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The Penticton Vees (34-16-2-4) and Salmon Arm Silverbacks (25-23-1-7) are set to square-off in a home-and-home series on the final weekend of the BCHL regular season. The Vees are playing for a division regular season pennant; the Silverbacks are playing out the string.
With two games left on the schedule, the Vees are tied on points with the West Kelowna Warriors for top spot and the number one seed in the Interior Division; both have 74 points in 56 games. The Salmon Arm Silverbacks were eliminated from playoff contention on Wednesday, when they dropped a 5-1 decision to the Merritt Centennials.
The Vees look to get back in the win column, after they dropped a 4-3 decision in Vernon to the Vipers last Saturday; though they’re going for their third win in their last four games. The Vees dug themselves a three-goal hole in the first period Saturday, before closing the gap to one early in the second period. But the two teams traded goals over the final 30 minutes, and the Vees modest two-game win streak was snapped.
The Vees have had plenty of up’s and down’s since Christmas, posting a 10-7-1-1 mark since the calendar turned over to 2014; they were 24-9-1-3 prior to the two-week break. This weekend provides an opportunity for the Vees to fine-tune their game ahead of the first round of the Interior Division playoffs, which gets going on Tuesday in Penticton. Also tonight is a chance to get the better of the Silverbacks, who’ve won five of the six meetings this season.
Like they’ve done all season, Olivier Mantha and Hunter Miska will split the duty between the pipes this weekend; however it’s unclear who will get the start tonight. Mantha started last Saturday’s game but was pulled just after 11 minutes of action, after he gave up three goals on just five shots. Miska came in relief and stopped 20 of 21. Miska has the lone win against Salmon Arm but Mantha has the better goals-against average against the ‘Backs.
Travis Blanleil continues to rehab a lower-body injury, as he eyes a return to the line-up in time for the Vees first playoff game. Blanleil was hit awkwardly in a game against Victoria on February 15th and has missed the last three games. Blanleil was working towards a possible return this weekend but if he can’t go, Cam Amantea or Josh Blanchard will fill his spot.
Brad McClure also has his eyes on a BCHL scoring title, as he sits second, behind Salmon Arm’s Landon Smith, in the race for the Brett Hull Trophy. Smith comes into tonight’s action with 43 goals and 80 points, whereas McClure has 39 goals and 77 points. Smith has had quite a bit of success against Penticton this season too, collecting six goals and seven points in six games. McClure has been held to just one goal in six against the Gorillas. However, the Vees Captain seems to be heating up at the right time, as he’s fashioned together three goals and six points during a three-game point streak.
The Vees have yet to win in Salmon Arm this season, dropping 5-2, 4-2 and 4-1 decisions at the Shaw Centre. The Vees last win in Salmon Arm was last spring, when the Vees swept the ‘Backs in the first round of the BCHL playoffs.
Salmon Arm looks to snap an eight-game winless skid that goes back to February 1st, when the last time they beat the Vees, 4-1 at the Shaw Centre. During their eight game slide, the ‘Backs have been outscored 24-10.
Though they’ve been eliminated from post-season contention, the ‘Backs won’t just roll over for the Vees. They’ll have players playing for jobs next season and tonight is their final home game of the year; they’ll be fired up.
The two meet again in Penticton tomorrow to conclude the 2013-2014 BCHL regular season.
Top 5 Scoring vs. SA:
McClure: 3 game point streak (3-3-6)
Beauvais: 3 game point streak (2-2-4)
Pierog: 3 game point streak (3-1-4)
Last 5 Games:
Record: 2-3-0-0 (15 GF, 14 GA)
PP: 5/22 (22.73%)
PK: 16/20 (80.00%)
Since Trade Deadline: 9-7-0-1
Post-Christmas Record: 10-7-1-1 (13-8-0-2 last season)
PP: Goals in last 3 games (5/12)
Goals: McClure (39) (2nd in BCHL)
Assists: Beauvais (44) (4th in BCHL)
Points: McClure (77) (3rd in BCHL)
PIMs: Sexton (62) (T-40th in BCHL)
PPG: McClure (13) (T-1st in BCHL)
PPA: Beauvais (24) (1st in BCHL)
SHG: Pierog (3) (T-5th in BCHL)
Top 5 Scoring vs. PEN:
Plese: 2 assists in last 2 games
Last 5 Games:
Record: 0-3-0-2 (8 GF, 24 GA)
PP: 2/18 (11.11%)
PK: 14/21 (66.67%)
‘Backs Post-Christmas Record: 6-11-0-2 (11-9-1-1 last season)
Month of February:
1-6-0-2 (20 GF, 40 GA),
PP: 4/41 (9.76%),
PK: 30/40 (75.00%)
Goals: Smith (43) (1st in BCHL)
Assists: Smith (37) (T-11th in BCHL)
Points: Smith (80) (1st in BCHL)
PIMs: Box (102) (3rd in BCHL)
PPG: Smith (11) (T-3rd in BCHL)
PPA: Ferguson (13) (T-11th in BCHL)
SHG: Anderson/Gillies/Jewell/J. Kennedy/Maruya/Smith (1) (T-21st in BCHL)