- I bet Lewis Zerter-Gossage is feeling a hundred pounds lighter this morning. Zerter-Gossage scored his first goal in 12 games late in the third period, which stood up as the game-winner, in a 3-2 Vees win. His third period goal was the first he had scored since January 11th against Prince George. Before Friday, LZG had just one assist in his last six-games but that wasn’t for a lack of effort; a prolonged dry spell. Not only did he get that
monkeygorilla off his back, Zerter-Gossage scored a pretty goal too, with that forehand, backhand deke. Hopefully that goal will act like a spring-board and get his confidence going for the playoffs. The kid has great hands and a deadly shot but sometimes lacks the confidence. Friday might have changed that.
- The BCHL announced it’s finalists for the voted on BCHL awards and Hunter Miska was not a nominee for BCHL MVP but his counterpart in Nanaimo was in Guilluame Decelles. So the very next game he plays, he stops all but two of the 41 shots faced and takes home first star honours. Coincidence? I think not. Friday looked a statement game for Miska and I think that MVP snub just added more fuel to the fire for one of the most competitive people I’ve ever met. Miska rarely lets his teammates score in practice. PRACTICE! That translates to games and you saw that compete level on full display Friday. He made a handful of clutch saves in the first on two threatening Vipers power-plays. He then made the save-of-the-night in the dying moments of the second to preserve a one-goal lead. His final act was stopping all 15 Vernon shots he faced in the third, when they pulled out all the stops. That toe save on Liam Finlay to preserve a 2-1 Vees lead after two was immensely important. Why? Going into last night’s game the Vees were 37-2-1-1 when leading after two. Compare that to a record of 4-2-2-1 when tied after two periods. So he robs Finlay with a pad-save on a Vipers three-on-one and keeps it 2-1 going into the second intermission. Clutch. Miska is ready for the playoffs.
- What I liked most about Friday’s win was the Vees finding a way to win with their “backup game.” They were good and not so good throughout the game, as they had their struggles but they still found a way to overcome some issues and get the two points. I’ve said this a million times before but good teams find a way to win, even in games they’re not playing all that well. Penticton’s struggles were most noticeable in the back-half of the second period after nothing materialized on that four-minute power-play. Vernon pressed, and then again early in the third period to tie it. But the Vees didn’t fold, they rather regrouped and manufactured a game-winner inside the final eight-minutes of the game. They showed a lot of poise Friday.
- How about the depth scoring the Vees are getting? Seven different players hit the scoresheet Friday and only one (Zerter-Gossage) had a multiple point game. Three different goal-scorers and from three different lines. Going back to the third period in Trail on February 14th, the Vees have had 12 different players scoring their last 12 goals. If you’re planning on going deep into the playoffs, you’re going to need scoring from your entire line-up. That’s happening for the Vees and hopefully that carries on in the first round next week.
- I think Patrick Sexton has taken a big step forward in the last couple of weeks. Arguably he’s playing his best hockey of the season in the last four-five games. He was a rock on Friday, being physical, breaking up plays around his net and blocking shots. He had a great hit in the first period on Mackenzie Bauer, as he flattened him behind the Vees net. He also got a lick in on Anthony Latina, that shock up the Viper forward momentarily; Vernon had to keep their head on a swivel. Sexton saw a steady diet of speedsters TJ Dumonceaux and Thomas Aldworth, arguably the two most dangerous Vipers forwards outside of Liam Finlay. When you thought they might have had a step on Sexton, he quickly recovered and found a way to disrupt their rushes. Those two have blistering speed and Sexton, who isn’t he most fleet of foot, levels the playing field with how he thinks the game. When I look back, I don’t think any of those rushes had a clear-cut scoring chance; kept them to the outside. Sexton also made a heckuva save late in the second period. During a scramble in the Vees zone, Sexton laid down and stacked the pads to block a shot from the slot when Miska was trying to scramble back into position; team effort.
- Vernon was good and played as advertised. Their three best forwards were Liam Finlay, Thomas Aldworth and TJ Dumonceaux. Those three were always threatening when they crossed inside the Vees zone, and Aldworth’s and Dumonceax’s speed created chances at the drop off a hat. Finlay has exceptional vision and outside of some Vernon power-play time, the Vees were able, for the most part, to contain the shifty Finlay. Vernon likes to create off the rush and the key for the Vees was not allowing them to get into the middle and in that Grade ‘A’ scoring area. Helps that they had their defense and forwards laying down and getting their bodies in front of rubber. The amount of shots the Vees blocked was impressive.
- That four-minute power-play was a momentum killer, as the Vees struggled to get anything going on the extended man-advantage. The SOEC was pretty hushed after it too. Assistant Coach Nick Fuher said on the post-game show, “Lets call a spade, a spade, it wasn’t good and we were too indecisive.” The law of averages in junior hockey said the Vipers were getting the next power-play, they did, and they scored. But the Vees didn’t fold, they persevered, shrugged off some early third period struggles and then went out and manufactured a game-winning goal late. I expect the Vees power-play to have a more direct approach Saturday, with guys wasting little time to pull the trigger.
- With last night’s results, Saturday’s game will have a massive bearing on who the Vees play in the first round of the playoffs. If the Vees beat Salmon Arm tonight and the West Kelowna Warriors get a win, tie or overtime loss against Surrey, the Vees play the Warriors Tuesday. It’s simple for Salmon Arm: Win and you’re in. The Vees have a chance to knock-out Salmon Arm. What’s the best thing about tonight’s situation? West Kelowna and their fans will be cheering for the Vees to win. I love it.