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- Pivotal game five at the SOEC tonight, as the winner goes ahead 3-2 and has a chance to close out the series tomorrow in Vernon. It’s a must win for both team, no way around that. I would put more emphasis on the Vees needing to win, because one, I work for them and two you don’t want to go down 3-2 in the series, with a must win scenario in Vernon on Friday night.
- Silver lining out of game four? The Vees, despite not putting forth one of their better efforts, still had every opportunity to win. No, I ‘m not discounting Vernon’s effort, they were strong in the third period. But what I am saying, is the Vees had Vernon on the ropes, up 2-1 late into the second period, where the Vipers didn’t have much going for them. A pair of mental gaffes and nice plays by Vipers defensemen completely changed the complexion of the game. If the Vees can string together a more complete effort (which has been challenging for both teams in the series) tonight, they should be in good shape.
- Another critical area for the Vees is their start. It hasn’t been good in their last three games. Well, at least not in games three and four. Game four was a marked improvement, as they only allowed one goal in the first 10 minutes but were out shot 12-2 at one point; and that’s a marked improvement? Vernon seems to be a team that likes to come out swinging right from the opening face-off. We’ve seen big pushes from them in the last two games and they had a 2-1 after the first period of game two (controversy notwithstanding). The Vees need to find a way to get a better push in the opening minutes of tonight’s game. Should be a good crowd for game five and they’ll need to channel that energy; can’t keep playing catch up hockey.
- Speaking of energy, the Vees need to play with more emotion, passion. Game four they seemed to void of that spark, more so when the game moved to the third period. Now, was that them running on empty after two dramatic come from behind wins the two games prior? Regardless, the term “harder to play against” comes into play tonight. When this team plays with an edge, players playing with a chip on their shoulder, they’re tough to beat.
- Brad McClure had his incredible point streak come to an end in Tuesday’s loss. It ended at 12 games, which saw him amass 13 goals and 24 points in that run. Vernon did a good job in containing the Vees Captain for the most part in game four, outside of his second period slap-shot from the right-circle. If he’s going to be shadowed closely, double-teamed at times, there will be room for others to step up.
- Erik Benoit is on the verge of having a break-out game, you can just sense it. He had a real determined effort in game three, hit a post and was a handful in the Vipers end. The Vees will need more of that from Benoit, especially if the Captain is closely guarded. Also Steen Cooper needs to find a way to breakthrough. He looked solid through the first three games but I thought he fought the puck a few times in game four. He has a nack of scoring goals at crucial times in the playoffs. There’s no bigger stage in this series at the moment than a game five.
- Something the Vees need to clean up for tonight is their play in front of their net. I thought Vernon ‘s net-front forward, the one trying to screen in front, had it too easy on Tuesday. The Vees are usually very good at boxing-out the other teams forwards near their own goal and that makes life a whole lot easier for the goalie. Vernon were persistently putting men in front and hammering away from the blue-line on Tuesday and that caused problems.
- Speaking of which, the Vees need to get themselves in front of more pucks. This team has been one of the best at blocking shots from the point, we saw this earlier in this series, but too many shots were getting through on Tuesday. Riley Guenther’s tying goal late in the second was a perfect example. It’s easy to preach but does take a lot of guts to stand in front of a slap-shot. But the traffic and point-shots from Vernon in game four troubled the Vees all game.
- Whomever starts in goal will need to make come up with some big saves. Lets be honest, that has been the one thing missing in this series from the Vees goalies. Olivier Mantha had a marked improvement with his performance in game four, but there was a couple plays in that game leaving you wanting more. Mantha and Hunter Miska are two great goaltenders; it wasn’t a fluke they won the BCHL award for the best goaltending tandem. Tonight’s starter needs to come up with a big performance. I’m not saying they need to stand on their head, they just need to make timely saves.
Vees Playoff Scoring
McClure 9-7-16 Beauvais 1-6-7 Sexton 0-3-3
DePourcq 4-4-8 Benoit 0-7-7 Coatta 0-2-2
Serratore 3-5-8 Stoykewych 3-3-6 Dalpe 1-1-2
Ramsey 1-7-8 McColgan 2-4-6 Rygus 0-2-2
Alferd 4-3-7 Cooper 3-2-5 Hilderman 0-2-2
Pierog 3-4-7 Amantea 1-2-3 Coulombe 0-1-1
Vees Scoring vs Vernon (Regular Season + Playoffs)
McClure 6-7-13 Dalpe 1-4-5 Stoykewych 0-4-4 Amantea 0-1-1
DePourcq 4-6-10 Benoit 2-2-4 Ramsey 0-4-4
Coatta 6-1-7 Alferd 2-2-4 Blanchard 1-2-3
Beauvais 1-6-7 McColgan 2-2-4 Sexton 0-3-3
Cooper 2-3-5 Serratore 2-2-4 Rygus 0-2-2
Pierog 2-3-5 Blanleil 1-3-4 Hilderman 1-1-2
- Vernon is the first team to win a game when scoring first in this series. Up until Tuesday, the team that had scored first through games 1-3, had lost all three. The Vipers are the first team I suppose to have a good start AND finish in this series.
- I know I thought the line of Dexter Dancs, Michael McNicholas and Liam Coughlin was at their best in game four, but the best line in this series for Vernon, without question is the Brendan Persley, Colton Sparrow and Brett Mulcahy threesome. Persley, Sparrow and Mulcahy have 22 goals and 39 points as a unit. To put that into perspective, the other three Vernon lines, combined, have 11 goals. This dynamic threesome has accounted for 61 percent of Vernon’s goals in the playoffs. Persley and Sparrow both scored in game four and Mulcahy had an assist. The three combined for three goals and five points in the 5-2 win. The Vees will need to find a way to slow these three down tonight.
- To continue on that line for Vernon, they’re, at even strength, a +6 in the series. Not only are they scoring but Persley, Sparrow and Mulcahy have been playing very well away from the puck.
- The Vipers third period push was big, not only because they won but they reversed a concerning trend. Going into game four, the Vees had outscored them 6-1 in the third period of this series. The first period has been the Vees nemesis all series and the third had been for the Vipers.
- Another story line is the marked improvement of the Vipers power-play in this series and post-season. Coming into tonight, their power-play in ranked third in the playoffs, operating at 24 percent through 10 games. Remember, their power-play was a league worst 14.22 percent in the regular season; nearly a 10 point improvement. In this series, the Vipers have three power-play goals on 11 opportunities; the Vees two on 14 tries. The Vipers power-play clicking at 27. 3 percent through four games, the Vees at just 14.3 percent. Percentage numbers can be thrown out of whack with such a small sample size but credit the Vipers for getting their power-play in gear and at the most critical time.
- They’ve been great at home, sporting a 4-1 record but have been inconsistent on the road, owning a 2-3 record. They’ve outscored the West Kelowna Warriors and the Vees 23-11 at home in the post-season; a +12 in goal differential. But have been outscored on the road 15-13. They’re averaging 4.6 goals per-game at home and only giving up 2.2. On the road however, they’re averaging two full goals less, at 2.6 per-game and giving up an even 3. They need to win at least one more road game to win this series, so they’ll have to remedy their road woes soon. They can at least draw back to game one where they had a great second period flurry to win 4-3.
Vipers Playoff Scoring
Persley 7-7-14 Blacklock 0-6-6 Wilson 0-2-2
Sparrow 5-8-13 Renz 0-5-5 Dancs 0-2-2
Mulcahy10-2-12 Coughlin 3-1-4
Dumonceaux 5-3-8 Chanter 2-2-4
McNicholas 2-5-7 Guenther 1-3-4
Bryan 0-7-7 Mick 0-4-4
Hannoun 1-5-6 Ken Citron 0-2-2
Vipers Scoring vs Vees (Regular Season + Playoffs)
McNicholas 3-5-8 Sparrow 3-2-5 Coughlin 1-3-4
Persley 5-3-8 Mick 1-4-5 Chanter 2-1-3
Dancs 3-4-7 Dumonceaux 3-1-4 Renz 1-2-3
Hannoun 0-7-7 Mulcahy 3-1-4 Saharchuk 0-2-2
Blacklock 1-5-6 Guenther 2-2-4 Citron 0-1-1
Bryan 1-5-6 Wilson 1-3-4 Statchuk 0-1-1