- Who was facing elimination on Monday, the Vees or West Kelowna? By judging by the way this game started and played out, it looked like the Vees were down 3-1 and playing for the playoff lives. A really good start that saw the Vees earn a two-goal lead after one, tacked onto it in the second and they buried the Warriors in the third period with four goals in roughly eight-minutes. The Vees certainly didn’t want to leave anything to chance and that was evident right from the start. They played with pace, were hounding pucks and were very sharp in their own end. I had a few fans actually pull me aside after the game, on the concourse, and said that was the best they’ve seen the Vees play this year. One long-time season ticket holder joked, “Where did that come from?”
- To be honest, I was a bit disappointed in the effort from West-K. No, I don’t want to kick them while they’re down but they didn’t seem like a group that wanted to force a game six. Individually there was some performances that showed me some desperation but as a group, this didn’t look like a team that had their backs up against the wall. Maybe it was the two heart-wrenching losses over the weekend that shook them a bit. You could definitely see their body language change after that second goal by the Vees late in the first and certainly when Tyson Jost made it 3-0 inside the final minute of the second; the straw that broke the camel’s back.
- We talked about how no lead was really safe in this series and both teams had a knack for coming back in the third, but one key was starts and the numbers reflected that. The Vees finished a perfect 3-0-0 in the series when leading after one. All those leads came in the last three games too. Led 2-0 after the first in game five, 1-0 after 20 in game four and 3-0 after the first period in game three. During the regular season, the Vees were 22-1-1-1 when leading after the first period; they thrive off of good starts. Though their leads in the previous two games before game five were erased, its good to see the Vees come out with a lot of jump and hey, they did win all three.
- Speaking of wins, the Vees finished the series by winning out after dropping game one in OT; four straight wins that somewhat flew under the radar. Maybe the game one OT loss at home was a reminder of the riggers of the post-season; tight-checking hockey. I think some of the Vees younger guys had to get a game under their belt and after that they looked like a confident, determined group. Looking at the big picture, the Vees have now won 10 of their last 11 dating back to the regular season. They ended the regular season on a six-game winning streak, as they went from February 13th to March 3rd without a loss on their schedule. This team is playing their best hockey at the perfect time and scoring seven goals in a clinching game of a series will only do wonders for their confidence.
- Got to heap some praise on Miles Gendron and Jarod Hilderman once more. This new defensive pairing finished with two assists each in the win and both are tied for the BCHL playoff scoring lead for defensemen. The two are tied with the Express’ Daniel Fritz (1-4-5) but with the Express eliminated, there’s a good chance they’ll pass him in round two. Hilderman nearly matched his regular season output (0-6-6) in just five playoff games. Gendron’s confidence with the puck has grown leaps and bounds and you could see him firing breakout passes right on teammates tape at full speed. After only seeing glimpses, were consistently seeing why the Ottawa Senators made him a third round selection in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. His skating, vision and now poise make him a real threat from the back. If my math is correct, Gendy led all Vees in plus/minus in the series, with an impressive plus nine rating. Like how Hilderman has because more physical in his own end, as he’s consistently leaning on guys in and around his net. Most importantly he’s willing to take a hit to make a play. He’s taken a more hard-nose approach to the post-season and it shows.
- Remember after game four, how I said Dakota Conroy was having a sneaky good playoff run? Well, after it’s all said and done, he finished tied for the team scoring lead in round one with six points (3-3-6); only Demico Hannoun has as many points. As you can see in the highlights above, Conroy made a heckuva play on his third period goal. He sensed the Warriors weren’t focused and as the puck was dropped, BAM, he fired a wrist-shot to the top-corner over the glove of Stephen Heslop. All the Warriors stood in stunned silence. Conroy, the right-handed shot, lined up on his strong side and rifled that thing underneath the bar; a shorty too. Very craft, intelligent hockey player and we’re seeing that in the playoffs.
- Conroy’s line, with Connor Chartier and Lewis Zerter-Gossage combined for four goals and eight points in the last two games. They were on the ice for the game-tying and game-winning goals on Saturday and they made a great play on the Vees seventh goal. The Vees have had depth scoring all series but now its seems like they have two legitimate scoring lines. Yes, all four lines are scoring but it’s going to be hard for others to try to match up against the Vees, with how the “CCZG” line is playing. If you’re the opposition, do yo put your top defensive pairing against Jost’s line or Chartier’s? Before many thought it was a no-brainer but now teams have to think about it.
- I guess all he needed was a lot of rubber. Hunter Miska was terrific for the Vees in the series, as he finished with a staggering .948 save-percentage and a minuscule 1.75 goals-against average. He was 1-1 with a 2.41 goals-against average and a .914 save-percentage after the first two games. Then he faced 82 shots in game three and went 3-0 with a 1.31 goals-against average and a sparkling .964 save-percentage. It seemed like his playoffs turned around for him at the start of overtime in game three. He was lights-out in those three extra periods and now hasn’t looked back. His shutout might be overlooked if you’re scanning the box score, but he made some clutch saves on Monday. None better than his glove-save off of Jonathan Desbiens right on the doorstep. Miska’s momentum had him leaning his weight to his blocker-side but he reached back up in the air and quickly snatched Desbiens’ rebound attempt; took a sure goal away. After that save you had a feeling he wasn’t going to let anything by him in game five.