Penticton Vees (6-2-0-1) (44-9-3-2, 1st in Interior)
Vernon Vipers (6-1-0-1) (36-18-1-3, 2nd in Interior)
GM 5 Venue: SOEC
GM 5 Face-Off: 7pm
Season Series: Oct 17th 3-1 Vees, Oct 25th 1-0 Vees, Nov 14th 4-2 Vees, Dec 5th 4-3 Vees, Jan 2nd 3-0 Vees, Feb 11th 2-1 Vipers, Feb 27th 3-2 Vees.
Playoff Series Schedule
Game 1: 4-3 Vees (2 OT)
Game 2: 5-2 Vees
Game 3: 5-2 Vipers
Game 4: 5-2 Vipers
Game 5 March 20th (SOEC) 7pm
Game 6 March 21st (Kal-Tire Place) 6pm
Game 7* March 22nd (SOEC) 6pm
* If necessary
It’s now a best-of-three, as the Penticton Vees and Vernon Vipers are all square at two in their best-of-seven Interior Division Final.
The Vipers evened the series with a pair of home ice wins on Tuesday and Wednesday, winning by identical 5-2 scores. Home ice dominance has been a major storyline in this series, as the home team undefeated through the first four games.
The Vees got out to a good start in game four, as Riley Alferd scored nine-minutes into the first to open up the scoring. The Vipers however responded with two late first period goals, to take a 2-1 lead into the break.
Cody DePourcq brought the Vees back level early in the second, as he fired the puck into an open net after a nice dish from Steen Cooper; DePourcq’s first since February 7th.
Vipers Captain Riley Guenther broke a 2-2 midway through the third period, when he buried a rebound in front of the Vees net. Liam Coughlin then iced the game with a couple freebies into an empty Vees net inside the final minute of the third period.
Wednesday marked just the third time all year the Vees dropped back-to-back games and the first time since February 8th & 11th.
The Vees top-line of Demico Hannoun, Tyson Jost and Patrick Newell are hoping a return home sparks some offense. The three combined for three goals and 11 points in the first two games of the series but were held pointless in the two games in Vernon. Hannoun still leads the Vees in playoff scoring with three goals and 10 points.
The Vipers duo of Liam Coughlin Thomas Aldworth made a significant impact at home, as they paired up for five goals and 11 points in the two wins this week. Their centerman TJ Dumonceaux has chipped in with a pair of assists in the series.
The Vees will look to get their power-play back on track in game five, as it went 0-12 in Vernon after scoring three goals in games one and two; the series has been dominated by the penalty-kill.
Not likely to be any line-up changes between the two teams, as the goaltending match up will be Hunter Miska versus the Vipers Danny Todosychuk. Todosychuk has won his last two starts after sitting on the sidelines since March 3rd with an undisclosed injury.
Looking at this year, teams that won Game #5, have won 4 out of the 5 series’ that have had Game #5’s so far (80% winning percentage) #BCHL
— Trevor Miller (@Miller_Lite00) March 20, 2015
What to Watch For
- Home Cooking: The Vees look to continue the trend of home ice dominance in the series, as they host Vernon in game five at the SOEC. The home team has won every game in this series and the Vees and Vipers combined are 7-1 on at home in the playoffs. The Vees only blemish in the post-season at the SOEC was 4-3 overtime setback to West Kelowna in the series opener on March 3rd. The Vees have outscored the opposition 22-11 at home in the playoffs and their power-play is better, as it’s 4-22 at the SOEC and so too is the penalty-kill, killing-off 14 of 16 penalties (87.5 %). The Vees have scored all their power-play goals at home and like most teams, look more comfortable on home ice. Can the recapture that swagger they’ve played with before at home? Can they continue to use home ice to their advantage? Going back to Vernon up 3-2 is a whole lot better than going there facing elimination; give yourself some cushion.
- Special Teams: I know many, including myself, are tired of talking about special teams in this series but that’s been the difference with two evenly matched teams. The team that has scored a at least one power-play goal per game is 3-1 in this series. So, when teams are neck-and-beck, the deciding factor comes down to what they do when they’re not playing at even strength. In the series, the Vees are 3-23 with the man-advantage and those three goals have come at home, where they got their two wins in this series. If they would have scored a power-play goal in game four, maybe we’re talking about a Vees win and a 3-1 series lead. The Vees power-play might be the deciding factor tonight and they’re going to need to find a way to break through and put a dent into the stingy Vipers PK. It might just be the difference between a win or a loss.
- Neutralizing A-D-L: The Vipers top-line of Thomas Aldworth, TJ Dumonceaux and Liam Coughlin have combined for three goals and 11 points in four games. Coughlin and Aldworth were key pieces when the series was in Vernon. Coughlin especially, as he had three goals and six points in games three and four. The Vipers are playing mostly three lines and a lot of that top trio. The Vees, like they did in game two, are going to need to find a way to muzzle the Vipers big guns and force them to play down their line-up. On the flip side, the Vees trio of Demico Hannoun, Tyson Jost and Pat Newell have to be a factor tonight. They were dynamite in games one and two, as they combined for 11 points but were held off the scoresheet in games three and four. Vees big guns, are going to have to out-gun Vernon’s.
- Bucking the Trend: Can the Vipers be the first road team to pick up a win in the series? They were close in game one, losing in double-overtime but weren’t at their best in game two, losing 5-2. They refocused at home and came out with two really solid outings and evened the series. Now, can they translate that home success on the road? They won both their road games in round one, beating Merritt 1-0 and 6-5, en route to a series sweep. If the Vipers are going to win tonight, they’ll have to be more disciplined than they were in games one and two. The Vipers took 11 penalties in those two games, seven in game two, as they spent a lot of time in the penalty-box. Do we see the Vipers squad we saw in Vernon, or the one we saw in games one and two?
- Secondary Scoring: I’ve talked about how good that Vipers top-line has been but they’re getting some pretty solid production out of a new second-line unit. Luke Voltin, Colton McCarthy and Riley Brandt have emerged as a nice compliment to the Aldworth, Coughlin and Dumonceaux trio. Brandt, McCarthy and Voltin have combined for three goals and eight points in four games. That’s the same production the Vees are getting out of Connor Chartier, Dakota Conroy and Lewis Zerter-Gossage; so they’re a legit second-line now. Those three for Vernon have been key because Liam Finlay hasn’t dressed the last two games because of injury. They’re not only brash, in-your-face players but a line that is showing they can put up numbers. The key for Vernon is to have those three to keep focused on the points and not the PIMS. We’ve seen McCarthy and Brandt run into some penalty trouble in this series. The Vipers will need that line to make an impact again tonight.
- More of the Same: Danny Todosychuk has been a nice story for the Vipers. The 20-year-old Vernon, BC, product came in to start game three and has never looked back. He’s 2-0 in the playoffs and has a sparkling .944 save-percentage in three starts. He was injured in the playoff opener on March 3rd, and didn’t play again for two weeks. He has allowed only two goals in his two starts and, despite not looking 100 percent healthy, has help the Vees offense at bay. He’s made some great stops in games three and four and is doing more than enough to put his team in a position to win. He now gets his first road start and can he continue that high level of play in Penticton? He did pick up a win in Penticton on February 11th, a 2-1 result and he was named first star after stopping 39 of 40 shots. Can the Vipers get that again tonight?