Hey, how about the rookie Brendan Barry? He was just making his third start and first in sixteen days but you wouldn’t have known it on Sunday afternoon. He looked very calm and collected in net, almost as if a bit of Hunter Miska had rubbed off on him. Barry didn’t have much work in the first, just three shots, but he was thrust into action in the final two periods. He stopped 22 of 23 shots in the final forty-minutes, including 10 of 11 in the third when the ‘Backs were pressing. The only goal that beat Barry was on the power-play and it was some bad puck luck. The point shot went wide of the net but it bounced back off the end boards and then it was banked in off his pad; he had no chance. He made some big saves on Sunday afternoon, two great ones off of Karl El-Mir. One was him going post-to-post to stuff El-Mir with the pad at the side of the net and then again he foiled El-Mir in the third. The third period save was his best, as he got a shoulder on El-Mir’s one-timer from the front porch; it was a bang-bang play. Barry was confident, squaring up to shots and was very good at tracking shots through traffic. Remember, this Salmon Arm team was off on Saturday and looking for some revenge on the Vees after being swept by them earlier this month. Barry was a major reason why the Vees pushed their win streak to 10.
Sunday and Saturday were so similar for the Vees on how they played out. Sunday the Vees had a great start, as they didn’t look like a team playing their second game in less than 24 hours. They in fact looked like the team that had the day off Saturday, as the out shot the Silverbacks 11-3 in the first and were unfortunate not to have a lead after the first. Their best chance came from a player on one of their best lines Sunday. Cam Amantea, getting back into the swing of things after off-season surgery, was robbed by Angus Redmond midway through the frame. Amantea took the cross-ice pass on the weak side but Redmond came across quickly and got his blocker on Amantea’s attempt. Cam missed the first month of the season and still is working off the rust. A couple of weeks from now Amantea probably buries that chance. But the Vees looked great in the first, as they had their feet going and spent a lot of time in the Salmon Arm end; they worked hard all afternoon.
What really helped the Vees on Sunday was their transition game and that was working because they were skating so well. When the puck was in their own end early on, they didn’t spend a lot of time trying to get it out. It was clean first passes and that got them going through the neutral zone. Yes, the Vees had some hiccups in their end later in the game but I thought they were pretty tidy for the most part. It was short exchanges with the defensemen before they were hitting someone in stride between the blue-lines. Speed kills.
Lets touch on the defensive prowess of the Vees again. Another night and another stingy performance. The Vees have now surrendered two or less goals in six straight games and they’ve only allowed three goals against in two of their last 10 games. The Vees 25 goals against is a BCHL best and the next best team has allowed 11 more goals. This team isn’t giving the opposition a sniff. They’re making it extremely difficult for opposing teams to get to the middle of the ice. Right now, the Vees are forcing everything to the outside-minus one or two exceptions. When you’re shooting from outside of the face-off dots, it’s going to be hard to score.
If I was going to mention good habits, the Vees starts have been very encouraging during their 10 game winning streak. After today’s game, they’ve scored first in eight of their last 10 games. That’s huge, as catch up hockey can be so taxing and I don’t know if the Vees could pull out a win today if they were trailing early. If you’re handing teams leads, you’re going to have to work twice as hard just to get back on even terms and that will wear on you. The Vees are doing a great job at putting themselves in a great position to succeed, game after game.
Riley Alferd loves playing in Salmon Arm this year. He scored his seventh of the year early in the third, which turned out to be the game-winning goal. He now has scored three goals in his last two visits to Salmon Arm. Alferd scored twice back on October 4th, in the Vees 4-3 double overtime win. His line has been playing great, as he, Matt Serratore and Jack Ramsey are annoying to play against. Last night they were keeping guys like Tomas Aldworth and Liam Coughlin off the scoresheet and this afternoon it was Shane Danyluk, Karl El-Mir and Taro Hiroese getting the treatment. Their defensive abilities have been well documented but they’re becoming a line that needs to be taken seriously in the offensive end. Just look at the ability Alferd showed on his goal today. He gloves down a clearing attempt, carves his way down the right side of the zone, then cuts to the middle, before tucking the puck around Angus Redmond as he was falling to a knee. With his goal today, Alferd has matched his goal output from last season and is well on his way to surpassing his point totals from last year.
I mentioned it earlier but the Vees have something going with Amantea, Cody DePourcq and Mitch Newsome. Assistant Coach Steve Cawley had high praise for the three in the post-game show and raved about Newsome’s play. He thought Newsome was maybe over thinking things earlier this year but the rookie’s confidence has grown substantially. Newsome is a north-south guy who always seems to make the smart play and that’s what his line is all about. He, Amantea and DePourcq saw a lot of ice time today and it was justly rewarded. The trio spent a lot of time in the offensive end and it wasn’t liked they were staying clear of the dirty areas. They rolled up their sleeves.
Speaking of high praise, Coach Cawley also had positive reviews for Jarod Hilderman, who he thought had one of his best games on the blue-line. Hilderman was physical and made a lot of smart decisions with and without the puck Sunday. He wasn’t given easy minutes either, as he spent a lot of time battling Bryden Marsh and Shane Danyluk. Those two are physical forwards who aren’t shy about leaning on guys. Hilderman was in the thick of it Sunday, usually gutting involved out front and behind the net and in the corners. He did a lot of heavy lifting when the slack needed to be picked up.
What it comes down to and this was discussed by Head Coach Fred Harbinson pre-game, is the Vees aren’t being carried by one particular player or players. They’re the best team in the BCHL without a single player in the top 10 in league scoring. Entering today’s action, Tyson Jost was the only Vee in the top 20 in scoring. It’s not just one line doing everything this month, as on any given night, someone is stepping up and making contributions.
On that note it’s great to see the line of Josh Laframboise, Steen Cooper and Patrick Newell get on the scoresheet. The three have had their dry patches of late and today was a real strong outing. Laframboise setup Newell in the second for the games first goal after some great fore-check pressure. That goal was Newell’s first since October 8th, so you can bet that was a big weight off his shoulders. Hopefully that line can build on today’s performance heading into next week’s slate of action. They’ll be counted on to produce.
The second line will need to step up, as the Vees will now be short Dante Fabbro and Tyson Jost for the next seven games. The two leave Tuesday for the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge which starts November 2nd, in Sarnia, Ontario. No doubt they’ll be missed, considering their impact but the other players know they’ll need to step up and fill the void. I thought I saw some of that today and hopefully that rolls into next week.