(Pictures courtesy of Scott McKenzie-Nanaimo Daily News)
- It’s a rematch of the 2008 Fred Page Cup Final, as the Vees and Nanaimo Clippers will compete for the 2015 edition, after the Clippers 2-0 win Thursday at Frank Crane Arena. Nanaimo is making their first league championship appearance since 2008, as the seven-year drought is over for the harbour city. The Vees are making their third trip to the FPC in the last four years, after a one-year hiatus in 2014.
- Early, the Vees looked like the team playing for their spot in the BCHL Final, as they had a lot of jump right from the puck-drop and had a handful of quality chances to get up on the Clippers. Right after the opening face-off, Nic Gushue had a flat tire at his blue-line and Matt Serratore broke in on a clear-cut breakaway. His deke attempt was stopped by Guillaume Decelles’ right-pad after he tried to stuff it in on that near-side. Interesting take from Serratore, as I spoke to him at the ferry terminal on the way home. Asking him about the deke, he pointed out that he was trying to deke back to the blocker-side but looked up and realized Decelles was a south-paw (catches with his right hand, instead of his left) and had to pull a quick audible on that deke. If Serratore knew sooner, I wonder if he tries to pull it back high on Decelles’ blocker-side? Still a clutch save by the Clippers goalie who bailed out his team early.
- Serratore’s breakaway wasn’t the only great chance early, as Pat Newell struck iron from the slot and Gabe Bast had a great solo rush just kept off the goal-line after he deked around the Clippers goaltender. The Vees came out with an impressive start and with a bounce here and there, we might be talking about a one, two or even three first period goals.
- Nanaimo turned things around as the game grew older and found a way to break a scoreless tie late in the first. Some nice fore-check pressure by the line of Sheldon Rempal, Jake Hanlon and Devin Brosseau. Some unfortunate puck luck for the Vees too, as an outlet pass by the Vees’ defenseman goes off a skate and right to Brosseau in the circle. Brendan Barry made an initial save on Brosseau but Rempal followed up and flipped the rebound up and over a prone Barry. Kind of got the feeling it was going to be a game of bounces and the home side didn’t waste the opportunity late in the first.
- Second period had a bit more excitement to it, as both teams traded chances in a fast-paced 20-minutes. The Vees best look(s) came from Dakota Conroy and Pat Newell. Newell almost burned the Clippers on a lazy puck-handling attempt by their goalie and defenseman. Newell swooped in to the corner, took it away from Decelles but he ran out of room at the goal-line trying to tuck it in; credit the Clippers d-man to get back and disrupt the tap-in for Newell. Conroy, during some four-on-four action, took a great pass from Connor Chartier from behind the net but his shot from the slot rifled off the cross-bar. Nanaimo’s Nic Carrier had a pair of grade-A looks but couldn’t cash in. First he couldn’t find the handle on a back-door feed on the power-play. He appeared to have an opening on the near-side but heeled the puck over the goal. Then, he had a breakaway from the blue-line in but couldn’t stick with a deke on Barry’s stick-side. Barry did a good job of reaching back and disrupting the deke as Carrier was moving around him. Rempal also had a nice give-and-go with Brosseau but again couldn’t get the puck on net. The second was a goaltenders duel, as both Barry and Decelles battled, got some luck but bottom line, kept the puck out of the net.
- Third period saw the Clippers turn the desperation dial up, as they came out with a lot of jump early and had the Vees on their heels for a good 8-9 minutes. Before that one-minute media timeout, the Clippers out shot the Vees 9-2 and the chances were decidedly in their favour. This is where the Vees needed to lean on their goalie and this is where Barry was at his best. He made a lot of quality saves and had this great three-save sequence off of Jake Jackson and Anthony Rinaldi. Stopped Jackson from a tight-angle, then two great goal-line pad saves off of Rinaldi. Nanaimo was emptying the gas tank at this point, looking for the knock-out blow but Barry had an answer and kept his team in it; that’s all you can ask from your goaltender.
- Nanaimo’s special teams pulled through on the deciding goal, the second goal. Hey, whoever was scoring the next one, it was going to tell a lot. If the Vees had score, its 1-1 and the game takes on a completely different look. But Yanni Kaldis gives them an insurance marker on a very well-placed wrist-shot from the blue-line. Picks a spot above Barry’s shoulder and through a lot of traffic; a skilled player showing off some skill.
- Tough blow to the Vees on that second Nanaimo goal, as they were just 15-seconds away from killing off the fifth Clippers power-play. Up until that point the Vees PK had been very good in the game. Double whammy considering the penalty call itself wasn’t one that sat well with the Vees. Demico Hannoun was called for interference on a hit on Nic Carrier at the Vees blue-line. The ref deemed it was a touch too late but honestly, it was a hit you see nightly in the league; tough indeed. Yeah, the power-play went 0-5 but remember, no Tyson Jost and Dante Fabbro and that meant the first and second units had new personnel on it and with no practice time; it was what it was. The power-play looked very dangerous though late in the game when they went six-on-four in the final five-minutes. Lots of possession but just couldn’t find the finish.
- Speaking of special teams, if anyone thought the Vees weren’t trying, just look at their penalty-kill. Guys like Cody DePourcq, Miles Gendron and Matt Serratore were wearing Clippers shots with them on the bus ride home, as they took a few big-time shots in the lower-body when on the PK; they didn’t treat it like an exhibition.
- Above is the schedule for the Fred Page Cup Final, which gets going on Friday, April 10th, in Penticton; box office at the SOEC opens up again on Monday morning.