(Courtesy of Cherie Morgan Photography)
- Friday was labeled as a “trap game” and it almost turned out to be one-almost. Trail, despite missing eight regulars, yes eight, gave the Vees all they could handle and then some. If you’d ask the Vees coaches, they wouldn’t be shocked on how Trail started and finished. Fred Harbinson has said numerous times, it’s even more dangerous facing a short-handed team. Lesser bodies allows the coaches to play their top players more. We saw that on Friday and Trail’s top guys were dangerous. Also tough to beat a team that doesn’t have much structure to their game. Trail’s embraced the role of spoiler, they’ve got nothing to lose and that loose style can give you fits. We saw all this on Friday and more.
- Without taking anything away from Trail, I have to say that first period was likely one of the worst periods from the Vees on home ice this year. Now, they’ve done a lot of good at home this year but the first twenty-minutes was less than stellar. They struggled moving the puck, as stringing together consecutive passes became more challenging as the period wore on and they hardly had any sustained pressure in the Trail end; a lot of “one and done” rushes. They created a lot of problems for themselves with their poor passing and decision making but they climbed out of it.
- Again, I have to heap some praise onto Trail, as they were without their two regulars goalies, their top-scorer and their fourth-best scorer and other key pieces. Just 10 regulars dressed up front and four on the back-end. The line-up was rounded out by five AP’s, two upfront, one on the blue-line and two in goal. Despite the obvious challenges, the Smokies brought their work boots with them Friday and pressed Penticton right from the get go. I wouldn’t hesitate to call that first period, their best period against Penticton this season; that’s out of 15 periods.
- So what happened in that first? Were the Vees playing down to their opponent? Sluggish? Well it might have been a combination of several things. They had a great start a week ago against Merritt and a solid opening period against Salmon Arm Wednesday. Friday the Smokies threw a couple of new wrinkles at the Vees and I guess it took a period to sort out.
- Trail’s first goal is an example of a short-handed line-up coming back to bite you. Jake Lucchini, Craig Martin and Dallas Calvin were paired together and the trio was dangerous throughout the game. Remember, Trail may been at the bottom of the Division but they have scorers and it was on full display on their first goal. Heads up play by Lucchini to win the face-off ahead and then quickly spin a backhand pass on the tape of Martin from behind the net. Puck took a fraction of a second to fly off of Martin’s blade and into the net on the one-timer. Lucchini knew what he was doing on the play and he caught the Vees off guard.
- Nice response by Connor Chartier and line-mate Lewis Zerter-Gossage. They drew the Vees level roughly five-minutes after the Trail tally. Zerter-Gossage forced the issue at his blue-line, then raced away down the left side. He saw Chartier break for the net and he threw it to Chartier, who’s tip just went over the goalie’s pad and he then went crashing into the wall; paid the price. Celebration was muted quickly, as Trail scored just scored 47-seconds after the Vees tied it; buzz kill.
- I think Trail’s second goal highlighted the first period for the Vees: good intentions but results. Mitch Newsome went to go put the puck back to the blue-line but it blew up on Dante Fabbro, allowing for the counter-attack by Kienan Scott. Penticton product got a step on the defender and from the left face-off circle, had a shot that snuck past Brendan Barry’s glove. Deflating moment there and no we ain’t talking about footballs.
- Barry was spelled off by Hunter Miska to start the second but that was to give the team a swift kick in the rear-end more so than anything. Yes, two goals against on 10 shots but I would argue Barry only had a chance on one of the two goals. He’ll likely tell you he would want that 2-1 goal back. Barry did have a very good and timely stick save on Calvin minutes, if that, before the Vees tied it 1-1. Calvin broke in alone from the top of the circles after a turnover (a few of those from the Vees in the first) but his blocker-side deke was fought-off by Barry’s stick. The Vees had to call an audible to get something going and Barry’s night ended earlier than originally planned. I’m sure he’ll get back in soon enough and when that happens, he’ll be highly motivated. Another learning experience as a 17-year-old rookie goalie. The kids been pretty unflappable with all things considered and he had a mulligan on Friday.
- The Vees ‘D’ did have an off-night, as they weren’t as sharp as we seen for most of the season really. They had a darned time going back for pucks behind their net and getting that breakout started with that first pass. Now, that did reverse in the second and third but it was a struggle at times in the first. The Vees did mix up the pairings and even went down to four defensemen at times; not ideal but sometimes it has to be done. A couple guys who struggled in the first did have a better second; significantly better and that was great to see. Those who saw some time on the bench will be eager to bounce back on Saturday; hopefully the message was received.
- Trail had to start KIJHL call-up Patrick Zubick tonight, as they had injuries to both their regular goalies in Adam Todd and Brett Clark. Zubick, a young 18-year-old (December 28th birthday), didn’t look overwhelmed at all. Zubick was making his BCHL debut and one of his first saves was off of Tyson Jost. For a smaller goalie, Zubick was aggressive and at times unorthodox by today’s standards but he got the job done. The Castlegar, BC native did have a few nice stops, including an awkward looking, yet effective standing pad-save off of Dakota Conroy. Even during all that pressure by Penticton in the second, Zubick never once let the moment swallow him up. Not an easy way to cut your teeth in the league but Zubick held his own.
- As I said earlier, the Vees had too many “one-and-done” chances in the first. To keep it simple, the Vees didn’t get enough shots to the net and didn’t work the puck enough. For playing against a 17-year-old AP, in a hostile environment, getting just seven shots on net wasn’t good enough-trap or no trap. The Vees did spin that stat around in the second over doubling the shots they put on net.
- They (Vees), spread it around in the second. With the long change in effect, the Vees did a really good job of incorporating their defensemen into the offense. They were stretching out Trail, constantly sending the puck low (behind the net, corners) to high (blue-line). That constant direction change opened up shooting lanes and the Vees took advantage. Their third goal came off of a bounce off the boards behind the net. The carom came right to Mitch Newsome at the side of the net for the tap in. The whole play started with Mike Lee firing a point-shot and through a crowd. Even if it wasn’t intentional (Lee would say it was), getting the points involved really helped spread out Trail and the Vees started to find open space because of that.
- Guys who stood out for me in the second were Gabe Bast, Dante Fabbro, Mitch Newsome, Tyson Jost and Dakota Conroy. Jost looked to have some fire in his belly, as he also threw a big shoulder into Jake Lucchini on a back-check. Bast and Fabbro constantly were getting fed the puck and they were making plays happen back there.
- Some numbers to keep in mind with the weekend shifting to Trail. The Vees have now won 12 straight against Trail going back to March, 2013. Trail’s 0-7-0-0 on their last seven trips to the SOEC; have been outscored 31-15 in those seven games.
- The second periods in this season series seem to be the weak link for Trail. Including Friday, they’ve (Trail) now been outscored 11-4 in the middle frame. Furthermore, in the last two meetings the Vees have outscored Trail 6-2 in the second. Friday was no different, as the Vees looked like a completely different team compared to the first.
- The Vees should have had more breathing room than the one-goal victory. Before Trail made it 4-3 in the third, the Vees Tyson Jost appeared to have scored on a power-play. It would have been his second goal in the game and likely put the game out of reach. Jost took a feed from the right-wing just above the goal-line. Jost, on the left side, one-timed the pass back across to the glove-side and into the net but the light never went on. Unfortunate and frustrating the goal judge didn’t turn on the red light. That would have made the game 5-2 and the Vees would have thrown a blanket on the game. Goal was missed and would you know it, the Smokies scored a couple of minutes later to make it a one-goal game, 4-3. If you start the video highlights at 4:15, you can see the build up to the goal. Puck sails off of Jost’s stick and right inside the left-post and right back out again. The puck hit the padding inside the post on a weird angle. If the red light doesn’t go on, I can see why the ref dismisses the play. Now if the goal judge had the light on, it at least opens up a conversation about the play. In the end a moot point but Jost was robbed of his 20th but life goes on; he’ll get that one soon enough.