(Cherie Morgan Photography)
The Vees two first period power-play goals
- The audio above I think describes the most important stretch of Saturday’s game. The Vees scored twice on the power-play, their first two power-plays of the game and just 1:33 apart. When it’s all said and done, those two power-play goals were the difference in a game that was decided by special teams. Assistant Coach Nick Fuher made a good point on the post-game show, pointing out it was good to see the Vees special teams have a positive impact on a game. Up until recently the Vees power-play has struggled for the majority of February but now they’ve strung together back-to-back game where they’ve scored two or more power-play goals.
- The Vees special teams performance all the more special considering the Bulldogs have the second-best power-play in the BCHL and the fourth-best penalty-kill. The Vees power-play was clutch but so too was the PK. The two four-man units kept the deadly ‘Dogs power-play off the scoresheet on five opportunities and that’s the league’s best road power-play too. A big reason why the Vees shutout the ‘Dogs power-play was their shot blocking. The Vees when short-handed and even at even strength, stepped in front of quite a few Bulldogs shot attempts. The PK was where it was most noticeable, especially on the Bulldogs first two power-plays in the first period. Guys like Jack Ramsey, Riley Alferd, Patrick Sexton and Gabe Bast took the brunt of the abuse but it was well worth it in the end.
- Nice to see Billy Christopoulos is human after all. The Vees FINALLY scored on the Alberni Valley goaltender late in the first period after Ramsey shoveled in a rebound on a power-play. The shutout streak for Christopoulos on the Vees was up to 78-minutes and he stopped something like 52 straight shots before Ramsey opened the scoring. Remember, Christopoulos had a 37-shutout against Penticton back on February 8th. Funny though, how the Vees had all this pressure on the Bulldogs netminder and it was a greasy rebound that cracked the goose-egg. Just before that Ramsey goal, Tyson Jost was absolutely robbed on the doorstep by the pad of Christopoulos and it had me thinking, “Here we go again?!”Great poise shown by Jost, who after being stonewalled, quickly gathered the puck in and drove the net. He caused all sorts of havoc and the Bulldogs goaltender lost his stick in the pileup and Ramsey was there to clean up the mess.
- What impressed me the most about the two late goals in the first was the Vees not wasting their opportunities. Just look back to Friday night when they had a five-on-three for a buck thirty-five against Merritt and they couldn’t capitalize. They were again given a five-on-three late in the first, again it was for over a minute and a half but this time they made the most of it. The ‘Dogs got themselves into a bind when Cam Amantea was high-sticked (two stitches to the ear) and then Troy Dobbs took a cross-checking penalty. The Vees made the ‘Dogs pay for their transgressions but most importantly they didn’t let an opportunity pass them by. They scored on their first two power-plays and didn’t leave any doubt; a big confidence boost. I harp on this because teams will try to get in the Vees face in the playoffs and that will lead to power-plays. The Vees HAVE to make sure they’re burning teams and sending a message that they’ll get roasted if they go after the Vees. Nothing is worse than allowing a team to run around and be in your face, and not having your power-play make them pay for it.
- The five-on-three sequence wasn’t the only thing similar to Friday’s game, the Vees second period lapse brought me back to their rough finish in the first period against Merritt. Saturday the Vees made a couple of mistakes in their end early in the middle frame and the Bulldogs took all of a minute and fifty-four seconds to erase a two-goal deficit. If you recall, Friday the Vees fizzled out towards the end of the first period and watched the Cents’ tie the game. But on both nights the Vees found a way to overcome those lapses and still win the games. Friday they had a strong forty-minutes to finish the game and Saturday it was a strong push in the second to get a lead going into the intermission. Wise move by the Vees bench to burn their timeout after the Bulldogs second goal. That really seemed to settle the troops and the Vees got back to playing their brand of hockey. It all culminated in Demico Hannoun cashing in on a breakaway late in the second. What separates great teams from good teams, is the ability to overcome challenges and or adversity in a game. The Vees had a poor eight-minute stretch Friday and overcame and they got past a less than stellar five-minute stretch on Saturday. Good teams find a way to win, when sometimes they’re not playing all that good.
- Hannoun was at his best on Saturday and that shouldn’t be a surprise given the theatre. Big crowd on Anti-Bullying night, the Vees up against it after two quick Bulldogs goals and the crowd needing a spark: Hannoun enter stage left. Hannoun loves the big moments and he’s usually money in those situations. Before his second period goal, he was stopped on a breakaway earlier in the period, when Christopoulos stopped him with the blocker. Well, his line forces a turnover just outside the Bulldogs zone and Hannoun his sprung in alone again. This time he deked to the glove-side and roofed the puck; no doubt about that. Hannoun also made a heckuva pass to Patrick Newell in the third to set up the Vees fourth goal, a big insurance marker. He’s a big game player, who’s embracing that “200 ft game.” We saw it late in the third when the Bulldogs had the net empty for the extra-skater. Hannoun, as pointed out by my partner Trevor Miller, hustled back to his blue-line and muscled Garrett Halls off the puck to stop the ‘Dogs from setting up the six-on-five. Little things like that go a long way in the playoffs.
- The Vees boast a lot of depth and it’s usually someone different every night stepping up and providing the offense. Saturday was a bit different as their top line carried the mail, as Hannoun, Jost and Newell combined for two goals and six points. Great to see those three click and get hot just as the playoffs are around the corner. Your going to need depth to win in the playoffs, but you’re also going to need your top guys to step up too.
- All around a great night and atmosphere at the SOEC. Over 3,000 screaming, pink-clad kids and their families came out for the Vees annual Anti-Bullying night. Having all those school kids at the game created a lot of noise and a great vibe in the rink. I know the players were loving the crowd and how loud they were. Lets see that again next Friday shall we?