The Penticton Vees open their RBC Cup schedule this afternoon and against a familiar and formidable foe. First up for the Vees is the host Portage Terriers, a team they beat just one week ago in the Western Canada Cup Final in Fort McMurray, Alberta. Seven days ago, Connor Chartier scored early in overtime, as the Vees knocked-off the Terriers 4-3 in OT.
Puck drop is 12 pm Pacific Time / 3 pm Eastern Time
The two teams match-up very well, as the Terriers did get the better of the Vees in the round-robin portion of the WCC, taking a 3-2 decision; the Vees only loss of that tournament. Both games at the WCC were tight-checking affairs and both had the feel of two long-time rivals going at each other.
There’s some pressure on the hosts, as they’re trying to be the first Manitoba team to win the RBC Cup since 1973 and that’s when it was known as the Centennial Cup. It’s been 41-years and counting and Manitoba teams have reached the RBC Cup four times since but have lost all four of those games. Portage is trying to be the first host team to win an RBC Cup since the Weyburn Red Wings of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League did it in 2005. A near capacity crowd is expected for this afternoon’s opener, as there was only a few standing room sets left before today’s tilt between the Vees and Terriers; I wonder if that adds to the pressure for the hosts.
The Vees are back at the big dance for the second time in four years but aren’t wanting to repeat their start at the 2012 RBC Cup. That year the Vees, to many’s surprise, started the tournament 0-2 before rattling off four-straight wins en route to an RBC Cup championship. Like this year, the Vees started the 2012 tournament in the afternoon slot and ended losing 2-1 to the Soo Thunderbirds, on the back of terrific goaltending from John Kleinhans. Today’s not a must win but the Vees wold love nothing more to jumping out to a good start and getting one step closer to their goal of reaching the semi-final.
The Vees are six-games between their ultimate goal and that’s the National Junior ‘A’ Championship, the RBC Cup. 120-something teams each started with the same dream in September and now it’s just five who still have a shot, including Penticton trying to nab their second RBC Cup in four years.
Cody DePourcq is the only holdover from the 2012 squad that won in Humboldt, Saskatchewan, but the Vees do have experience on their roster. Forward Demico Hannoun is playing in his third consecutive RBC Cup, as he was a semi-finalist in 2013 with Surrey and 2014 with Vernon. Hannoun has also played twice for Team Canada West at the 2013 and 2014 World Junior ‘A’ Challenge; he’s accustomed to the big stage.
Even the young pups have had a taste, as Tyson Jost is set to become the first player to play in all four major Hockey Canada Events. Jost was at the Telus Cup last April with the Okanagan Rockets, and this past fall he played for Canada at both the World Under-17 Challenge and the World Junior ‘A’ Challenge. Now it’s the RBC Cup and all of this happening in just 13 months.
Jost’s has a few teammates who’ve also got Hockey Canada tournament experience. Brendan Barry was his starting goaltender at the Telus Cup last spring and Gabe Bast and Dante Fabbro have also worn the maple leaf this season. Bast played with Jost at the WJAC and Fabbro was with him at both the World Under-17’s and WJAC. Bast has also won a Telus Cup, that came in 2013 with the Red Deer Optimist Chiefs.
DePourcq and Hannoun and even a young guy like Jost can help prepare the rest of the team for this tournament and help prepare them for what’s to come.
Tough task faces the Vees this afternoon, as Portage only lost four-times at home all season and just three times in regulation. The Terriers were 26-3-1 at the PCU Centre this season and a perfect 6-0-0 in the Turnbull Cup playoffs. Like I said early, nearly every seat is spoken for today and there’s just a limited number of standing room tickets left. The PCU Centre will be packed with nearly 2,000 Terriers’ supporters. In saying that, the Vees seem to bring their best when they are facing adversity and we’ve seen it during this two-month long playoff run.
Many are asking but Cody DePourcq won’t play today in the Vees’ RBC Cup opener but likely will play at some point in the round-robin, maybe as soon as tomorrow versus Melfort. Cam Amantea also has been cleared to play but likely won’t dress this afternoon as well; likely goes Sunday too.
The Vees appear to be icing the same line-up as they did one week ago against Portage in the WCC Final. That means 16-year-old Jordy Bellerive will be in the line-up and will skate alongside Lewis Zerter-Gossage and Mitch Newsome.
How tough was the Vees’ road to the RBC Cup? Well, Hockey Canada did a story on the Top Five best playoff series on the road to the RBC Cup, and the Vees hold down two of the five spots. In third place, was the Vees first round match up against West Kelowna and the second-most memorable series was the Vees seven-game classic against Vernon. Full story HERE
The International Scouting Services “Players to Watch” for the Vees:
very high hockey IQ … great skater … controls pace of the game … likes to contribute offensively … plays a lot of minutes in all situations … very mature … doesn’t panic … excellent puck mover
elite-level forward … tremendous skill set … strong on his skates … great playmaking ability … finds holes in the offensive zone … knows his to finish … dangerous on the PP … likes the big games
athletic goaltender … moves well laterally for his size … quick reflexes … competes hard for sight lines … keeps focused in scrums around the net … uses his size to his advantage … very good glove
Vees Projected line-up:
11 Patrick Newell 71 Tyson Jost 21 Demico Hannoun
17 Steen Cooper 48 Connor Chartier 67 Dakota Conroy
12 Matt Serratore 91 Riley Alferd 15 Jack Ramsey
77 Lewis Zerter-Gossage 9 Jordy Bellerive 28 Mitch Newsome
53 Patrick Sexton 2 Dante Fabbro
10 Miles Gendron 4 Gabe Bast
3 Mike Lee 27 Jarod Hilderman
35 Hunter Miska
1 Brendan Barry
The wait is finally over for the Portage Terriers, their fans and the city of Portage la Prairie. After months of planning the RBC Cup is about to kick-off in the Central Plains Region of Manitoba. The PCU Centre has got the final touches before the 2015 RBC Cup opens this afternoon. I’m sure the coaches, players and fans are happy that the focus will now be on the hockey and the distractions leading up to the tournament are finally in the rear-view mirror.
The Terriers have been under the spotlight all season and that comes with being RBC Cup hosts and they haven’t disappointed. The Terriers rolled through the Manitoba Junior Hockey League regular season, compiling a 53-3-4 record for 110 points in 60 regular season games. They were just as good in the Turmbull Cup playoffs, going a perfect 12-0, sweeping Waywayseecappo, Virden and Steinbach in the MJHL Final. The Terriers then went 3-1 in the Western Canada Cup round-robin before meeting the Vees in the Final. The Terriers two losses at the WCC were just two they had in their last 17 games.
This is a team built to host a national championship, as they boast a lot of depth, size and skill; a great blend. The Terriers have nine 20-year-olds on their roster and six players who’ve played in the Western Hockey League. There’s 12 players that were on this team last year, as Head Coach Blake Spiller has built this team up over the last two seasons. I’m sure the players are tired of doing interviews about the tournament and eager to prove they can snap the long Manitoba drought at the RBC Cup.
The Vees will have to keep tabs on the Terriers dangerous trio of Zach Waldvogel and the Bowles brothers, Brad and Shawn. Waldvogel actually played two games at the 2012 RBC Cup as an AP and his older brother Tanner was on that team. Brad and Shawn Bowles are the Portage Terriers’ “Sedin Twins.” They have exceptional chemistry and seem to know where each other are anywhere on the ice. The Bowles are not only skilled but have good size too, so they’ll be a handful when they’re in the Vees zone.
Penticton will also have to be weary of the attack from the blue-line, as the Terriers have a couple of dangerous puck movers. Captain Tanner Jago is an exceptional puck-moving defenseman who’s also a fourth forward out there at times. His offense prowess doesn’t hinder his defensive capabilities, as he’s one of their best defensive-defeseman; he plays a ton too. Landon Peel is also a smooth-skating rear-guard who can cause problems from the blue-line. Peel was named the Top Defenseman at the Western Canada Cup and was named to the All-Tournament team.
Who starts in goal this afternoon? Justin Laforest faced the Vees in the WCC Final but lost. Zac Robidoux faced the Vees in the round-robin and won. To add fuel to fire, the Terriers play the Carleton Place Canadians tomorrow and that’s Laforest’s former team and where he calls home. I’m sure he wants to face his former team and that has me thinking we might see Zac Robidoux this afternoon; just a hunch.
The International Scouting Service, in conjunction with Hockey Canada, listed three “Players to Watch,” from each team and here’s the Portage scouting report:
good size … hard to handle down low … very good on the cycle … great puck protection … loves to funnel pucks to the net … wears down opponents in the defensive zone … good skater … smart player
big, physical forward … great speed … very good on the forecheck … likes to punish defencemen … great puck protection down low … good vision … hard, accurate shot … strong on his skates
smooth skating defenceman … high hockey IQ …uses skating and puck skills to escape pressure … very good transition … tremendous vision … elite passing ability … likes to join the rush … responsible
Terriers Projected Line-Up:
15 Shawn Bowles 9 Brad Bowles 21 Zach Waldvogel
19 Carson Perreaux 11 Gran Valiquette 16 Garick Gray
23 Jordyn Boyd 22 Tyler Jeanson 24 Dane Schoiler
10 Jaryd Wiebe 8 Taylor Friesen 14 Andrew Zerban
12 Tanner Jago 6 Kevin Pochuk
5 Davis Ross 27 Landon Peel
4 Brett Orr 7 Matt Alexander
35 Justin Laforest
33 Zac Robidoux