- The Vees were handed their first loss of the Western Canada Cup on Tuesday afternoon, as the Portage Terriers climb out to a 2-0 lead in the first, and skated to a 3-2 win. The Vees and Terriers are now both 2-1 but the Vees still sit in first place on goal differential.
- Let’s be honest, it wasn’t a great effort from the Vees, a complete 180 from their first two games. There were far too many mental errors on both sides of the puck and they just didn’t have that same hunger, energy that they showed in games one and two. They had a real hard time making tape to tape passes and that really stalled their breakout. Credit Portage, as they were real aggressive on the fore-check, bottling the Vees up at times in their own end and the did a good job of taking the middle of the ice away. But, the Vees were their own worst enemy on Tuesday afternoon and it cost them sole possession of first place.
- Was a role reversal early, as it was the Terriers with a great start, taking a page out of the Vees playbook, by playing with a lot of pace and forcing the Vees back on their heels in their own end. The Portage top line of Zach Waldvogel and brothers Brad and Shawn Bowles was dangerous. They spent a lot of time in the Vees end in the early going. Quick trio, as they were dangerous off the rush and were effective down low cycling the puck. No surprise that those three were in on both first period goals for Portage.
- Talking about starts, the Vees had outscored the opposition 8-0 in the previous two games in the first period.
- One bright spot early and throughout the game was Hunter Miska. No question was the Vees best player and if it wasn’t for his goaltending in the first period, the game likely would have gotten away from the Vees. Miska made a handful of good reactionary saves and from high quality scoring areas. He then stopped Carson Perreaux on a penalty-shot after he was tripped up by Miles Gendron. Gendron actually got Perreaux’s skate in the face and had to leave the game for repairs. He needed a few stitches on the inside of his mouth but eventually made his way back into the game in the second period. But Miska was great and stopped 35 of 37 shots in the loss. Yeah he was helped out by a couple posts that the Terriers hit but every good goalie gets lucky once in a while. No surprise Miska played the way he did, on the day he was named one of five finalists for the CJHL Top Goaltender Award.
Hunter Miska post-game
- Going back to the mental error theme, how many times did the Vees go offside and have they had that many rushes blown down because of it? I can’t recall the last time they were called for entering the zone too soon or illegally that many times in one game. Yes, a couple seemed to be missed calls by the linesman but for the most part it was their own doing. A couple of examples of the not so common mental errors that plagued the Vees? Well, one was Dante Fabbro getting dinged for an “illegal player” penalty for trying to play the puck without a helmet on. A rare brain fart from the super-rookie. Also, and more critical of a mistake, was the slashing penalty Connor Chartier picked up late in the third and it was when the Vees were on a power-play. They’re down 3-2 with four-minutes left and just were given a power-play.But 27-seconds after they were handed that man-advantage, Chartier chopped the stick out of the hands of a Terriers’ defenseman right behind their net. That kind of afternoon. Assistant Coach Steve Cawley touched on it in the post-game show, saying the team’s mental focus was not where it needed to be and they looked like a team “drinking their own Kool-Aid.” Today hopefully served as a kick in the butt.
- Again, I should praise the Terriers for how they played, as they surprised me with how fast they were. We knew they were dangerous offensively and had a good mix of experience and size but they showed they can motor. Defensemen like Tanner Jago and Landon Peel were great at rushing the puck and the Bowles brothers brought a lot of speed and they didn’t slow down. They looked like the number one ranked team in Canada and a team that was out to prove they belonged on top. The Vees still may get a chance at revenge in the playoff round on the weekend. Time will tell.
- The sky isn’t falling and I don’t want to keep harping on the team. I’ll say this, if they were guilty of reading their own press clippings, this afternoon served as a lesson and a reality check. This tournament is far from over and the Vees now know they can’t afford an off shift, let alone an off day moving forward. The teams they’re playing are just too good; they’re champions of their own leagues for a reason.
- The team is still in great shape, as a win on Wednesday night against Melfort books them a spot in the 1 vs. 2 Western Canada Cup Final on Saturday night. But for now, the team just has to focus on Melfort and Wednesday’s round-robin finale. Time to bounce back, they’ve done it plenty of times before. No reason they can’t again at this stage.