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- Two incentives, like they need them, for the Vees heading into tonight’s match with Vernon. One, they only need a single point to secure a playoff spot and two, a regulation win clinches them no worse than second in the Interior. They obviously want to beat their Okanagan Valley rival, especially on home ice but now have extra incentives; two carrots dangle in front of them.
- IF, the Vees do win and lock up at least second, they would start the playoffs, in the first round, at home starting on Tuesday March 4th. But lets not get ahead of our selves. Its been a grueling year in this very competitive division and it would be somewhat rewarding, knowing they’ve secured a playoff spot tonight.
- The Vees have won three in a row, and a win tonight matches their second-longest win streak of the season. They won eight in a row from November 30th-December 15th. Their second longest streak is four, which they put together September 6th-14th.
- Why haven’t they gone on a role post-Christmas? Just look at their schedule. Its been a heavy divisional schedule these past seven weeks, as they’ve been facing teams that are fighting for their playoff lives. If you ask me, the “playoffs” started back on January 3rd. It feels like every game has had more importance post-Christmas. So far they’ve responded very well, posting a 8-4-1-1 mark since January 3rd. I’ll bring it up again, the Vees were 13-8-2 post-Christmas last year. Right now, they own a .643 winning-percentage since Christmas but still have seven games left. Last year they had a .608 winning-percentage post-Christmas. They’re ahead of last year.
- The Vees are looking for their fifth straight win against the Vipers and sweep the home portion of their season series with Vernon. The Vipers won the first meeting 3-1 back on September 25th but the Vees ripped off four straight W’s. They thumped the Vipers, no other way around it, 6-1 back on January 24th.
- A key in the Vees three-game streak? Not playing from behind. In their last three games, the Vees have led or at worse been tied. That’s 180 minutes of hockey in which they have not trailed. Not once. Games are challenging enough this time of year, playing from behind just makes matters worse. Remember, they’re 23-2-1-3 when they lead after the first, and 25-0-1-2 when leading after forty-minutes.
- Why am I bring this up? Well, these two teams don’t have very good track records trying to come from behind. They’re a combined 5-20-1-2 when trailing going into the third. So, the Vees need to find a way to at least be on even footing going into the third; a lead is even that much better.
- Speed and the transition game go hand-in-hand and its been a big key in the Vees success against Vernon. The Vipers are a big team, no doubting that but the Vees seemed to be a step quicker in the last meeting and that speed seemed to cause problems for Vernon. Penticton will need to have that same mindset tonight, have their feet moving early; make Vernon chase.
- If you can get Vernon to chase, then there’s a good chance they’ll fall into penalty trouble. The Vees own the league’s best power-play (23 %) and have the third-best man-advantage at home (20 %). Vernon meanwhile, has struggled in the special teams department this season, for the most part its been their power-play, but the PK is only 79 percent on the road; 11th in the BCHL. Specials teams are critical in the playoffs and tonight might be the difference between a win and a loss. The Vees need to win the special teams battle.
- Olivier Mantha, who’s been under the weather the last week and change, will get the start tonight against Vernon. Hunter Miska had started the last four games for the Vees and this is Mantha’s first start since January 31st. Mantha actually faced the Vipers when these two teams last played and was brilliant, stopping 31 of 32 shots; Mantha is 2-0 against the Vipers.
- Cam Amantea and Alex Coulombe are out for tonight, as Riley Alferd will drop back and play defense alongside Chris Rygus. Coulombe won’t play this weekend, as he’s back home in Quebec attending to a personal matter; he’ll be back next week. Alferd is no stranger to the blue-line, as he played defense in the USHL and growing up playing the position through minor hockey. He has looked right at home manning the point on the power-play and didn’t look out-of-place when he had shifts on the back-end last week.
- Ben Dalpe is back in after battling a stomach virus last weekend and will skate alongside Nic Pierog and Shane McColgan.
STAT PACK (Via Trevor Miller)
Vees vs. Interior: 18-9-1-2
Scoring vs. VER:
DePourcq 5-3-8 Benoit 2-1-3 Hilderman 1-0-1
Coatta 4-1-5 Blanchard 1-2-3 Alferd 0-1-1
Beauvais 1-4-5 Pierog 1-2-3 Ramsey 0-1-1
McClure 2-2-4 Cooper 0-3-3 Rygus 0-1-1
Blanleil 1-3-4 McColgan 1-1-2
Dalpe 0-4-4 Stoykewych 0-2-2
DePourcq: 4 game point streak (2-3-5)
Last 5 Games:
Record: 3-2-0-0 (14 GF, 10 GA)
PP: 8/33 (24.24%)
PK: 22/24 (91.67%)
Since Trade Deadline: 7-4-0-1
Vees Post-Christmas Record: 8-4-1-1 (13-8-0-2 post-Christmas break last season)
Miska: Won last 3 starts
Benoit: 14 GP without taking a penalty
Vees: Have had the lead or shared it for 3 straight games (span of 180:00)
Goals: McClure (37) (2nd in BCHL)
Assists: Beauvais (42) (T-3rd in BCHL)
Points: McClure (71) (2nd in BCHL)
PIMs: Sexton (56) (T-44th in BCHL)
PPG: McClure (12) (2nd in BCHL)
PPA: Beauvais (22) (2nd in BCHL)
SHG: Pierog (3) (T-5th in BCHL)
- Vernon has won three of their last five and are 2-0-1-2 in their last five road games. They haven’t lost in regulation on the road since January 17th. Yes, they’ve got just two wins on the road during that stretch but they’re at least picking up points. Points on the road, in this division, at this time of year are worth their weight in gold bullion.
- Vernon has been without Mason Blacklock since these two teams last played on January 24th. Blacklock was hurt in that game, if I recall it was somewhere in second period, and hasn’t hit the ice since. They’ve gone 3-1-1-1 since his latest injury, a pretty good mark without, when healthy, arguably their best player.
- Helping their cause, has been the play of their goaltender Austin Smith, who’s tonight’s starter. Smith is one week removed from his BCHL Player of the Week award and with Danny Todosychuk out with injury, has been shouldering the load between the pipes. Smith is 3-1-0-1 in his last five starts with a 2.21 goals-against average, while sporting .929 save percentage; there’s a shutout in their too. The Vipers will need more of that down the stretch to clinch a post-season berth.
- Discipline will be a major focus for the Vipers ahead of tonight’s tilt with the Vees. Penalty trouble has been their kryptonite, somewhat, in this season series. It may not be taking a lot of penalties but when they’ve taken against the Vees. Their PK is only operating at 75 percent against the Vees and it’s just 11th on the road. They can’t afford to start a parade to the penalty box. The PK has allowed a power-play goal in each of their last three games. However, the PK has been trending in the right direction, as its humming along at 89 percent in the last five games.
- Dexter Dancs has elevated his game with the absence of Mason Blacklock. Dancs has put together a six-game point streak, where he has five goals and eight points; two of those goals came Wednesday in Trail.
STAT PACK (Via Trevor Miller)
Vees vs. Interior: 15-9-1-4
Scoring vs. PEN:
Hannoun 0-5-5 Saharchuk 0-2-2 McNicholas 0-1-1
Dancs 2-1-3 Citron 1-0-1 Renz 0-1-1
Mick 1-2-3 Dumonceaux 1-0-1 Statchuk 0-1-1
Blacklock 1-1-2 Wilson 1-0-1
Guenther 1-1-2 Bryan 0-1-1
Persley 1-1-2 Coughlin 0-1-1
Dancs: 5-3-8 in last 6 games
Last 5 Games:
Record: 3-1-0-1 (21 GF, 12 GA)
PP: 3/21 (15.00%)
PK: 23/27 (89.29%)
Since Trade Deadline: 4-5-1-2
Scoring: In the last 5 games, 3 wins: 5 or more goals, 2 losses: 2 or less goals
Last 10 games vs. PEN: 3-6-0-1 (21 GF, 33 GA)
Last 5 games in PEN: 1-3-0-1 (12 GF, 19 GA)
Goals: Mulcahy (28) (T-6th in BCHL)
Assists: McNicholas (43) (3rd in BCHL)
Points: McNicholas (64) (T-5th in BCHL)
PIMs: Wilson (77) (14th in BCHL)
PPG: Mulcahy (10) (T-4th in BCHL)
PPA: McNicholas (12) (T-11th in BCHL)
SHG: Blacklock (1) (T-15th in BCHL)