Venue: Royal LePage Place
Game Time: 7pm
Season Series: (4-2 Vees) 4-3 Vees Oct 10th, 4-0 Vees Oct 11th, 3-2 Warriors Nov 5th, 4-3 Warriors Nov 29th, 4-2 Vees Dec 19th, 7-2 Vees Dec 20th
Vees Road Record: 16-5-1-1
Vees Record vs. Interior Division: 18-6-1-0
Vees Leading Scorer: Lewis Zerter-Gossage 17-24-41
Warriors Home Record: 12-8-0-1
Warriors Record vs. Interior Division: 12-12-0-3
Warriors Leading Scorer: 17-42-59
Going Up, on a Tuesday: The Vees head up to West Kelowna for their seventh and final meeting against the Warriors this season. The Vees have won four of the six matchups against the Tribe this season, including a weekend sweep before the Christmas break, beating the Warriors 4-2 and 7-2 on December 19th and 20th.
The Vees are coming off a weekend split, doubling up Trail 6-3 Saturday after losing 4-1 Friday in Merritt. The Vees have won four of their last five games and seven of their last 10 heading into Tuesday’s game.
West Kelowna earned a weekend split as well, scoring a 6-4 win at home Saturday against Powell River, that after losing 6-3 a night earlier in Vernon. West Kelowna has won three of their last five games but just four of their last 10. Merritt overtook them for third place on Sunday, as the Cents’ now sit one point ahead of the Tribe and have two games in hand. West Kelowna is also looking over their shoulder, as Salmon Arm is five points back of fourth and they too have a game in hand on West Kelowna.
The gap between first and fourth in the Interior Division is 20 points, as the Vees have 33 wins and 69 points, to the Warriors 22 wins and 49 points. The Vees have won the previous two games at RLP this season, shutting out the Tribe 4-0 on Oct 11th and thumping them 7-2 on December 20th.
Who’s In, Who’s Out: The Vees will dress the maximum of 20 players tonight in West Kelowna but they won’t all be regulars. The Vees will be without the services of defensemen Gabe Bast, Jarod Hilderman and Miles Gendron, along with forward Lewis Zerter-Gossage.
Bast, Hilderman and Zerter-Gossage are representing the Vees at the CJHL Prospects Game in Oakville, Ontario tonight. The three are 12 BCHL players that make up the 22-man Team West Roster.
Gendron is serving the final game of his two-game suspension, after picking up a Blow to the Head major penalty Friday in Merritt.
With four out, the Vees have called up 18-year-old defenseman Tyler Holz from the Osoyoos Coyotes and 16-year-old rearguard Greg Brydon from the Okanagan Hockey Academy. 15-year-old OHA standout Jordy Bellerive will play upfront in place of the absent Zerter-Gossage.
Patrick Newell, who missed both weekend games with an upper-body injury, is a game-time decision for tonight.
Hunter Miska is the probable starter for the Vees and he’s 3-2 against West Kelowna, with a 2.21 goals-against average and a .913 save-percentage.
Keep Tabs on the Opposition: The Warriors have an arsenal of offensive weapons, which is led by Liam Blackburn who’s fifth in the BCHL scoring race with 59 points in 43 games. Blackburn does lead the league in assists with 42, which is one better than Victoria’s Dane Gibson.
Blackburn, along with Brayden Gelsinger, Jason Cotton and Jonathan Desbiens represent a four-headed monster for the opposition. Gelsinger is second in team scoring with 46 points, closely followed by Cotton (45) and then Desbiens (38).
Gelsinger has been a thorn in the Vees side as he has three goals and five points against the Vees this season. Desbiens is right behind him with three goals and four points. The Vees have done a relatively good job in muzzling Blackburn (0-2-2) and Cotton (1-1-2) in the season series. They’ll need more of the same tonight if they’re going to leave RLP with two points.
The Warriors made a pair of moves ahead of the January 10th deadline. The Tribe brought in defensemen Tyler Kunz and Braeden Jones. Kunz was acquired from PG for defenseman Greydon Robinson and forward Michael Buonincontri. Jones came from the Grande Prairie Storm of the Alberta Junior Hockey League; Jones is a former Trail Smoke Eater.
Andy Desautels is back in the crease for the Warriors after missing a month due to emergency appendectomy surgery. Since returning, the 20-year-old is 2-2 in four starts. Desautels is 2-2 against the Vees this season with a 3.28 goals-against average and a .902 save-percentage.