(Photos courtesy of Rob Murray & the Fort McMurray Today)
Audio Highlights: Vees First Period Outburst
Head Coach Fred Harbinson Post-Game
- Well that was something. The Vees opened their Western Canada schedule with a 11-3 thumping of the Spruce Grove Saints at the Casman Centre in Fort McMurray. The 11 goals is a new Western Canada Cup single game record, beating the old mark of eight set last year by the Yorkton Terriers. The Vees scored five in the first, four in the second a bagged a pair in the third.
- That was the Vees highest scoring game since Halloween night, when they blitzed the Surrey Eagles 11-0. Even more impressive, is the fact the Vees hung an 11 spot on the best defensive team in the AJHL this season. The Saints also had a playoff best goals-against average of just 2.22 in 18 games.
- It was an incredible start, one the Vees couldn’t even dream up, as they scored twice inside the first minute of the game. The ice was still wet when the Vees’ Riley Alferd and Connor Chartier made it 2-0. Alferd scored just 19-seconds into game on a tip and Chartier scored 31-seconds later on a pass from behind the net. The Vees scoring on two of their first three shots and on their first two shifts. That’s one way to kick-off the WCC.
- The Vees were “on” and the Saints weren’t able to find their footing in the first and the Vees took full advantage. Penticton scored three times on their first five shots and chased starter Matt Murray just 5:46 into the game. Murray, who’s just 17, looked uncomfortable early on and the Vees found a way to capitalize. In saying that, I don’t think the Saints goaltender had much of a chance on any of the three goals he surrendered. Murray ended up coming back into the game in the second when his replacement, Brett Zarowny, left win a lower-body injury. The Vees were driving the net, getting traffic to the crease and jumping all over rebounds. When you’re on point, it creates a long night for the opposition ‘tender.
- Albert Beef: Four of the five Albertans on the Vees sure loved playing back in their home province. Gabe Bast (Reed Deer) had a goal and five points which was a game high. Connor Chartier (Calgary) and Dakota Conory (Edmonton ) each had a goal and an assist, and Tyson Jost (Leduc) bagged a hat-trick and had a four-point game. Cam Amantea (Calgary), didn’t show up on the scoresheet but had a solid game upfront and was effective on the penalty-kill. Heck, he almost scored a shorty when Murray misplayed the puck behind his net.
- Jost was on fire Saturday afternoon, as he scored a goal in each of the three periods, en route to his four-point game and Player of the Game honours. Jost was fore-checking like a dog on his first goal, taking it away from a defender before going short-side. Then he absolutely hammered the puck from the right-circle on a power-play in the second and to cap it off, he had an astute tip on a point-shot by Mike Lee late in the third. Jost and his linemates Pat Newell and Demico Hannoun, were zipping the puck around on Saturday afternoon.
- Lots of praise for the Vees play with the puck but how about their play without it? The Saints didn’t get their first shot of the game until the 14:28 mark of the first period. Remember, the Saints were the highest scoring team in the AJHL regular season and second-highest scoring team in the playoffs. Spruce Grove didn’t crack the scoresheet until the eight-minute mark of the third and that’s when the game was already well out of reach. The Vees did a really good job of not allowing Spruce Grove to penetrate the middle of the ice and they also held the blue-line very well; quite a few off-side whistles against the Saints. One really good defensive play was when Patrick Sexton and Dante Fabbro broke up a three-on-two rush. They neutralized the puck carrier and then quickly fired the puck out to a Vees forward for the three-on-one counter-attack. That play finished with Demico Hannoun scoring to make it 3-0. Your best offense is a good defense I suppose.
- Lewis Zerter-Gossage picked up an assist on that Hannoun goal and it was great to see, considering he was playing his first game in over a month. LZG was hurt in game seven against Vernon way back on March 22nd and had been out until Saturday. All things considered, Zerter-Gossage had a pretty solid game, was engaged and made some plays. Speaking with him after the game, he said the biggest challenge was getting use to the little details of the game. Those things are second nature when you’re playing everyday but when you’re out for that long, you have to familiarize yourself with those nuances. It will come and number 77 will only get better as this tournament goes along. Great to see him out on the ice again.
- The power-play had its ups and downs throughout the playoffs but it’s great to see it start off with a bang. The Vees were 2-4 on the man-advantage and looked threatening on all four opportunities. They went 0-2 before Tyson Jost and Gabe Bast scored back-to-back power-play goals late in the second; both were bullets too. Both PP units were snapping the puck around and its good to see the power-play have the start it did. They showed that if you’re going to take penalties against the Vees, they’re going to make you pay. Nothing worse than a toothless power-play, then teams start taking shots at you, as they have no worry about going a man down. Not the case yesterday and I hope that was a boost of confidence for the Vees power-play units. Also, an interesting stat unearthed by my broadcast partner Trevor Miller, as he pointed out the Saints have now allowed a power-play goal against in five straight going back to the AJHL Final.
- The blue-line was not only great in its own end but they really helped kick-start the offense. In total, the back-end had a goal and nine points and really got that vaunted transition game going with the breakout passing. Time and again, a Vees defensemen was making a hard, tape-to-tape pass to a forward in full flight at centre, which meant a lot of quick counter-attacks by the Vees. Their transition game was rolling and largely because of the plays from inside their own blue-line. You have no breakout, transition game, if your defensemen aren’t finding the forwards with those breakout passes. Nothing worse than a defenseman firing a puck in the skates of a forward or plain missing him when he’s in full flight. Certainly not the case on Saturday, as the defensemen got that puck up to the streaking forwards and they wasted little time doing it.
- Another key was the ability by the Vees blue-liners to get shots through from the point. They were very good at that for most of the season and playoffs, had some struggles in the Nanaimo series but were back to their old ways Saturday. Hey, the Vees scored three of their 11 goals on tips and four of 11 on shots originating from the point. The game-winning goal, which turned out to be the Vees fourth goal, resulted in a point-shot being tipped in front by Steen Cooper. That’s how the Vees scored the opening goal of the game, 19-seconds into the first and that’s how Jost got his hat-trick goal as well. Props to the forwards who had great hand-eye coordination Saturday but credit the ‘D’ with getting those shots through to the net.
- Like all season, the Vees were spreading out the scoring on Saturday. Here it is by line:
- First Line: 4-3-7
- Second Line: 3-4-7
- Third Line: 3-1-4
- Fourth Line: 0-1-1
- Another challenge awaits on Sunday night, as the Vees face the host For McMurray Oil Barons. The MOB, who were off since March 9th, served noticed on Saturday night by beating the Portage Terriers 3-1 in their WCC opener. Remember, Portage is the RBC Cup hosts, freshly anointed MJHL champions and had not lost a game since February 20th before Saturday night. They hosts going to be a challenge and no pushover.