Interior Division Final: Vees Sensing Déja Vu

Cherie Morgan Photography

Cherie Morgan Photography

Game Recap 

Boxscore 

Penticton Herald “Vees in 5” Highlights   

  • It happened again? A case of Déja vu for the Vees.
  • Like game three, the Vees had an early one-goal lead in the second period of game five, after the teams were deadlocked at one’s after twenty minutes. The Vees had a solid first period, something that hasn’t happened a whole lot in this series and were looking to build off of it in the second. Erik Benoit opened the scoring just over seven minutes into the game on a Vees power-play. double-whammy there, as not only do they get the power-play clicking but Benoit scores his first of the playoffs and first in eight games; as I said pre-game, he was on the verge of breaking out.
  • But its one step forward, two step back, as the Vipers scored just 23 seconds after the Vees did. Bit of a blunder, as the puck is fumbled at the Vees blue-line, before Liam Coughlin and Michael McNicholas play give-and-go before scoring; bit of a buzz kill.
  • The Vees shake it off and get another early goal in the second, when Steen Cooper scored three and a half minutes in on a rebound from the right-circle; Vees up 2-1. A classic case of getting to a secondary opportunity, something the coaches have been stressing all series.
  • They then got that elusive “big save” from one of their goaltenders, as Hunter Miska, flat out robbed Demico Hannoun of a goal with a brilliant glove save after an ugly turnover out front; still 2-1 and things are looking pretty good.
  • Outside of that puck playing error on the Hannoun chance, the Vees weren’t giving up much in the way of opportunities in the middle frame in the first eleven and a half minutes. Shots were 5-3 for the Vees when the one-minute media timeout was called and it felt like if the Vees could get one more goal, they would be sitting pretty. They almost did get that goal too, as Brad McClure rang not one, but TWO blistering shots of the same post; that close.
  • The game turned in the Vipers favour when THEY went down two-men. Yes, it was their penalty-kill that provided the “turning point.” Vernon takes two penalties close to one another with just over four minutes left in the middle frame, handing the Vees a 58 second five-on-three. But Penticton couldn’t get anything going on the man-advantage, as they were dogged by poor passing and execution trying to get in at the Vernon blue-line; give the Vipers credit, they were causing problems by forcing the issue. The Vees had a sequence where they actually setup the man-advantage but the Vipers collapsed nicely and the Vees couldn’t get a shot through. Penticton only had one registered shot during that stretch of power-play time but I wonder if there even was one shot. Vernon obviously got a big shot in the arm after that kill and you were left win an uneasy feeling in the final minutes of the period.
  • Those feelings were reassured when the Vipers top-line, who was terrific all night and were in on all three goals, tied the game late with just 44 seconds left in the frame. Dancs won a puck battle behind the Vees goal and threw a no-look backhand pass out front to Liam Coughlin in the right-circle. His low shot along the ice goes past a Vees defender trying to block it and slides underneath a screened Hunter Miska. 2-2. A big momentum swing.
  • Before the two power-plays, the Vees are in a good spot, leading 2-1, eating up clock in the offensive end and doing a lot of little things well; they outshot Vernon 5-3 before the media timeout. When they resume play, Vernon pushes back, gets a big kill, then they turn the tables and out shoot the Vees 9-2 in the final eight and a half minutes of the period.
  • The third period was tight for the most part, as both teams were playing it pretty safe, not wanting to be the one to makse that dreaded mistake that would cost them the game. Both teams did well to limit shots and opportunities but I thought the Vees played too much on the perimeter and didn’t make a conscious effort to get to the middle. The game looked destined for overtime before the Vees got a bit over aggressive at their blue-line.
  • An attempt to step up and make a big hit by a Vees defender, results in a late breaking two-on-one for the Vipers and it was their top line. Coughlin and McNicholas play give-and-go..again, before Coughlin puts the puck into an open net on a backdoor pass from McNicholas, with just three and a half minutes left.

 Game Thoughts

  • Back to back games where the Vees squander late leads in the second periods. The Vipers had the same problem in games two and three, when they blew two 3-1 leads in back-to-back games. If the Vees score on one of those two power-plays at the end of the second, they likely win this hockey game. But the power-play struggles at the worst possible time and instead of it being 3-1, its 2-2 after two.
  • This has been a real odd series, as the Vees starts were under the microscope for the early part of the series, now it’s their finish that is being questioned. In the last two games, like I mentioned, they’ve had 2-1 leads late into the second period. But now have been outscored 3-0 in the last two third periods. They had only nine shots in the third period of Tuesday’s game four loss and just another five last night in game five’s third period. So, their last two third periods, they’ve been shutout and been outshot 22-14. Tuesday I thought they looked a bit mentally drained in the third period and last night they were missing that spark, a sense of real desperation. I thought the Vipers for the second straight game had more urgency in their game when it came to the last twenty minutes.
  • The Vipers big guns are starting to heat up and that isn’t good for the Vees. Dancs, Coughlin and McNicholas had a pretty sound game four after a quiet start to the series, have roared to life. They accounted for all three Vipers goals and that line finished with three goals and seven points Thursday. In the last two games, the trio has combined for four goals and 10 points. The Vees checking line of Riley Alferd, Jack Ramsey and Matt Serratore were matched up against that Vipers line but had trouble containing the three and had their hands full at times. You have to tip your hat to the Vipers top line, as they made plays all game long.
  • That Vipers line willed their team to victory, as Jason Williamson played a short bench. They basically rolled three lines, the fourth line finishing with a handful of shifts. That line and the second unit of Brett Mulcahy, Brendan Persley and Colton Sparrow saw the majority of ice time. Their third line of Mason Blacklock, TJ Dumonceaux and Demico Hannoun didn’t play as nearly as much as the other two lines.
  • The Vipers didn’t really have a full blue-line as their Captain, Ryan Renz, didn’t see nearly as much ice time as we’re use to him seeing. I think he might be battling some sort of lower-body injury because he didn’t really have a regular shift with his usual partner in Dylan Chanter. The victory all that more impressive for Vernon, considering how short their bench was.
  • For the second straight game, the Vees finish, their third period, had me wanting a lot more. I really liked the first thirty-five minutes from this team but they seemed to get off track once the game was tied 2-2. Early they had their feet moving, were playing with pace and spending a lot of time in the Vipers end. When the game moved into the third, they were stuck on the outside and had a real tough time generating any quality scoring opportunities.
  • Another thing that stuck out for me was how  rushed the Vees looked when bringing the puck out of their zone in the third. Even before the Vipers third goal, the game was still 2-2 but the way the Vees were playing at their blue-line and the opposition’s, you thought they were down a goal and trying to make plays by pinching. The D-core got away from their usually very structured style and that opened up things for Vernon.
  • Hunter Miska played very well and the Vees got a performance they were looking for. Miska gave them every chance to win this game, as he made timely saves throughout and I can’t fault him on any of the three goals the Vipers scored.
  • Nice to see Erik Benoit and Steen Cooper score, after I said pre-game they needed to have big games. That Vees top line was dangerous, as Benoit and Cooper each had a goal and McClure finished with an assist.
  • I preached consistency pre-game but it was still missing from their game Thursday. Vernon was pretty steady all night, as their game didn’t change much. The Vees had a great start, throwing 11 shots on net in the first but only had 12 over the last two periods and were outscored 2-1 in the last forty minutes. The Vees still haven’t had a full sixty minute effort in this series but will need one tonight.

 

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About CBeauchemin

Director of Broadcasting & Communication for the Penticton Vees
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