I spoke with Co-Captain Patrick Sexton this afternoon about his game-winning goal and Sunday night’s atmosphere.
(As you can see, Mr. Sexton drew quite the crowd for our interview today)
- Well, that was something wasn’t it? A game seven that will be talked about for quite some time. Sunday night definitely had a “game seven” feel to it, as you could sense the urgency, desperation from both teams. It was a game that was decided on guts, sheer will rather than skill. Yes, the Vees won on a lucky bounce but I remind you so did Vernon in game five in Penticton. I remember saying out loud something of the effect “The Vees had NO puck luck in this series,” after Luke Voltin’s game-winner in game five went off a Vee and in. Well, the favour was repaid in full, as the Vees finally got a bounce to go their way in this series. It so happens to be the final bounce and in the deciding game. Funny how that works out.
- Raise your hand if you picked Patrick Sexton to win the series for the Vees. OK, maybe these two did:
- What a night for the Vees Co-Captain. Sexton scored his first ever BCHL playoff goal last night and his first goal since December 19th against West Kelowna; 34 games between goals. To make it an even more memorable night, his dad Randy, who works for the Pittsburgh Penguins, was in attendance watching last night’s game. Last night was also Sexton’s 301st of his junior career. I’m sure 53 won’t soon forget March 22nd, 2015.
- Sexton’s goal reminded me of one he scored against Vernon last year. I looked it up and sure enough they were eerily similar. On February 14th, 2014, Sexton scored 14-seconds into the game from the same position at the same blue-line and almost at the exact same spot. On that night, his point-shot went off the glove of Riley Guenther and floated over…yes, the goalie’s glove; that goalie was Austin Smith. Last night, Sexton drags the puck from the left-wing and his point-shot hits Riley Brandt and flutters in over Todosyhcuk on the…glove-side. You can watch the video from last year here. Seriously? How crazy is that? Him scoring almost identical goals and from nearly the same spot and against the same team but over a year apart.
- I mentioned guts off the top and it was a gutsy effort from the Vees. They lost Lewis Zerter-Gossage to an upper-body injury on his very first shift and had to play with 11 forwards the rest of the way; a game like that felt like playing with two forwards down. The Vees had to double-shift guys and that meant increased minutes in a game where every inch of ice gained had to be earned; tough sledding. Game sevens tend to take on a unique feel, a game within a game and we saw that Sunday. Guys were throwing themselves at one another, tackling each other and wrestling each other for contested pucks. The Vees showed a lot of heart to battle right to the bitter end and squeeze out that win. I’m sure the jubilation of the series win was masking the bumps and bruises some of the Vees were feeling this morning.
- Hunter Miska looked like an MVP last night and in the last two games. When the chips were down, he came up with two clutch efforts. Miska, with his team facing elimination twice, went 2-0 in the final two games with a .05 goals-against average and a .984 save-percentage. Oh, and had a shutout in game seven. He fought through a lot of, umm…”traffic” in this series but he didn’t let it get to him. Yeah, he had an off game in game three but he rose to the occasion in game six and again in game seven. He was a target, that’s clear to see and that comes with being one of the best players in the league. He handled it extremely well and didn’t let that sideshow in game two sidetrack his post-season. After “slumping” somewhat through games two-five, Miska was there when it mattered the most. MVP. Last night he made some great saves, especially late through traffic when the Vipers had the extra-attacker out. He looked so confident in such a hectic environment and he’s a calming influence for his team. He made two clutch saves during a Vipers power-play sequence in the third that proved to me he was “back.” He stopped the blast from the point and as if it was a Tuesday afternoon practice drill, he did the splits as he moved to his left and snatched a Anthony Latina rebound attempt. No big deal.
- I mentioned more than once the Vees struggles in the third period in this series. Well after being outscored 7-0 in the third through games 1-5, the Vees outscored the Vipers 3-0 in the third period in games six and seven. The Vees got a crucial goal in game six from Pat Newell to ice a 5-1 win and setup game 7.1 Then in game seven the Vees scored both of their goals in the third and inside the final three-minutes. That’s how you turn the tables.
- Liam Coughlin led the Vipers in playoff scoring with 10 points and had three goals and five points in this series; he was a handful. However, when it mattered the Vees found a way to keep him at bay. In game six and seven, Coughlin was held pointless after picking up three goals and five points in games three, four and five; all Vernon wins. Yes, Coughlin had a couple of quality chances over the last two games but the Vees and their goalie managed to thwart Coughlin. A big reason why the Vees came back to win this series was shutting down the top-line of Vernon, as the Coughlin, TJ Dumonceaux and Thomas Aldworth trio had just two points between each other in the last two games; Aldworth assisting on Dumonceaux’s goal in game six. A good chunk of credit has to go to the line of Riley Alferd, Jack Ramsey and Matt Serratore. Those three saw a lot of the Vipers top-line in the series and responded well. The three even managed to put up some numbers, as a line they combined for four goals and eight points in seven games. Fitting that two-thirds of that line was on the ice when the Vees sealed the game and series with an empty-net goal. Fitting it was Serratore scoring it too, as he likely had the Vees best chance in the game. He rifled a shot off the cross-bar after a great rush down the right-win in the second period.
- Connor Chartier: Playoff MVP? Five goals and seven points in the series versus Vernon and his line had eight goals and 15 points. Chartier, 21, is embracing his last junior hockey playoff run. He and his line-mates have formed a really good 1-A option for the Vees.
- The Vees depth has been much publicized but it was another key to winning this series. Every line scored at least a goal in the series and the Vees had only one player not register at least a single point in the series, and that player only played in two of the seven games. The parity was uncanny, as the Vees first line had 16 points, their second line 15 and the third and fourth line chipped in with 8; talk about spreading it around. Now, the team is quick to shoot down any labeling of their lines, as Fred Harbinson doesn’t hesitate to play any of his four lines at any time of the game. When you can get production out of all four lines and have trust in all four, you have a good chance to go a long way. I really do think the Vees consistently using their whole bench went a long way in pulling out a game seven win. It was three games in three nights with double-overtime mixed in there in game five, to closeout the series. The Vees saved enough gas for game seven and they used every once of their reserves last night.
- It was great to see this team win a series on home ice after dropping last year’s Interior Championship at the SOEC. Go back a year before and the Vees lost the Fred Page Cup at home too. Cam Amantea and Cody DePourcq played on both of those Vees teams and I’m sure it ate at them. Great to see the Vees buck that trend and get to win on home ice and in front of an awesome crowd. They’re now 6-2 at home in the post-season but both of those losses came in overtime. Good to see this team use that home-ice advantage they fought for in the regular season.
- A huge thank you to the over 32-hundred fans who had the SOEC rocking. It was an electric atmosphere and one that I will not forget. I had goose bumps when Serratore scored that empty-net goal. The noise was deafening and I thought the fans were going to blow the roof off the joint. It was hard not to get somewhat emotional with the late-game dramatics, the crowd and what last night meant to the players and their supporters. Hopefully we can see that awesome support carry over into the round robin AND hopefully the Final.
- Speaking of the BCHL Double Round Robin, the league office released the schedule for it and a helpful, fan-friendly “tracker.” Check that out here.