Venue: Shaw Centre
Game Time: 7pm
Listen: EZ Rock AM 800
Season Series: Oct 3rd 5-1 Vees, Oct 4th 4-3 (OT) Vees, Oct 26th 3-1 Vees, Dec 12th at SA, Jan 3rd at SA, Jan 28th at PEN, Feb 28th at PEN.
Vees Road Record: 13-2-0-1
Vees Record vs. Interior Division: 15-3-0-0
Vees Leading Scorer: Riley Alferd 17-17-34
Silverbacks Home Record: 5-7-1-2
Silverbacks Record vs. Interior Division: 6-8-1-3
Silverbacks Leading Scorer: Andrew Farny 7-24-31
The Show Must Go On: Tonight the Vees start a five-game stretch in which they’ll be missing four players due to the 2014 World Junior ‘A’ Challenge starting this weekend in Saskatchewan. The Vees will be without defensemen Gabe Bast and Dante Fabbro, along with forwards, Demico Hannoun and Tyson Jost.
No doubt a challenge missing that many regulars and key contributors at that, but the coaching staff will quickly shoot down any excuses about who isn’t playing.
The Vees have signed 20-year-old defenseman Shayne Gwinner to help fill the void on the blue-line (more on that signing here). To help fill a spot upfront, the Vees have called up Sam Binfet from the Okanagan Rockets. Binfet, 17, has nine goals and 19 points in 22 games with the OK Rockets of the BCMML.
Mile Gendron may be disappointed not making Team Canada West but it is a silver lining for the Vees, as they get a key contributor back on their blue-line. Gendron has been playing his best hockey to date, as he’s picked up seven points in his last eight games. He’ll be counted on to chew up some minutes for the Vees and in all situations. He’ll have a bit of a chip on his shoulder and that can be a good thing.
Though they’re missing two-thirds of their top line, there still is plenty of fire power left in the Vees line-up this weekend. Leading scorer Riley Alferd (17-17-34) will have to lead the way offensively but has support in line-mates Jack Ramsey (10-15-25) and Lewis Zerter-Gossage (11-16-27). Don’t forget about the two new guys in Dakota Conroy (4-2-6) and Connor Chartier (2-5-7), who’ve looked dangerous paired with Cody DePourcq (7-6-13). There’s more than enough offense there to get the job done.
Renewing Acquaintances: It’s been six and a half weeks since the Vees and Silverbacks last met. It was back on Sunday, October 26th, in Salmon Arm, a 3-1 decision in favour of the Vees; a game with some significance attached to it. First, that marked the Vees 10th straight victory at the time, as they ended October with a 12-0-0 record. Secondly, in that game Patrick Newell picked up a goal, kicking-off his BCHL best 15-game point streak. Newell has had only one pointless game since, as he has points in 17 of his last 18 games.
The Vees have compiled a 12-3-0-1 record since they last played the Silverbacks and are 26 points ahead of Salmon Arm in the standings.
The Silverbacks have had their ups and downs in the last six weeks and find themselves just two points up on Trail for fifth in the Interior. After pulling out of a four-game losing streak, the Silverbacks rattled off a three-game undefeated run in early November, beating Cowichan Valley and tying and beating Vernon in a home-and-home set. However, things went sideways in the middle of the month, as the ‘Backs fell into a six-game winless slump from November 15th-28th, which saw them collect just two points from a tie and overtime setback. They’ve split their last four games, losing their two most recent after picking up back-to-back wins over West Kelowna and Merritt. The Silverbacks have put together a 4-7-2-3 record since last playing Penticton.
After tonight, these two don’t meet again until early in the New Year, Saturday, January 3rd, when the Vees make their final visit to the Shaw Centre. After that, it’s two games in Penticton on January 28th and February 28th to close out the season series.
Rude House Guests: The Vees come into Friday’s matchup with the best road record in the BCHL at 13-2-0-1 and are 2-0-0 at the Shaw Centre this season. Salmon Arm has struggled at home, owning a 5-7-1-2 record at the “Cable Box.” The Silverbacks have the second fewest home wins in the BCHL, as the Mainland Division’s Surrey Eagles are the only other team with fewer wins on home ice (4).
The ‘Backs have lost their last five home games, going 0-4-1-0 over that stretch and on average, have surrendered 5.2 goals per-game to the opposition over that span. Including the empty-net goal, the ‘Backs gave up five goals Wednesday to Chilliwack and seven goals in each of the two games before that to West Kelowna and Vernon. Their last home win was on November 14th, a 5-2 triumph over Cowichan Valley.
Don’t let the numbers fool you, the last two times the Vees were in Salmon Arm, they had to claw and scratch their way to wins. On October 26th they had a 2-0 third period lead before Colton Thibault made things interesting midway through the final frame. The Vees needed an empty-net goal to final dispose of the pesky Apes.
The visit prior, on October 4th, the two teams needed double-overtime to decide things. Demico Hannoun was taken down in double-overtime which resulted in an automatic penalty-shot under BCHL rules. Hannoun scored and the Vees took home a hard-fought 4-3 win. The Vees actually trailed late in that game and Lewis Zerter-Gossage force overtime with a third period goal.
Bottom line, the ‘Backs will be eager to put the home ice losing streak behind them.
Carrying the Mail: As mentioned earlier, the Vees will be short-staffed and are going to need a few players to step up and fill the void left by the departures of the four Vees off at the WJAC. And as I mentioned earlier, I believe they have more than enough to fill the holes.
One guy I look to is Patrick Newell, who’s playing his best hockey of the season. Newell will be missing his regular line-mates in Jost and Hannoun but has points in 17 of his last 18 games and has been held off the scoresheet just once since October 26th. Newell is a crafty enough that he should be able to adapt with new line-mates without sacrificing any of his offensive creativity.
A trio that I circle with red ink is Cody DePourcq and his wingers Dakota Conroy and Connor Chartier. Conroy and Chartier have been held pointless in their last two games and DePourcq has just one goal in his last five games. However, the numbers don’t tell the whole story, as the three have been threats offensively in recent games and you have that feeling they’re right on the cusp of breaking out.
Can’t talk about offense without mentioning Riley Alferd and the season he’s having. Alferd leads the team in scoring and will even get more of the spotlight (and extra attention from the opposition), now that two top-six forwards are absent. Alferd seems to relish the pressure situations and he loves playing the Silverbacks, especially in Salmon Arm, where he has three goals in two games.
The 4-1-1 on the Opposition: The Vees will see a familiar face line-up across from them tonight, as Silverbacks forward Josh Laframboise faces his former team since being traded. Laframboise is starting to fit into his new surroundings quite nicely. He had just one assist in his first five games in silver and black, but has since scored four goals in his last five.
Cole McCaskill is also back, as the slick, puck-moving defenseman missed the first three games against the Vees, as he was recovering from a long-term injury. McCaskill and his teammate Andrew Farny (7-24-31) are two defensemen the Vees will have to keep tabs on tonight. Farny leads the team in scoring and is a gifted skater and puck handler; he can start and finish the rush. McCaskill’s numbers don’t reflect his skill level, as he’s like Farny, in the sense he can make things happen from the blue-line.
Three that have played well against Penticton but their numbers don’t reflect are Carson Bolduc, Shane Danyluk and Bryden Marsh. Bolduc is tied for the team lead in goals (10) and is tied for third in team scoring with Danyluk (21 points). Marsh can score, as he does have seven goals but he’s better known for his size and fore-checking prowess. When he has it going, the opposition better be on notice; bull in a china shop.
Have to mention Taro Hirose when talking about the ‘Backs offense. The 18-year-old rookie from the Edge Hockey Academy is as elusive as they get. Hirose has 10 goals and 30 points in 30 games and is a pure playmaker. Hirose is hard to track down in open ice and a player who seems to be always on the verge of making something happen. The Vees will have to take away his time and space to neutralize his skill set.