The view high above at Prospera Centre in Chilliwack
- Looking back at Friday’s game, the Vees have to show up late more often. After arriving in Chilliwack 15-minutes later than originally planned, the Vees had one of their best starts on the road and eventually won in double-overtime against one of the best home teams in the BCHL. You couldn’t tell the Vees fought some inclement weather to get to Prospera Centre, as they scored twice in the first 13-minutes and at one point had a 11-2 shot advantage.
- How good was it early? Well, Chilliwack, after being hemmed inside their own zone for a considerable amount of time, had to use their timeout just three and a half minutes into the game. When you’re the road team and force the home team to use their timeout before the game is five-minutes old, you’re doing something right.
- As you can see above, a nice sequence on the game-winning goal in double-overtime. Well, Hunter Miska makes two really nice saves in close on a scramble, then Demico Hannoun fires a heck of a cross-ice pass to Gabe Bast at centre. Bast used the extra space to his advantage, as he moved in down the left-wing before snapping a shot five-hole. Interesting comment from Assistant Coach Steve Cawley post-game, as he said Bast, who has one of the hardest shots on the team, was passing up too many shots before the overtime winner. So, despite having wonder kid Tyson Jost breaking to the net, Bast decides to keep it and goes five-hole on David Jacobson. Now, was Jacobson anticipating pass too? He didn’t see many shots from Bast Friday, so he might have started to cheat to play the pass, hence why the five-hole was open for the game-winner.
- A neat back story to the game-winner Friday was the fact Bast wore the goat horns last Saturday, also a 3-2 double-overtime game but a loss in Trail. On that night, Bast unfortunately turned the puck over, which eventually led to the Smoke Eaters game-winning goal. Fast-forward to Friday and Bast is in a role reversal and gets some sweet redemption. If the circumstances were different, maybe Bast tries to force a pass across but after last Saturday, you know he wanted to make up for it. He made the most of his second chance. Bast now leads all Vees defensemen in goals (7) and points (31).
- Back to the start, the Vees really controlled the flow of play five-on-five in the first period. If it wasn’t for some penalty trouble late in the opening frame, Chilliwack wouldn’t have had much of a sniff at net. The Vees fore-check and cycle game caused a lot of problems for Chilliwack in their own end in the first period. The Vees really controlled the play below the circles and if it wasn’t for Jacobson, the game could have been over before the 15-minute mark. There were several shifts that the Vees had the puck inside the Chiefs blue-line for 30-45 seconds. It was impressive to see, considering the Vees were on the bus for nearly four hours and had a bit of a late arrival.
- Obviously a big momentum swing was the two late penalties the Vees took in the final minutes of the first. Bast and Jack Ramsey took penalties 20-seconds apart giving the Chiefs a lengthy five-on-three. I didn’t have an issue with the Bast high-stick but did cringe when Ramsey was called for tripping. His penalty was identical to a play moments earlier when Jost was taken down in the corner but the arms stayed down. Consistency? Wasn’t really there from the officials on Friday and that went both ways. Hey, the Vees got a break or two on a couple of calls but you really didn’t know what was going to be called what. Tough to see the Chiefs score, one late in the period but also with just 14-seconds left in the five-on-three. The Vees were that close to killing it off but Jordan Kawaguchi made a heck of a play to get Chilliwack on the board; he shot it through a keyhole.
- Before the game if you asked the Vees if they’d take a 2-1 lead going into the break they wouldn’t even hesitate to answer yes. However, after looking back on the first 20-minutes, they understandably might have frustrated to only have a one-goal lead. Again Jacobson was very good in the Chiefs net in the first; he kept them within striking distance.
- The game really settled down in the second, as the teams held each other in check and only combined for 15 shots. Chilliwack made some great adjustments, as they spent far less time in their own end in the second as they did in the first. They even got their fore-check going and gave the Vees some fits. Defense on both sides was pretty good in the second but the goalies were the show in the middle stanza. Jacobson robbed Patrick Newell of a sure goal when he turned around and raked the puck off the goal-line with his stick. There was a scramble in the crease but Jacobson spotted the sliding puck behind him and made a great play with his stick. Hunter Miska made several key stops but the best came from his post. With a handful of seconds left in the second, Jordan Kawaguchi danced to the middle of the ice and as he spun around, the puck slid past a prone Miska but smacked the base of the post as time expired. That close.
- Kawaguchi, named the game’s third star, was very slippery on Friday, as he was the most dangerous Chiefs forward. So creative, as he’s always making something happen when the puck is on his stick in the offensive zone. Puzzling not seeing him more in overtime, as I had him only down for one shift in the five and a half minutes of overtime that was played; not sure if he picked up a late injury?
- Speaking of dangerous, Patrick Newell and the Vees top-line was very good despite not picking up a point. Newell had the puck on a string at times and was always making plays around the net. His centerman Jost was always on top of the puck and his puck protection skills are something else. Dakota Conroy showed off that great vision of his a few times, as he seemed to always find an open Vee, somewhere.
- Smooth return to the line-up for Matt Serratore who picked up an assist on the Vees second goal. Hard to tell he had missed over two months of action. His skating looked great and he instantly got that chemistry back with Riley Alferd and Jack Ramsey; those three had quite a few good shifts deep in the opposition’s end. Remember, he will only get better once he gets the rust out of his game but Serratore was more than serviceable in his return to the line-up; didn’t skip beat.
- The lines were shuffled with Serratore’s return and a couple of new lines stood out. I liked what Steen Cooper brought to a line with Cody DePourcq and Cam Amantea. That lined got the game’s first goal and spent a majority of their shifts in the Chiefs end. It took some time but towards the end of the game, Demico Hannoun, Lewis Zerter-Gossage and Connor Chartier had something going. Zerter-Gossage started to find open space late and he had a few cracks at the net. Again, those three were good below the circles and creating offense off the cycle.
- The Vees own the league’s best road record and their 18 wins on the road is more than what 13 teams have at home this season. Think about that for a moment. Only Vernon and Nanaimo have 18 or more wins AT HOME. The next best road record belongs to Nanaimo, who are 15-8-0-1 away from home.
- Speaking of records, the Vees finish the season undefeated against the Mainland Division. After 11 games, their record stands at 10-0-1-0. Their only blemish is a 1-1 with the Chiefs on December 14th. What’s more impressive about that, is the fact the Vees were 6-0-0-0 on the road against the Mainland Division. Those 21 points might be the reason why the Vees have the cushion they do atop of the Interior. Non-divisional points are always crucial, especially in a tough division like the Interior.
- With Chartier and DePourcq scoring their tenth goals of the season, the Vees now have 11 players with 10 or more goals this season. Half their roster. Depth is critical to a teams longevity in the playoffs and you can only hope they can continue to get this balanced scoring in the post-season. Even on weekends like this, it’s tough to ride just one line or a handful of certain players. Scoring by committee can pay big dividends.