The Penticton Vees and Salmon Arm Silverbacks go back at it again tonight in the back half of a weekend home-and-home set. The Vees took the first game Friday, 5-1 in their home opener at the SOEC.
This is the Vees first trip to Salmon Arm this season, and it’s their first of two trips to Salmon Arm this month; they’re back at the Shaw Centre on October 26th. Last year was last year but the Vees had their struggles at the Shaw Centre, losing in their first three visits to the North Shuswap before winning on February 28th. Odd schedule quirk, as the Vees first two games in Salmon Arm last year were October 4th and October 26th. Exactly the same to the day this year.
Not really touched on Friday but this is a crucial five game stretch for the Vees, as after tonight they host Merritt on Wednesday, who apparently just don’t allow goals anymore and then it’s another home-and-home, this time with West Kelowna (Who’s in first place) next Friday and Saturday. Great early season test for this young group.
- You can take this next stat two ways: The Vees are 3-1-0-0 when they surrender the first goal of the game this season. Now, you can look at it and say they’ve shown some early season resolve by finding a way to win in three of their four games this season when going down early. Or you can look at it and think this team needs to have better starts. My opinion falls somewhere in the middle. They have shown the ability to claw their way back into games and get crucial points after falling behind; good sign of character. But on the other hand, they do need to find a way to put themselves in a better position early in games. What I’ve seen through five games from this group, is the fact they continually get better as the game grows older. Same maybe they’re just “slow starters” but “strong finishers” in the early going. Whatever works!
- Did the power-play take a step of in the right direction? The Vees PP went 2-4 with the man-advantage Friday and that snapped an 0-20 skid in the last four games. The Vees could have had more than two power-play goals, as the PP did look threatening on three of the four opportunities. The SA penalty-kill is now at 69 percent which is ranked 15th so the Vees need to take make the most of their opportunities tonight.
- The Vees didn’t look so hot in their last road game in Merritt and tonight presents a similar situation. They’ve won their first game of the weekend and now have another opportunity to take four points. I’m sure we won’t see a repeat of last Saturday’s 5-0 loss to the Centennials. Last night was last night. Time for the Vees to zero in on tonight’s rematch.
- The defense did well Friday without their leader in Patrick Sexton. Dante Fabbro to me really was noticeable for his defensive play last night and so too was his partner Gabe Bast. Guys like Miles Gendron and Mike Lee also had solid bounce-back performances. Hey, I’ll give Connor Russell some love too, as the meat & potatoes defenseman had a simple but sound outing on the blue-line. That group of six will need a repeat performance.
- It was a good start for Salmon Arm on Friday but the Vees seemed to pull away in the second and third period. To me it looked like the ‘Backs ran out of steam so to speak when the game moved into the second and third periods.
- Their fore-check gave the Vees some trouble in the first period and they were creating turnovers because of it but for whatever reason, Vees adjustments maybe, they couldn’t sustain it for the entire game.
- The injury bug did bite the ‘Backs last night as forward Nick Hutchison went down with what looked like an ankle injury in the second period. Hutchison scored their only goal and had a solid outing before his injury. I didn’t see how he went down but he did fall into the side boards ankle first and by reading his body language, the injury looked pretty serious.
- Hutchison joins Cole McCaskill and Ross Heidt on the injured list for the ‘Backs. With Hutchison going down, we will likely see either Jack Berezan or Marcus Russell back in the line-up.
- Salmon Arm is looking for their first win in Salmon Arm, as they dropped their home opener to Merritt 5-2 last Friday. Remember, the ‘Backs, who have nine returnees, were 5-1-0-1 against the Vees last year. They’ll be eager to erase last night’s defeat.