WJAC UPDATE: Team Canada West, which has Gabe Bast, Dante Fabbro, Demico Hannoun and Tyson Jost on the roster, finished round-robin play Tuesday with a 3-2 shootout win over Russia. Jost and Bast scored in regulation and then Jost scored the clinching goal in the shootout.
Canada West finished the round-robin with a 1-1 record and now face Canada East in one of two quarter-finals today. The all Canadian match up is scheduled for 5:30 pm PST. You can watch for FREE online, at http://www.fasthockey.com or go to http://www.hockeycanada.ca/wjac.
Venue: Nicola Valley Memorial Arena
Game Time: 7pm
Listen: EZ Rock AM 800
Season Series: (3-1 Vees) Sep 27th 5-0 MER, Oct 8th 4-2 PEN, Nov 21st 3-2 (OT) PEN, Nov 22nd 5-3 PEN, Jan 16th at MER, Jan 23rd at PEN, Feb 20th at PEN
Vees Road Record: 13-2-1-0
Vees Record vs. Interior Division: 9-9-0-1
Vees Leading Scorer: Riley Alferd 17-17-34
Cents Home Record: 9-5-0-0
Cents Record vs. Interior Division: 9-9-0-1
Cents Leading Scorer: John Schiavo 17-20-37
Facing Adversity: The Vees will be challenged even before they step onto the ice Wednesday against the Centennials. Already missing five regulars, the Vees will be without a sixth, as Jack Ramsey will sit out with an undisclosed injury. Ramsey left Sunday’s game in the third period when he was hit by the Chiefs Jesse Lansdell; Lansdell was given a five-minute major penalty.
The Vees are already missing four who are at the World Junior ‘A’ Challenge and Matt Serratore who’s recovering from a broken leg. With Ramsey out, the Vees are losing one of their best two-way forwards, one who sees time both on the power-play and penalty-kill. Riley Alferd is all that’s left of that “US” line that was so good for the Vees this season.
The Vees will have at least one AP in their line-up for tonight’s tilt with Merritt. Tak Anholt has stayed in Penticton and will play his second straight game with the Vees. They’re also trying to secure one if not two more AP’s for tonight’s game but there’s no confirmation yet on whom else will dress up front.
Making “Cents” of the Opposition: Tonight is the first game for the Centennials since their 6-3 home-ice loss on Saturday to the Salmon Arm Silverbacks. Merritt was actually leading 2-1 to start the third and scored early to take a 3-1 lead, but Salmon Arm scored three goals in just under seven-minutes to take a 4-3 lead. They added a short-handed goal and an empty-netter inside the final three-minutes to seal the dramatic come from behind win and leave the home team a bit stunned.
That game left a bad taste in their mouth but overall, the Cents’ have been playing some pretty good hockey of late. They’ve won three of their last five including a hard-fought overtime win in Prince George on Friday. They’ve also won two of their last three and have picked up at least one point in four of their last five games; three of their last five have gone past regulation.
The Cents’ have a few missing bodies too, as veteran defenseman Malik Kaila and Cole Arcuri haven’t played since mid-November. Kaila’s last game was on November 14th and Arcuri’s was on November 16th. BCHL veteran forward James Neil hasn’t been in the Cents’ line-up since November 8th.
The Cents’ sit fourth in the Interior Division, five points back of West Kelowna for third and 19 points back of the Vees. The Cents’ maybe can point to their divisional play as a reason why they’re in fourth, as they’re just 9-9-0-1 against the Interior this year; they’ve lost five straight to divisional opponents.
John Schiavo leads the Cents’ in scoring, like he did when these two teams played on November 21st and 22nd. Schiavo has 17 goals and 37 points, four points better than Gavin Gould who’s second in team scoring. Shane Poulsen has been a horse on the blue-line for the Cents’, especially with the injuries to Arcuri and Kaila. Poulsen is fourth in team scoring with 27 points in 31 games but also chews up big minutes.
Season Series: The Cents’ did win the first meeting between these two back on September 27th in Merritt (5-0) but the Vees have since won the last three games. As mentioned the Vees took that home-and-away series back on November 21st and 22nd, winning 3-2 in overtime at home, before winning 5-3 in Merritt. After tonight these two don’t meet again until January 16th. The seven-game season series wraps up on February 20th in Penticton.
Bend but Don’t Break: That pretty much sums up what road teams have to do in Merritt. Not the easiest of confines to come in to and try to take two points out of. The Vees did manage a 5-3 win back on November 22nd in their last visit to Nicola Valley Memorial Arena. They actually trailed 2-1 and 3-2 in the third period of that game before scoring three unanswered goals to sweep the weekend home-and-away series.
Not much of a neutral zone in Merritt, as the cramped conditions make for a very quick transition game, as teams can go from defense to offense and vice versa in a hurry. In such situations, puck management is the be all and end all. The Vees have to be smart when they have the puck in their own zone (hint: the glass is your friend in Merritt). The less time they spend inside their own blue-line the better. Skilled plays are almost completely negated when you’re playing in this barn. Breaking out of your own zone might involve a steady diet of short passes or clear outs off the glass. Where teams can get in trouble is when they try to force things a bit too much and that’s usually trying to go up the middle one too many times. Like I said earlier, less is more.