2-2
Jack Berezan 1-0-1 Jeff Kennedy 1-0-1
Bryden Marsh 1-0-1 Thomas Plese 1-0-1
Connor Brown-Maloski 1-0-1 Nic Josephs 0-1-1
Brendan Kennedy 0-1-1 Colton Thibault 0-1-1