- The Vees will look back at four minutes and wonder what if? They fell asleep for four minutes at the start of the second period and were burned for three goals. The Vipers scored three goals in a 4:11 stretch, to quickly turn a 1-0 deficit into a 3-1 lead. Four minutes where they weren’t themselves, strayed from the details but that’s all Vernon needed.
- What exactly happened at the start of the second? The Vees appeared to have the momentum heading into the period, they did after all have a 1-0 lead after twenty minutes and out shot the Vipers 8-3 in the first. But the Vees looked sleepy early in the middle frame and credit the Vipers for seizing the opportunity. The details they got away from were simple things; things they do every game. On the first Vernon goal, the Vees neglected to pressure the point man, as Dylan Chanter had all sorts of room to tee up the puck. On their second goal, I would venture a guess, the Vees needed to box out Liam Coughlin and not allow him to camp out front for a deflection. On the third goal, it was plain poor puck management when trying to break out of the zone. These little issues weren’t popping up in the first round but did so in the second period tonight and Vernon took full advantage.
- I guess you can say it’s between the ears with this team. These details come down to being mentally sharp and the Vees didn’t have their heads into it early in the second. When the Vees are successful, it’s because players are doing a lot of little things right that leads to positive results. They slacked off somewhat and at this stage, against a team like Vernon, that’s enough to get yourself in trouble.
- It was a good start for the Vees in game one, as Ben Dalpe provided the early fireworks by scoring just twenty-nine seconds into the first. It was a great play at both ends of the ice, as Patrick Sexton blocked a Brett Mulcahy shot, before spotting Ben Dalpe with a pass in the neutral zone. Dalpe cut in on the right-wing and maybe surprised Austin Smith with his quick release, as his wrist-shot went over Smith’s blocker
- It was a pretty good first period by the Vees, as they had the one-goal lead and out shot Vernon 8-3 but for whatever reason, couldn’t carry over that momentum into the second; the playoffs are largely about momentum.
- When looking back on those three, second period goals, the Vees needed some saves but didn’t get them. Not trying to pile on Olivier Mantha after another tough start against Vernon, but he needed to stop that first Vipers goal. Chanter had a clean look at the net but it came from still a ways out. Mantha had a unobstructed view but appeared to give up too much net on that blocker side. Mantha let in two more goals before getting the hook, after allowing three goals on nine shots. Good teams in the playoffs play well defensively but when they slip up, their goaltender is there to bail them out; the Vees didn’t get that tonight.
- You really do feel for Mantha, who probably feels like he’s on an island, as he allowed three goals on nine shots. He will be the first to tell you he would want a redo on the first Vernon goal. The second had some traffic in front and was a nice deflection by Liam Coughlin. The third was the direct result of a quick turnover in the right-circle and a shot that squeezed through his legs, that he wasn’t expecting to have happen. On nights like these, the Vees needed some timely saves but just didn’t get it. Mantha was also pulled in his last start against Vernon, when he allowed three goals on five shots. You wonder if that start effected him tonight after that first Vernon goal? He just didn’t look his usual confident self and you hope he can get a chance to rebound at some point in the series.
- There were a lot of positives to take from tonight’s game but one thing the Vees need to do a better job of in game two, is puck management in their own end. I thought they had trouble with the puck; fighting it a bit. Hey, a good team like Vernon will force you to make mistakes but by their own standard, the Vees were a bit careless with the puck. They had some issues breaking out cleanly or making good decisions with their passing. They settled down a bit in the third period but they know they will need to tighten it up come game two.
- Pre-game I wrote about how Vernon is still looking for contributions from their top players and they got some of that Friday. Liam Coughlin scores in his second straight game dating back to round one, game six versus West Kelowna. Michael McNicholas scored his first of the playoffs and Mason Blacklock picked up an assist.
- Depth was still key for Vernon, as Colton Sparrow scored a clutch third period goal, minutes after the Vees made it a one-goal game; a nice goal too by him. Also Dylan Chanter’s goal was his first in 26 games and his first since March 18th of last season’s playoffs with Merritt. Remember, he started the season out in the USHL with the Dubuque Fighting Saints. Still, a big goal from a player that isn’t counted on to score much.
- Speaking of “big goals,” good to see Max Coatta hit the scoresheet late and provide the Vees a shot at tying the game at that point. Friday was his first playoff game, as he was playing in place of the injured Shane McColgan. It’s never easy being a “Black Ace,” as in being one of the odd-men out. Coatta jumped into a tough situation, where it’s round two and everyone is cranking it up and he hadn’t played in two weeks. But he handled it well and looked to have found some chemistry with Cody DePourcq and Nic Pierog.
- Tough break for Ben Dalpe, who after scoring the opener, went down with a lower-body injury in the second and didn’t return for the third. All I know at this point is he’s listed day-to-day but he hasn’t been ruled out for tomorrow’s game, just yet. If he can’t go that would be a blow, as he, Cam Amantea and Travis Blanleil, had something going on the new look line. Dalpe scored his first goal of the playoffs and was playing well heading into this series, but then goes down with an injury. Hockey can be cruel.
- Speaking of injuries, after taking a Brad McClure slap-shot, it didn’t look like the Vipers Demico Hannoun played in the second or third.
- My silver lining from this game, is the Vees can look at it and say they beat themselves and they know they can be sharper. Vernon played a hard-nosed road game and full marks for that, but it wasn’t like they took it to Penticton. The Vees held the Vipers to three shots in the first, six in the second and nine in the third; just 18 overall. The Vees had 16 shots alone in the second period. They know the goals were a direct result of their own errors and that can be corrected going into game two.
- Four guys that stood out for me on the Vipers side: goalie Austin Smith, defensemen Ryan Renz and Dylan Chanter and forward Colton Sparrow. Smith, like I said pre-game, can be tough to beat when he’s feeling good and tonight was one of those nights. After a shaky first goal by the Vees, Smith really tighten things up and was solid in the Vernon net. He fought through traffic to knockdown shots or found ways to get in front of shots with any part of his body. He wasn’t panicked and seemed to be a calming influence. Renz and Chanter were physical all night, especially behind their own net and in the corners, which disrupted the Vees cycle game down-low. Both were leaning on Vees forwards all night making it difficult for them to generate chances out front. Both were good in front of their net, not allowing the Vees to play a lot in the middle and both blocked a fair amount of shots. I know he was responsible for the third goal, but Friday might have been Renz’s best game against the Vees this season. Sparrow was as advertised, a crafty veteran using his past playoff experience to his advantage. He was solid at both ends of the ice, strong on the penalty-kill and great in the face-off circle. He scored a big goal early in the third right after McClure made it 3-2, and took all the important face-offs in the dying moments of the game.
- Vernon book-ended the Vees six-game winning streak. After a loss to Vernon on February 22nd, the Vees rattle off six straight wins before losing, to Vernon and again by a 4-3 score.
- Tomorrow is a big game but I don’t think the Vees need any drastic moves, just minor tweaks. They pushed hard tonight in the second and late in the third, and if they can duplicate that over an entire game tomorrow, they should be in good shape.