- Goals were hard to come by on Wednesday and I guess we should not have been surprised by that. There was a lot riding on the game and not just for Salmon Arm. Yes, the ‘Backs are fighting for their playoff lives but the Vees are still trying to hold off Vernon and are hunting down the Regular Season Pennant. After a pretty fluid first period, things noticeably tightened up in the final forty-minutes. There was just 12 combined shots in the second and 19 combined in the third; which isn’t bad but the Vees had 14 of those. The middle of the ice was tough to get to, for both teams.
- The Vees did have a good push right off the start, as they fired 15 shots on the Salmon Arm net. Quite a few more were directed towards Angus Redmond but the ‘Backs did an excellent job of getting bodies in front of rubber; they blocked a ton. The Vees did have two power-plays in the first but came up empty. It wasn’t for a lack of effort as their two first period power-plays looked threatening. They were zipping the puck around, throwing a lot towards the net but Redmond and his defenders were there to keep the puck out. A lot of credit to that Salmon Arm penalty-kill that continually had guys stepping in front of Vees shots and closing down shooting lanes.
- On a night like Wednesday, it was fitting that Tyson Jost’s goal was the only one of the night. It was a night where a perfect shot was needed to beat one of the two goaltenders and the Vees got that from their 16-year-old rookie sensation. A lot of skill and pose on display. Did I say a lot of skill? Gabe Bast did a great job at forcing a turnover just outside the blue-line and he forced his way in on the left-wing. Bast looked for Jost across the ice but the puck hit something and bounced over to Jost. No sweat. He stopped, settled it just enough and then fired an absolute rocket top corner over Redmond’s blocker. Just underneath the cross-bar and over the goalie’s shoulder; a sliver of an opening and he picked it. Redmond’s body language said it all after the goal. The ‘Backs goaltender gave Jost a bit of a look, as in “Are you kidding?” Goalie played it perfectly but Jost played it even better.
- Redmond was the ‘Backs best player and if it wasn’t for his performance in the first, the game was likely out of reach. He made his fair share of difficult saves, battling through traffic and screens. Yeah, he got some help from his friends, the posts, as both Jost and Patrick Newell rang shots off the iron. Redmond made this extremely awkward but terrific save off of Cody DePourcq late in the first. Standing, he kicked-out his right leg as DePourcq quickly spun and fired from just off the crease on a bang-bang play. He also had the save of the night in third, AGAIN off of the Vees Co-Captain. DePourcq found himself behind the ‘D’ and looked to have Redmond beat on a deke but the ‘Backs goalie, falling forward, darted out his glove to take a goal away. Redmond was very worthy of his 2nd star selection.
- Hunter Miska’s performance was understated in a game like that but he was very sharp. Only 19 shots faced but he can’t control how much rubber he sees. There was a scramble at the side of his net in the second that he did well to keep his pads on the ice and not let Taylor Maruya jam it in to tie it. He also made this very underrated right-pad save late in the third of Taro Hirose. Off a face-off, the puck went behind the net before being centered to Hirose right in the paint. Miska quickly made a toe-save as Hirose tried to jam it in; great reactionary save. Lighter workload for Misk’ but he stopped what he saw and that’s all you can ask from your goalie.
- The Vees defensive game was on point too. There forwards played as important of a role as the defense in the shutout win. Guys really embraced the “200 ft” game on Wednesday, as they were hustling back and helping breakup Salmon Arm rushes. Two stand out for me. The first was Jack Ramsey breaking up a two-on-one with a great play with his stick. He got on his horse, raced back and got to the right spot to knock down the pass. The second was Lewis Zerter-Gossage, who by his own admission didn’t have a great game but still made heck of a defensive play on Hirose. The puck changed hands at the Vees blue-line and Hirose was darting in almost uncontested, before LZG caught up to him and with his long reach, swung his stick around to knock the puck away. The Vees were also very good in front of their own net, boxing out forwards and not allowing secondary opportunities. A lot of “one and done” plays for Salmon Arm and that’s what the Vees coaches like to see.
- Nice, quiet performance from Jarod Hilderman. Late addition to the line-up as Shayne Gwinner came down with the flu yesterday. Not easy to get the call last-minute but Hilderman kept it simple, was a bit more physical, which is wanted and had a quiet game (that’s good for a defenseman). He has been battling for a spot in the line-up and playing like that will get him more attention going forward.
- With the win, the Vees matched their win total from last year (16) and in 12 fewer games. In 58 games last year, the Vees finished with a 36-16-2-4 record. Through 46 games this year, they own a 36-7-2-1 record. There win percentage is 139 points higher as of today, than it was at the end of the regular season last year.
- Now in 22 home games, the Vees have allowed just 29 goals. Yep. a microscopic 1.36 goals-against average at the SOEC. Impressive.