Venue: Nicola Valley Memorial Arena
Game Time: 7:30pm
Listen: EZ Rock AM 800
Season Series: Sept 27th 5-0 Centennials, Oct 8th 4-2 Penticton, Nov 21st 3-2 (OT) Penticton, Nov 22nd at Merritt, Dec 17th at Merritt, Jan 16th at Merritt, Jan 23rd at Penticton, Feb 20th at Penticton.
Vees Road Record: 10-2-0-1
Vees Record vs. Interior Division: 12-2-0-0
Vees Leading Scorer: Riley Alferd 16-11-27
Centennials Home Record: 9-2-0-0
Centennials Record vs. Interior Division: 9-5-0-1
Centennials Leading Scorer: John Schiavo 15-9-24
Take Two: The Vees and Centennials go at it again tonight, as the scene shifts to Merritt in this weekend home-and-away series. The Vees came from behind Friday, scoring late in the third to force overtime, then Tyson Jost scored early in the extra frame to complete the 3-2 comeback win. Friday was just the third time this season the Vees were trailing going into the third period and now sport a 2-1-0-0 record when doing so. Friday extended the Vees win streak to five games and snapped the Cents’ four-game run in the process. It was also Merritt’s first overtime loss this year, as they and the Vees sport identical 4-1-0 records in overtime.
Merritt can take comfort knowing they thumped the Vees 5-0 back on September 27th in Merritt; a win both teams haven’t forgotten and for different reasons. I know talking to the coaching staff and players that shutout loss still doesn’t sit well with them; a sore spot on the calendar. That was the only time the Vees have been blanked this season and was one of just two games they’ve surrendered four or more goals; revenge is on the mind.
Merritt’s rink gives them a unique home-ice advantage with the cramped confines and their record reflects that, as they’re an impressive 9-2-0-0 at home this season. The Cents’ are 4-1-0-0 in their last five home games, the only blemish was a 4-1 loss to Prince George on November 8th; their only other loss at home was October 11th to Salmon Arm.
Looking for a Good Start: The Vees will want to avoid repeating what happened last time they were in Merritt. In their only visit they put themselves behind the eight ball by going down a pair of goals in the first and never found their footing, in that 5-0 setback. they’ve surrendered the opening goal in their last two games, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing as they’re now 9-1-0-0 when doing so, but trying to come from behind in Merritt is a whole other animal. Put it this way, when the Vees scored first they’re 12-2-0-1 and when they lead after the opening period they’re 7-0-0-0. Merritt will no doubt be fired up after last night’s result and they’re that much more confident on home ice. The Vees will need to have their work boots strapped on right from puck drop.
Not Much Time, Not Much Space: The Vees decision-making with the puck in Merritt was a problem in late September and got them into trouble. As a player, you have to make your reads and you decision-making that much quicker in Merritt’s rink; the game is a bit more chaotic. Not much room to be perfect with the puck and the play is on top of you more than you think. The Vees will have to be quick but smart with the puck, especially when they’re in their own zone. They’ll need to hit the first outlet opportunity right away or just go with old reliable: glass and out. As Patrick Newell told me this morning there’s no room for skill, “Just have to muck a couple of goals and get out of there.” Well said.
Looks to be the same line-up the Vees iced Friday night. There might be a change in goal as I think there’s a chance we see Brendan Barry get the start between the pipes. I’ll know more closer to game time.