Radio: EZ Rock AM 800
Watch: Fasthockey Pay-Per-View
The Penticton Vees look to hold serve on home ice tonight, as they host the Merritt Centennials in game two of their best-of-seven Interior Division Semi-Final series. The Vees took a 1-0 series lead Tuesday after an 8-0 drubbing of the Cents’ at the SOEC.
Seven players combined for eight goals, which all came in the last thirty-minutes of the game Tuesday. Cody DePourcq, Shane McColgan and Matt Serratore led the way offensively, as the three each had a goal and three points; Brad McClure was the only Vee to score twice. Olivier Mantha stopped all twenty shots he faced to pick up his first career playoff shutout in his first career playoff start.
After a scoreless first period, McClure, Serratore and DePourcq scored in a four-minute stretch midway through the second period. Then it was Cam Amantea scoring just twenty-eight seconds into the third, which kick-started a five-goal period for the Vees.
Merritt was held to single-digit shots in both the first and third periods and were shutout by the Vees for the first time this season; Tuesday was the fourth time this year the Vees held Merritt to one goal or less in a game.
One line that stepped to the forefront was the trio of Riley Alferd, Jack Ramsey and Matt Serratore, as the y combined for two goals and seven points and swept the three stars.
The Vees will ice the same line-up as Tuesday, with the only change being in goal, as Hunter Miska will make his first career playoff start. Josh Blanchard and Max Coatta will be the scratches up front.
Merritt will be looking for split in Penticton before they head home for games three and four starting Friday at Nicola Valley Arena. Tuesday was the first time since December 13th the Cents’ have been kept off the scoresheet; they lost 2-0 to West Kelowna on that night.
The Cents’ were without Dane Birks, Diego Cuglietta and Rhett Wilcox in game one; Birks was a late scratch. No word as of yet if any of the three will be in the line-up for game two, but one thing is almost certain is Devin Kero will get the call between the pipes. Kero was lifted five-minutes into the third period, after he allowed five goals on 37 shots; the hook more for rest than anything else.
Puck drop is schedule for 7pm at the SOEC and fans cane tune-in to EZ Rock AM 800 for the pre-game show starting at 6:30pm. The game is also available online view Fasthockey pay-per-view.
- Hunter Miska will be making his first career playoff start, as he gets the call between the pipes for the Vees. Miska had great numbers this season against Merritt, posting a 2-1-1-1 record, with a 2.08 GAA and a .929 SV %. His dad is in town watching and that should be another motivating factor for the Vees puck-stopper.
- Outside of the goalie switcheroo, no other changes for the Vees tonight. All four lines and all three D pairings are the same. Josh Blanchard and Max Coatta will be the scratches up front.
- Looking back at the history book, the Vees are now have 13-1 record against the Cents’ in the playoffs. They sported a 12-1 mark in three previous series heading into game one Tuesday; 7-1 at home now. Can’t read into the numbers too much, as players and coaches change so much at this level but an interesting stat nonetheless.
- I’ll bring it up one more time, the depth the Vees showed on Tuesday was impressive and encouraging especially considering the setting. Seven Vees scored eight of their goals and a couple snapped scoring droughts. All four lines finished with at least one goal and they Vees even got some scoring from their back-end; another plus. Paul Stoykewych snapped a 29-game goalless drought and Matt Serratore finished with three points after going pointless in his previous nine. Apparently all the success is going to his head, as he blew me off for an interview tonight; he forgot in all seriousness.
- Three players I expect to have a big impact tonight, even though they didn’t score Tuesday: Travis Blanleil, Steen Cooper and Ben Dalpe. I thought all three had monster games last night and deserved to get on the scoresheet. Cooper hasn’t scored in 12 games and that’s not from a lack of effort or chances; he’s due. Dalpe had a couple of chances last night and from quality areas. Blanleil continues to do Blanleil things and that helps you win games in the post-season.
- Another interesting nugget, Tuesday was the fourth time in eight games against Merritt the Vees have held them to one goal or less. Despite losing twice to Merritt this season, the Cents’ have only scored more than two goals against them once. Including last night, the Cents’ have scored just 10 goals against the Vees in 8 games. The Cents’ scored that many goals in their last two games of the regular season.
- And another nugget: Brad McClure now has nine goals and 17 points in 14 career games against Merritt.
- More goodies: Shane McColgan was a team best +4 last night against the Centennials.
- Two team keys tonight: speed and pressure. Those two elements stood out last night in a big way. The Vees speed was a problem for Merritt to handle, especially through the neutral zone and in their own end. The pressure was the Vees relentless fore-check that forced quite a bit of turnovers, in particualr at or near the Merritt blue-line; they wore them out. The Vees need to do more of that tonight, attack Merritt deep in their own end and don’t give them any time or space.
- One more key: Score first. The Vees looked like a weight was lifted off their shoulders when they finally got that first one in the second period last night. If they can go up early on Merritt again, doubt might start creeping in their heads. I’ve heard this analogy a millions times before but I find it appropriate: the Vees can’t let Merritt back up off the canvas.
- Tuesday was the first time the Cents’ have been shutout since December 13th, when they were blanked 2-0 in West Kelowna.
- Merritt can fall back on history for some comfort. After dropping game one of the Interior Final to the Vees in 2012 5-0, they rebounded with a 4-3 win in game two to earn the split. Tyler Martin and Payton Schaefer are the only two holdovers from that squad.
- According to the line-up they submitted, add Jason Bird to the injury list. Bird was hurt sometime in the second or third period last night, as I didn’t see him for the majority of the third. Bird joins Diego Cuglietta and Rhett Wilcox as the other two injured Cents’. Bird is a big loss but this team has played without him before this season and have found success. During a key stretch late in February, Merritt was without Bird, Dane Birks and Devin Kero but managed to stay in the thick of the playoff hunt, before grabbing the final spot.
- After missing last night’s contest Dane Birks is listed as playing on the blue-line. He was a late scratch just before warm-up of game one; something to keep an eye on.
- With the Bird injury, Merritt will dress 11 forwards and six defensemen. Devin Kero will start.