- Well, Saturday’s RBC Cup opener lived up to the pre-game billing as it was another one-goal, hard-fought game between the Vees and Terriers, and for the second time in three games the Terriers came out on top. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought these two play in the same division all-season along, let along playing in different provinces.
- Couldn’t have asked for a better start. Vees scored five-minutes in and at one point were out shooting Portage 14-4. They just couldn’t get that seperater goal and Portage hung in long enough to equalize.
- A pair of big goals from the Terriers was a big difference, as Brett Orr scored the 2-1 goal for Portage and their Captain, Tanner Jago scored the game-winner late in the third. Orr simply fired the puck toward the net and it hit a Vees skate and got by Hunter Miska. Jago made a nice move to find open ice, took the pass in stride and rifled a shot over Miska’s glove in the third. In games as closely as contested as Saturday’s was, you never know what the difference might be.
- Hindsight is 20/20 but that five-on-three power-play early in the first period looms large now. The Vees scored two-minutes earlier and then get power-plays just over a minute apart. So, eight-minutes in, it’s 1-0 for the Vees and they’re going on a two-man advantage for over a minute. It was a real opportunity to knock the Terriers down to at least a knee but the home team weathered the storm; credit them for that. Well, the Vees did everything but score on that five-on-three. They came within inches of making it 2-0, as Gabe Bast wired a seeing-eye shot off the post. Dakota Conroy was also robbed on a pad save by Zac Robidoux, who came across and denied the backdoor tap-in. The chances were there, the finish just eluded the Vees and it stayed 1-0 and that came back to bite them. Tough break.
- Another key moment in the first was on a Portage power-play, after they killed-off three Vees power-plays, they scored on a four-minute power-play at the end of the opening frame. With just point-three seconds left in the first, yes not even one second was on the clock, Shawn Bowles scored on a drop pass from his brother Brad Bowles. Another tough break, as Paddy Sexton was dinged for the double-minor high-sticking penalty. Interesting note from Assistant Coach Steve Cawley, as on our post-game show he pointed out that Gabe Bast was took a stick to his face on the same play and he too was cut. The refs caught the Sexton stick but not the one on Bast.
- Regardless, when teams are so evenly matched, every are is extra scrutinized and the power-play game was a difference. The Terriers get that extra goal and the Vees came up empty on four tries. I liked three of the four power-play attempts, but effort only gets you so far at this juncture. The Vees will need to find a way to get something going on the power-play going forward.
- Pat Newell did his best to get the Vees a game one win. The diminutive forward scored twice and had a beauty in the third period to bring the Vees back level. Newell knocked-down a breakout attempt, dribbled, yes dribbled, a bouncing puck through the defenders legs and then roofed a wrist-shot over the goalie’s glove from the slot. That eye-popper tied the game 2-2 early in the third but unfortunately the Vees could not build on it. Newell was a puck hound all afternoon and was worth of his Player of the Game nod.
- Sounds a bit cliché but the Vees didn’t have muck luck around the net. They hit two posts and a crossbar in the game. Bast and Dante Fabbro struck iron on the power-play and then, with the Vees down 2-1, Steen Copper slammed the crossbar on an odd-man rush. Dakota Conroy also had a partial breakaway off a turnover but his backhand deke was thwarted by the Terriers’ goalie. The opportunities were there throughout but the finish eluded the Vees forward. It was a really good game with great atmosphere and the Vees were like a dog after a bone, trying to tie it but came up just short. I hope the Vees get a shot at redemption against Portage later in this tournament.
- Hats off to the fans of Portage, the PCU Centre, volunteers and Hockey Canada staff. Great start to the RBC Cup, as it was a packed house for the afternoon game. It was loud in the “Dog Pound” when the Terriers were buzzing and deafening when they scored. There was a great vibe around the city the last two days and it didn’t disappoint inside the rink once the puck dropped.
- Big thanks to the PCU Centre staff and Hockey Canada folks for trying to help rectify a broadcast snafu. There was a mix up with broadcast lines, as I had trouble getting to air but there were numerous staff on hand that jumped in to try to solve the problem. Hopefully everything is all good tomorrow for game two against Melfort. I’ve really noticed how friendly the people of Portage are and the Hockey Canada crew that’s on site; they make you feel welcome.