Radio: EZ ROCK AM 800
Watch: Fasthockey Pay-Per-View
(*Missed last nigh’s game, you can find my recap HERE.)
- A few more line-up changes for the Vees ahead of tonight’s rematch with the Salmon Arm Silverbacks. Nic Pierog will dress tonight after sitting out last night’s game, as he was battling strep throat; his size and presence will be welcomed. Cam Amantea also returns tonight after serving a three-game suspension for his hit on Salmon Arm’s Evan Anderson. Out for tonight is Josh Blanchard and Ben Dalpe; the latter sustaining a lower-body injury last night.
- Hunter Miska gets the call between the pipes and it will be his third start against Salmon Arm this season. Miska is 14-5-2-4 on the season, with a 2.26 goals-against average and a .915 save-percentage. He loves playing on the road too, as he sports a 6-3-2-1 record but owns a tidy 2.14 goals-against, while maintaining a sparkling .934 save-percentage.
- The Vees lines will some new looks with the personnel changes, most notably Riley Alferd moving up to play in Ben Dalpe’s spot on the third line. Too bad about “Dalps” as he and his new line-mates had something going on that third unit. Alferd played one of his better games of the season last night, a real determined effort, and will slot in nicely with Cody DePourcq and Jack Ramsey.
- At first, I thought it was an odd marriage having Matt Serratore on a line with Nic Pierog and Brad McClure, but those three seem to have some chemistry in last weekend’s games. Mind you it was just two games the trio had together before Pierog was saddled with an illness. But Serratore’s speed and work ethic is a nice complement to Pierog’s size and McClure’s skill. I look forward to seeing what these three can do.
- The story is getting old but once again, the Vees struggled with their execution in Friday’s loss. The good news? They were earning their opportunities, going to the contested scoring areas. The bad news? Once they got into a scoring position, they struggled to hit the net. Several opportunities, from prime scoring areas either sailed high or well wide. I don’t know how you go about correcting that, but all I know is this team needs to make the most of their opportunities; don’t let the other team off the hook.
- As the graphic indicates, the Vees are not struggling in the special teams department when it comes to execution, its five-on-five play. Again, they’re earning their chances which is a good sign but there needs to be more polish.
- When the Vees are held to two goals or less they’re 3-9-2-4. When they score three or more they’re 26-3. Goals aren’t easy to come by this time of year but the math shows this team needs to get to three; that’s their threshold.
- Need to see more shots going towards the Salmon Arm net. You don’t earn any style points for goals, they all count the same, either if its a breakaway dangle or a garbage goal in the crease. The Vees can’t be selective tonight when the get into the offensive end. Get the puck towards the net quickly and look for rebounds. Swarm the Salmon Arm net.
- Another key stat? They have to find a way to be ahead or at least on equal footing going into the third period. The ideal scenario is to have a lead, on the road, heading into the final period of regulation. THEY HAVEN’T LOST IN REGULATION THIS SEASON WHEN LEADING AFTER FORTY-MINUTES (22-0-1-2). Sorry, I had something in my throat. The Vees are a combined 28-3-1-3 when ahead or tied after two periods. 1-9-1-1 when trailing after two.
- One final thing, they need to get to the Salmon Arm net more consistently. Again, it ain’t easy to do that this time of year, in the stretch drive, as everyone seems to tighten their belt, so to speak. But their success this season has come from one, two guys going hard down the middle looking for the garbage off a shot. Goals off the rush are nice and all, but the majority of goals this time of year are going to be scored in and around the crease.
- Salmon Arm is looking for their fifth win in a row and fourth in a row against a divisional opponent. I got the sense this club plays with a hint of desperation and you can see why, as they’re in a dog fight with Merritt for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Interior.
- Impressive was last night’s win, considering they were missing two-thirds of their top line, their starting goaltender and a key member of the usual third line. Troy Mick said pre-game they needed a “pack mentality” in order to win and they showed that last night. Not an overly complicated approach last night, as it was getting pucks in deep on the fore-check and trying to win foot races and the battles for contested pucks. They played a north-south game that had a noticeable physical element to it.
- Have to make mention of their D-core, as it’s an impressive feat to hold the Vees to just one goal on home ice. I thought their best defender last night was Mitch Ferguson, who might have played the most minutes for Salmon Arm. We all know what he can do offensively but I was impressed by what he did away from the puck. He blocked a lot of shots, was good in front of his net and played the angles well. I can’t recall him getting beat on any one-on-one plays, and that’s no surprise due to his skating ability. Ferguson seems to be rounding out his game and it showed Friday.
- Last night was the first power-play goal the ‘Backs surrendered in three games and the first this season to the Vees. Salmon Arm isn’t taking a whole lot of penalties of late, as they seem to be straddling that line perfectly.
- The ‘Backs are 18-7-1-3 when Landon Smith scores. 6-10-0-2 when he doesn’t. Smith has four goals in as many games this season against the Vees. Penticton will need to find a way to keep Smith off the scoresheet.
- The ‘Backs were missing four regulars last night and likely will be missing a couple of those same guys tonight. Who will be in? Or who will be out? Is what everyone wants to know.