Another night, another road game and another home opener. Tonight schedule takes the Vees to Merritt, where they face the Centennials for the first time this season. The Vees started their two-game weekend swing off on the right foot Friday, taking a 3-1 win in Trail. Tonight it’s another Interior Division match-up as they face the Cents’ who are coming off a big road win of their own Friday. Merritt’s power-play went 3-4 as they dispatched the Salmon Arm Silverbacks 5-2 at the Shaw Centre last night.
Tonight is the first of seven games between the Vees and Cents’. These two meet again in Penticton on October 8th but after that, the next time they play isn’t until November 21st. However, the season series schedule is somewhat front-loaded, as the Vees and Cents play five of the seven games before the Christmas break. To put that into perspective, these two didn’t meet until December 6th last season. For what its worth, the Vees split the three games in Merritt last year posting a 1-1-1 record. They were all one-goal games, with the Vees winning 5-4 on December 6th. These two played to a 1-1 tie on January 3rd and Merritt won another tight affair 2-1 on January 17th.
- By all accounts the Vees will be icing the same line-up as they did Friday in Trail but we will have to wait for official confirmation. I expect we will see Hunter Miska getting the start again between the pipes. Merritt isn’t an easy building to play in and having Miska’s experience will be key just as it was last night.
- After a so-so start to the season, the trio of Patrick Newell, Cody DePourcq and Demico Hannoun had a solid outing in Trail. Hannoun scored that critical third goal early in the third period to give the Vees some breathing room. That said, I still think those three can do more and tonight might be the night where this line makes a big impression.
- If you missed my early morning Tweets, Mitch Newsome will be credited with two assists from Friday’s win, which will move him in a tie for the team scoring lead with Tyson Jost. Newsome now has two goals and seven points in three games and four assists in his last two. He doesn’t say a whole heck of a lot but he clearly lets his play do most of the talking.
- Special teams might be the underlying theme to tonight’s game. The Vees will be facing one of the league’s top three power-plays tonight and the best overall penalty-kill. Since opening night where the Vees at one point were 3-5 on the PP, they’ve gone 0-17 since. Now that stat doesn’t tell the whole story as they’ve had some really good looks on the man-advantage. A power-play goal might go a long way tonight in trying to secure two points.
- Keep an eye on the line of Newsome, Josh Laframbroise and Steen Cooper. An environment like Merritt might play into their hands perfectly. These three play a simple north-south game and the tighter confines in Merritt could suit these three. Depending on how they play, we might see a steady diet of that line throughout tonight’s game.
- The Cents’ will be lifting the curtain on their home schedule tonight and coming off an impressive road win last night, will give Luke Pierce’s club plenty of fuel. There’s some deserving buzz around tonight’s game, as they two teams have had great rivalry..feud going in the last handful of years. Plus this is the first look at the refurbished Nicola Valley Arena. The old barn has gone under a bit of a face lift with a new scoreclock and an improved heating system.
- Merritt is a bit of an older team this year and they have some noticeable offensive weapons in their line-up. Diego Cuglietta to me is the heartbeat of this team. He isn’t big but plays a heavy game and is a handful of both ends of the ice. They’ll need more offense out of him this year but he’s a threat every time he steps over the blue-line. New additions to keep tabs on are forwards Michael Ederer and team leading scorer John Schiavo. Ederer came over from the Buffalo Jr. Sabres of the OJHL in the summer and has the talent to be a point per-game guy. Schiavo comes from Long Island, NY and is playing his first season in the BCHL after playing prep hockey on the east coast. He does have an extensive background in roller hockey, just like former Vee John Siemer.
- One player I noticed that has a more offensive presence to his game in defenseman Jake Clifford. In the exhibition game against the Vees two weeks ago, Clifford continually jumped up in the play or led the rush. In a smaller rink he’ll be that much more of a threat; he’s got three assists in as many games.