Post-Game #42: Merritt Feasts on Home Cooking

Game Recap Jan 16

GAME RECAP

BOXSCORE  

  • Not sure the phrase “good riddance” was muttered by some players after the game but I sure was thinking it. Friday was the Vees final visit to Merritt in the regular season and it didn’t go as hoped. The 4-1 loss was their third in four games in Merritt and like two of the previous three trips, it wasn’t the end result they hoped for. They finish with just one win in four tries in Merritt this year and if it wasn’t for a third period rally back on November 22nd, we very well could be talking about a four-game home sweep by Merritt. For whatever reason, the Vees have had a real tough time getting results out of Nicola Valley Memorial Arena this year.
  • Hard to put your finger on it exactly, where to pinpoint the problem. All I can say is that arena in Merritt has been the Vees Kryptonite, their Achilles heel. The Vees are the best defensive team in the BCHL, yet have allowed 17 goals in four games in Merritt. They have a top five power-play but are only 2-23 in Merritt with the man-advantage this season. The Vees own the second best penalty-kill in the BCHL but Merritt was 6-17 on the power-play (35 percent). The Vees were only averaging 1.87 goals-against per game this year but Merritt averaged 4.25 at home against them this year. Pretty much ever category shows how “off” the Vee have been this season in Merritt. One more, the Vees are the second-highest scoring team in the BCHL but only scored seven goals in four games in Merritt; under two goals per game.
  • The Vees were without Gabe Bast, Patrick Newell and Matt Serratore but that’s not the reason why they lost. They still had plenty of weapons in the line-up and Merritt also was playing with 11 forwards like the Vees. Execution, or lack there of, was the culprit Friday.
  • Merritt is a tough rink, no question, as the confines all but eliminates the skill game. The Vees are a skilled team that has a lot of potent weapons but those weapons were silenced Friday. The Vees big guns, their shooters, were too quiet for my liking in a game where shooting the puck more was stressed.
  • I should throw a lot of credit to Jonah Imoo in goal and how his team played in front of him to frustrate the Vees top players.
  • In my pre-game chat with Head Coach Fred Harbinson stressed the importance of creating offense not off the rush but by putting lots of pucks toward the net and getting secondary chances. That was their hiccup Friday. Secondary chances. Merritt’s Jonah Imoo was very good, he looked sharp, on point with his puck control. So, in order to get pucks past goalies like him, the Vees needed to get traffic in front and get to rebounds. They struggled. Imoo did well to track what came his way but the Vees were also maybe guilty of not getting enough players to the net consistently. Too many times Imoo was able to have a clean look at a scoring chance and a veteran like him was stopping those all night. Look at the Vees only goal, Steen Cooper parked himself in front on the power-play and had a point-shot get a piece of his shaft before crossing up Imoo. Imoo was dialed in, no question, but did the Vees do enough to make his night challenging?
  • Going into Friday’s game, Imoo had a sparking .952 save-percentage against the Vees but a pedestrian .906 overall. Goes to show you what it means for players to face Penticton. Games against the Vees usually brings out the best in players. I hear it a lot how the other teams really get up for games against the Vees. Well, Imoo is living, breathing proof of that, as he’s been absolutely lights-out good for Merritt against Penticton.
  • Both goalies were likely thinking if they broke a mirror recently or stepped under a ladder. Both teams’ first goals were the result of some unfortunate puck luck. The Vees opener went off Cooper’s shaft of his stick, then off Imoo’s mask and then up and over his shoulder and in. The Cents’ equalizer minutes later bounced right to Zak Bowles after a crappy bounce at the side of the Vees net. A clearing attempt from just behind the net went off a Merritt leg and right to Bowles at the side, who had Hunter Miska at his mercy. The Vees defenseman had the right intentions but the worst luck. Do the play 10 times over, the puck probably never bounces the same way again.
  • Good to see the power-play score in Merritt but it came early and then the Vees were scoreless on their last six attempts. The power-play officially went 1-8 but the last man-advantage was inside the final minute of the third; mop up duty. The Vees did score on the power-play in the first but they had six-minutes of power-play time and I was left thinking, “Should they have got more?” Remember, Malik Kaila was handed a double-minor in the first, the Vees scored inside the first two-minutes, so they had other two-minutes to work with but had to settle for the one power-play goal. At the time I said if they didn’t win, would they look back upon that chunk of power-play time in the first as a missed opportunity? A second goal, in the other four-minutes of power-play time would have significantly changed the outlook of this game.
  • I felt for Hunter Miska, as he was on the short end of the 4-1 score. He looked great despite the four goals against and I think his 26-save performance was a lot better than it looks. He made quite a few grade ‘A’ saves on in close attempts or nifty deflections. One of his best was a terrific arm save on Diego Cuglietta who’s toes were nudging on the crease. There were a handful of shots where he had to fight through traffic and dart a pad out at the last second. He made some big stops, quite a few in the second and gave the Vees a chance to win.
  • Not many passengers tonight but in games like tonight, against a close rival, one passenger is one too many. I’m not harping on the effort, as a whole it was there. I just expected a bit more “fight” out of a few veteran or go-to forwards. Tomorrow the Vees need a bit more bite when they’re in the offensive zone.
  • Can’t go without commenting on the play of the Cents’. They look so good at home this season against Penticton. They won’t overwhelm you with skill but play a heavy, north-south game that wears on opponents. They go to work with an aggressive fore-check and you’ll never see them pass up an opportunity to lean on someone. The Vees certainly have brought out the best in the Cents’.
  • I write about the Vees inconsistencies with sending bodies to the net but credit has to go to Merritt’s defensemen for doing a pretty sound job of boxing out the Vees. Guys like Shane Poulsen, Jake Clifford, Griffyn Martin and Malik Kaila are a handful to deal with and they did a good job of keeping the Vees away from their net-for the most part.
  • Everyone has an opinion on the Miles Gendron major penalty late in the game. Gendron was assessed a five-minute major penalty after he was dinged with a blow to the head penalty when he hit Colin Grannary. That penalty carries an automatic two-game suspension under the Junior ‘A’ Supplement. The definition of a Blow to the Head from the Supplement: “If a player intentionally raises his stick, hands, forearm, gloved hand or elbow to hit an opponent in the head area, or deliberately drives his stick, forearm, elbow or gloved hand into the player’s head in any manner, it shall be called a Blow to the Head.”  When I went back and watched the video from the team’s laptop, I wouldn’t say there was any deliberate attempt by Gendron to use any part of his arm or body to make contact with Grannary’s head; wasnt malicious. He looked to be targeting the chest and his follow through popped the helmet off. I can’t say for certain if the head was the principle point of contact.Wait and see if the team appeals the call of a major and try to get it rescinded to a minor. I saw Grannary leave the ice for repairs but I think that was for a cut; glad to see he was Ok. All we can do is wait on a ruling from the league office.
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About frodgers

Director of Broadcasting & Media Relations for the Penticton Vees
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