- The two top teams and offenses in the BCHL locked horns Saturday in Nanaimo and it was one of those rare games that actually lived up to expectations. Coming into the game the Vees were first in the BCHL in goals with 84 through 19 games; Nanaimo second with 82 in 19. Despite two high-powered offenses, it took 46 minutes to produce the games first goal. That wasn’t a reflection of boring, defensive minded hockey, rather two of the best structured teams going at one another.
- I had a really interesting chat with Clippers Head Coach Mike Vandekamp about structure and style of play before the game. He said he’s seen every team play and the systems the Vees implement are the most recognizable on video because they do what they are taught. A lot of time at this level its hard to get a read on teams as they can play a pretty open, scramble-type of hockey that can go off script. Vandekamp praised how well-organized the Vees are and said he hoped his team gave off the same impression to those around the BCHL.
- At times Saturday it looked like the Vees were playing themselves in the mirror. Nanaimo, like Penticton plays a very structured game and didn’t deviate from their game plan much and that’s why we had ourselves a chess match for well over 45 minutes. Both teams were solid in their own end Saturday, as it was tough sledding trying to get to the two nets. The two forced each other to take shots from outside the dots or from the high slot. Shots from between the circles or in tight were few and far between. That highly coveted area of ice from the top of the crease to the top of the circles was valuable real estate that neither team was going to give up without a fight.
- I thought the first period was a pretty good one from the visitors. They didn’t get behind the eight-ball early, got some solid goaltending from Hunter Miska when Nanaimo pressed off the hop and at the end of the period, the killed-off a lengthy five-on-three Nanaimo power-play. That PK was huge, as the Vees took back-to-back penalties nine seconds apart, handing the Clippers a 1:51 of five-on-three time. The Clips got four shots on the nearly two-minute sequence but Miska made the stops he needed to and the PK unit blocked their fair share as well. Crucial PK, as the Vees were 8-1-0-0 when tied after the first period going into Saturday’s game. A much better record than the pedestrian 1-1-0-0 mark when trialing after twenty-minutes.
- Speaking of special teams, great to see the power-play continue to score and at critical times. The man-advantage was 2-7 on Saturday and those two goals couldn’t have come at better times. The Vees opened the scoring six and half minutes into the third period on a scramble in the Clippers crease. Cody DePourcq was feverishly whacking at a free puck before it squirted over to an open Lewis Zerter-Gossage. That was wiped out by a Nanaimo tally just thirty-three seconds later but they got themselves a lead; all be it momentarily. Their second power-play goal could not have come at more critical juncture. Down 2-1 inside the final two-minutes, Riley Alferd scored a near identical goal to that of the Vees first one. Alferd found himself in the Clippers crease and he was the last to touch the puck before it found its way in. The power-play didn’t score from the conventional setup but more importantly it scored. That’s six straight games where the Vees have scored at least one power-play goal. Their power-play is humming along at a forty-two percent efficiency rate during this streak.
- Speaking of Riley Alferd he continues to find ways to score and pick up points when it matters. He’s now just two points away from tying his total from a season ago (24), as he scored his fourteenth goal last night and now has 22 points. He has two goals and three points in two games and points in 12 of his last 15. How hot is he? He has six goals and eight points in his last five. Mom Jodi is up from Vancouver, Washington, this weekend and maybe she needs to come back to Penticton and buy seasons tickets. All Riley does is scored when she’s watching.
- Outside of Alferd, I thought Zerter-Gossage was a tank for the Vees upfront. When the scoring changes are submitted, Zerter-Gossage should end up having a goal and an assist. He was a handful in the offensive zone as he used his size well down-low and was always around the puck it seemed. His line was getting a steady diet of ice time in the third, especially when the Vees were trailing and he handled the taxing minutes pretty well. A challenge to be effective with the minutes he’s played this weekend but he’s finding a way.
- The law of averages say the Vees are due for an offensive explosion soon. Back to back nights they threw up 42 shots but only scored a combined six goals. Michael Stiliadis was excellent Friday stopping 39 of 42 in the Vees overtime win in Victoria. Guillaume Decelles was superb for Nanaimo Saturday stopping 40 of 42. The Vees, despite only having 11 forwards, are finding a way to generate a tonne of shots. Those shots eventually will go in. Decelles was great Saturday as he was so good at taking the lower-half of the net away. The 6’3 southpaw was fully deserving of the third star, as he was a big reason why the Clippers won this game. But the Vees can hold their heads up knowing their still generating offense but just ran into two hot goalies on back-to-back nights. Remember, the Vees get everyone’s best when the come to town.