The Penticton Vees look to closeout their Western Canada Cup Round-Robin with a win tonight over the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League champion Melfort Mustangs. The Vees were handed their first loss of the tournament on Tuesday afternoon, as the Portage Terriers pulled out a 3-2 win. The Mustangs were off Tuesday and are coming off a 3-2 overtime win over the Spruce Grove Saints on Monday.
The math is pretty simple for the Vees, a win and they punch their ticket to the WCC Championship game on Saturday night. If they lose, it muddies the waters a bit and they’ll have to wait and see what game they play in. Regardless, the Vees are assured of playing on the weekend, as Spruce Grove was eliminated last night after dropping a 5-4 decision to rivals Fort McMurray; Spruce Grove had a 4-0 lead too.
But for the Vees, they’re wanting to treat this game like a “Game 7.” They’ll need to rekindle that sense of urgency they showed in their first two games, because it wasn’t there on Tuesday. The Vees have been at their best all post-season when they’ve come up against some form of adversity and now they face adversity for the first time in this tournament.
They’ll be facing stiff competition today in the Mustangs, as they played just two games over the minimum in the SJHL playoffs, amassing a 12-2 record but they didn’t lose in regulation in three rounds. Melfort knocked out the Weyburn Redwings and Nipawin Hawks in five games each in their first two rounds, before sweeping the Notre Dame Hounds in the SJHL Final. That was their first Canalta Cup championship since 1996 and just their third in franchise history.
Regular Season Playoffs
Goals: 44 Travis Mayan Goals: 14 Adam Fauchoux
Assists: 44 Travis Mayan Assists: 14 Tristan Frei
Points: 84 Travis Mayan Points: 23 Adam Fauchoux, Tristan Frei
PPG: 12 Justin Boyer PPG: 5 Adam Fauchoux
SHG: 2 Dakota Boutin, Tristan Frei SHG: 1 Justin Boyer, Luc Lemire
Like Portage, the Melfort Mustangs were the class of their league from start to finish. The Mustangs were the top team in the SJHL regular season, finishing first out of 12 teams with a 39-8-3-6 record for 87 points in 56 games. That was six points better than the next best team in the “SJ.”
They, like most teams here, are balanced on both sides of the puck. Up front they can score, as the ‘Stangs were the second-highest scoring team in the SJHL regular season, amassing 201 goals in 56 games
Travis Mayan led the SJHL scoring race wire-to-wire, as he never fell out of first place and finished with 40 goals and 84 points; 20 points better than the second-highest scorer. Melfort had three players in the top 10 in scoring and four in the top 14. But they weren’t just good with the puck but pretty darn good without too.
The Mustangs Richard Palmer set a new SJHL goals-against average record, posting a 1.78 goals-against average in the regular season. Palmer was the league’s top goaltender with a 29-6-5 record in 40 games and also own an impressive .932 save-percentage; second-best in the Saskatchewan circuit. The Mustangs were the best defensive team as a group, only allowing 114 goals in 50 games; 19 fewer goals than the next best defensive team.
The Vees can expect another balanced opponent and one that has a considerable amount of depth; well they all do here.
Western Canada Cup Playoffs
Goals: 5 Tyson Jost Goals: 10 Tyson Jost
Assists: 5 Patrick Newell Assists: 13 Demico Hannoun
Points: 6 Tyson Jost Points: 21 Demico Hannoun
The Vees are looking to take out their frustrations on the Mustangs after a disappointing effort on Tuesday afternoon. What erases the bad memories of the loss to Portage? A win tonight.
The Vees will be keying on their start, like they’ve done for their previous three games but it will be extra scrutinized after a not-so-hot start yesterday. Coming into Tuesday’s game, the Vees had outscored Fort McMurray and Spruce Grove 8-0 in the first and outshot them by a margin of 29-13. Yesterday they were outscored 2-0 and out shot 14-8. So, they’ll be wanting to get back to their old ways.
The biggest thing tonight the coaches have harped on is the Vees mental focus. Their heads weren’t into the game early yesterday and it cost them by going down 2-0 in the first. It started right from warm-up, which wasn’t a great one from the Peach City boys. As soon as they step onto the bus tonight, they have to be focused on tonight’s game and that only; block out any distractions. As stated earlier, they’ll be treating tonight like it’s a game seven of a league championship. They need a win, as it would set themselves up nicely going into the final weekend of the tournament.
Likely no line-changes from the previous three games, as Hunter Miska will get the start and Cody DePourcq remains out recovering from his broken jaw.