- Nearly a year to the day the Vees beat the Salmon Arm Silverbacks in OT in the final regular season finale, Jack Ramsey is the OT hero this year, as the Vees beat the Silverbacks in OT in the regular season finale. March 1st, 2014, Brad McClure scored 1:23 into four-on-four OT to give the Vees a 3-2 win over the ‘Backs and that win clinched the Interior Division pennant. Fast-forward 364 days, Ramsey scores 1:48 into OT to give the Vees a 2-1 win and eliminate the ‘Backs from post-season contention. Eerily similar eh?
- Nice game-winner from Ramsey too, as he pulled a power-move out of the left-corner before tucking the puck around the outstretched goaltender on the far side of the net. Ramsey made this deceptive stop-start move in the corner that froze the defender and then came up above the goal-line and used every inch of that long wingspan of his to wrap it in.
- Obviously a very tough way for the Silverbacks to have their season come to an end. They came back to tie the game in the third to force overtime, then they killed-off a Vees power-play that carried into OT, only have their season end shortly after. That was the last BCHL game for the likes of goaltender Angus Redmond, defensemen Andrew Farny, Chase Priskie and Jordan Burns, and forwards Bryden Marsh, Shane Danyluk, Thomas Plese, Taylor Maruya and the injured Logan Mick. Some really good players aging-out or moving on to NCAA hockey. They were an extremely tough team to play against and I’m pretty sure everyone was nervous about having to potentially play the Silverbacks in the playoffs. That organization is on the rise, not only on the ice with what Head Coach Brandon West and Assistant Misko Antisin have built, but off the ice as well. President and General Manager Troy Mick and his staff have brought positivity and excitement back to the North Shuswap and it’s showing in the stands. They had over 2,100 fans pack the Shaw Centre on Friday, which is a building that only seats around 1,800. I hope to see the ‘Backs back in the playoffs next year and I hope that support from the community continues.
- Back to the game, the story for most of it was the stellar goaltending turned in by Angus Redmond. For the first two periods, he was, outside of Branden Wagner, the only Silverback playing like their season was on the line. Redmond faced 34 shots in the first two periods, including 24, yes 24, in the second period that felt like a shooting gallery more than anything. The Vees smelt blood in the second and had the ‘Backs on the ropes but Redmond kept his team in it. The craziest sequence was in the dying moments of the second when the Vees had a flurry of chances in front of their net, with Redmond down, but the goaltender somehow got parts of his body in front of puck. Redmond turned in one of the best goaltending performances of the season.
- Hunter Miska wasn’t going to be outdone and faced his own challenges and handled them well. He went long stretches without any action, to only be thrust into action on a ‘Backs chance out of nowhere. The best example of that was in that second period, as Thomas Plese danced down the left-wing and tried to out-wait Miska on a deke on the short-side. Plese tried to tuck the puck back in at the near-post but Miska did some sort of move you would see in a game of Twister and kept the puck from going in. Miska was also very good in the third, when the ‘Backs finally found that desperation level and starting buzzing around the Vees net. The only puck that beat Miska was Ross Heidt’s tying goal, that actually hit Patrick Sexton’s rear-end and changed direction going back in on the short-side.
- Despite not showing up on the scoresheet, I really loved the top-line of Demico Hannoun, Patrick Newell and Tyson Jost. Those three have put together a few good games in a row and Saturday was no different. The trio owned the puck below the circles, especially in the second period, as they were cycling at will and creating chances off it. I also really liked how emotionally and physically engaged Hannoun was. During a third period shift where the top-line was stuck in their own zone, Hannoun blocked two point-shots, both off the same foot, then crushed Salmon Arm’s Riley Booth against the boards with a bone-jarring hit. Even Patrick Newell went down to a knee and blocked a point-shot during that shift. When guys like Newell and Hannoun are laying down in front of rubber, it gets everyone fired up; everyone’s buying in.
- Well, it’s the Vees and West Kelowna Warriors in the first round of the Interior Division playoffs. Second time in the last three years these two teams have met in the post-season. They last played in the Interior Division Final in 2013, the Vees won that series in five games. Game one is Tuesday, March 3rd at 7pm, with game two Wednesday, March 4th, also at 7pm. I look forward to seeing these two rivals write another chapter in their long history together.