Ron Gallo / Spruce Kings
- The Vees were 1:22 away from their season-high win streak ending in Prince George Thursday but Matt Serratore threw on the heroes’ cape and produced some magic in double-overtime. Serratore kept the puck on a 2-on-1 rush and saw daylight between the Spruce Kings goalies legs. Savvy move by Serratore to use Mike Lee as a decoy and wait just long enough for the goalie to open himself up just enough to snap it five-hole. The photo above, snapped by the Spruce Kings Ron Gallo, shows the euphoria and bitter disappoint overtime brings.
- The Vees were more than deserving of winning this game. Yes, they did squander a two-goal third period lead but they thoroughly outplayed the Spruce Kings Thursday night, especially five-on-five. The Vees outshot Prince George in all but one period and that was the double-overtime frame. The Vees only allowed 10 shots through two periods and Prince George only mustered two shots on net in the first. I thought the Vees were at their best in the first and third periods. If it wasn’t for some penalty trouble early in the third period, the Vees likely would have had this game won in regulation. Don’t get me wrong, Prince George had their chances, including a couple of Grade “A’s” in the first for Justin Rai and Valik Chichkin but it was the Vees who from start to finish, were the better of the two teams.
- Remember in September how I was lamenting the fact the Vees weren’t having good starts? Well that was then and this is now, as if you include last night’s win, the Vees have scored first in six of their last eight games. It’s cliché but good starts are crucial at this level and especially on the road. Speaking of the road, the Vees have scored first in their last four road games. Their starts have been much better in the month of October and that does nothing but good for your team. Falling behind the eight ball isn’t only physically taxing but mentally as well. Catch up hockey can take its toll, so it’s encouraging to see the Vees play with the lead and for the majority of the games in October.
- Thursday was the Vees first win in Prince George since March 9th, 2012. The Vees were 2-3-0-1 in Prince George since the start of the 2011-2012 season coming into Thursday’s game. Last night’s OT win snapped a three-game losing streak at the Coliseum dating back to March 10th, 2012. Yeah, Thursday was a non-divisional game but you never know what that extra point they picked up will do for them in the standings come late February. Remember, the Vees clinched their division on the final day of the regular season last year AND in overtime.
- How about the emergence of Riley Alferd and Matt Serratore? The second-year forwards have taken a significant step forward in regards to their offensive game. Both scored last night and both were arguably the Vees two best forwards in the win. Serratore’s OT goal tied his total output for goals from last season with five. Yes, Serratore scored five in 58 games last year and already has five in just 12 games this year. He also is half way to his points total from last season (14), as he now has seven in 12 games. Alferd is just one shy of matching his goal output from last season (7) and is just off a point per-game basis. Great story from yesterday, as I talked to both Alferd and Serratore outside the team hotel yesterday afternoon. They both said to me they would be “buzzing” Thursday and I would need to keep an eye on them. True story. Well, they called their own shot and delivered in a big way.
- Don’t forget about Jack Ramsey on that line, as the big right-winger might get overlooked with the work Alferd and Serratore have been putting in. Ramsey was a physical presence on Thursday and went into those “greasy” areas to get pucks and establish a cycle game. He made one hell of a play on Alferd’s early third period goal, as he chipped the puck up and past the defenseman at centre ice and then delivered a sweet cross-crease past to Alferd at the post; that just 20 seconds in the third. Hey, Ramsey almost won the game for the Vees in the dying moments of the third. He grabbed the puck off the boards, made a power move to the slot and has he was falling, rifled a wrist-shot that was just fought off by the Spruce Kings goalie. Ramsey was a force on Thursday and the Vees will need more of that tomorrow and Sunday.
- Mike Lee was a “hockey nerd’s” dream on Thursday. In this new age of hockey analytics, such as Corsi and Fenwick, I’m sure Lee would have had a great rating. No, I don’t know much about advanced stats but Lee’s puck possession numbers would have been great last night. He had at least four if not five scoring attempts including two in overtime; he probably led all Vees in that category. He was also great in his own end with his partner Jarod Hilderman. Five-on-five, they were one of the Vees best D pairings last night. Lee and Hilderman are developing a good balance, as it seems Hilderman is really embracing a more stay-at-home approach of late, as Lee gains more confidence at both ends of the ice. Lee never lacked confidence in the offensive zone but the last two weeks has been his best as a Vee inside his own blue-line.
- The Vees are not only getting it done in the offensive end but their own end as well. They have allowed the fewest goals against in the BCHL, as they’ve surrendered just 24 goals in 12 games. The next best team is Chilliwack but they’ve still allowed four more goals heading into Friday’s action. It’s now four straight games the Vees have only allowed two or less goals against; eight straight games they’ve allowed only three goals or less. One more for you, the Vees have only given up seven goals in their last five games.
- Five-on-Five the Spruce Kings big three of Justin Rail, Chad Staley and Jeremiah Luedtke were held pointless. Luedtke scored on the power-play in third which was assisted by Rai. But those three combined for just two points last night when they combined for 53 in their previous 13 games. Luedtke was the best Spruce King forward in my opinion Thursday, with Brogan O’Brien a close second; Luedtke extended his point streak to four games with his third period goal.
- A big milestone is fast approaching for the Vees and their Head Coach Fred Harbinson. With a win Saturday at home against Vernon, it would be career win number 300 for Harbinson as the Vees Head Coach. How fitting the milestone falls on a night the Vees face their long-time rival in the Vernon Vipers. That adding a bit more incentive to a game that really doesn’t need any more. Saturday should be a blast.