The Penticton Vees are back in action Tuesday afternoon / morning when they face the undefeated Carleton Place Canadians on Day 4 of the 2015 RBC Cup in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba.
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The Vees enter Day 4 of the tournament in second place with a 1-1-0-0 record and a plus three goal differential. The Vees dropped their opening game of the tournament 3-2 Saturday to Portage, before rebounding with a 4-0 blanking of the Melfort Mustangs Sunday. The Canadians are 2-0-0-0 after back-to-back shutouts to start the tournament, the first team to do that at the RBC Cup since the Calgary Canucks did it in 1995. “CPC” as they’re commonly referred as, shutout the Soo Thunderbirds 4-0 on Saturday night, before blanking the host Portage Terriers 3-0 on Sunday evening.
The Vees are looking to climb above the .500 mark for the first time at the tournament, whilst the Canadians are trying to run their record to a perfect 3-0-0-0 and solidify themselves at the top of the standings. The Canadians have the tie-breaker on goal differential right now with a plus seven, so the Vees will need a win and win by a couple if they want top spot after Day 4.
After this afternoon’s contest, the Vees are again off on Wednesday before wrapping up their round-robin schedule with an afternoon tilt versus the Soo Thunderbirds on Thursday. The Canadians wrap-up their round-robin tomorrow against the Mustangs, as they’ll have two-days off before the semi-finals on Saturday.
A few have asked what the rule differences are at the RBC Cup compared to what we usually see in the BCHL. For starters, the defending team is allowed to change on an icing call, where as the offending team can’t do so in the BCHL. Unlike the BCHL, when given a power-play the face-off doesn’t automatically go inside the attacking zone. The face-off is done in the circle nearest where the play was blown dead. Also the overtime format isn’t what you traditionally see in the playoffs. At the RBC Cup, if teams are still tied after regulation, they’ll play a 10-minute four-on-four overtime period and if nothing is still decided, they’ll go to a shootout. That’s a stark contrast from the continuous five-on-five overtime in the BCHL. Also unlike the BCHL, teams at the RBC Cup are allowed to dress up to nine (9) 20-year-olds. In the BCHL the league rule is six. Finally the points structure is different as well, as teams get rewarded three (3) points for a regulation win, two (2) points for an overtime / shootout win and one (1) point for an overtime / shootout loss. Keep that in mind when you’re looking at the standings page on the Hockey Canada website; after two games the Vees are 1-1-0-0. Those are most of the more noticeable differences from the BCHL to the RBC Cup.
The Vees challenging RBC Cup schedule continues on Tuesday afternoon, as they face the two-time East representatives (Fred Page Cup champion) Carleton Place Canadians. This after the Vees opened against the host Portage Terriers Saturday, then in a back-to-back situation, the Vees faced a rested Melfort team on Sunday; so far he Vees are responding well.
With no disrespect to the other three teams, today’s match up against CPC might just be the most challenging yet for the Vees at this tournament, given what the Canadians have done through two games. The Central Canada Hockey League (CCHL) champs, have strung together back-to-back shutouts over the Soo and Portage and have still managed to score seven goals. Heck, they’re only surrendering 19 and a half shots per game so far in this RBC Cup.
The Vees may have one advantage over Carleton Place and that is maybe being better adjusted to the early afternoon start time. Remember, all four of the Vees round-robin games are 2 pm local start times, where as the Canadians are playing their first afternoon game after back-to-back night caps to start the tournament. Hockey players are creatures of habit and married to routines. Will the Vees be better prepared for the start?
With Melfort beating the Soo Thunderbirds 5-3 on Monday night, there’s a bit of a logjam at the top of the standings. The Vees, along with Melfort and Portage all have 1-1-0-0 records but the Vees have the superior goal differential over the other two teams, hence why they are sitting in second. A Vees regulation win (that’s important) would mean they and CPC would both be 3-1-0-0 and first place would depend on the score of the game. Right now the Vees are solely focused on winning but if they can get a lead, they’ll need to keep their foot on the gas pedal right to the end. Remember, whoever finishes first in the round-robin, gets to pick which time slot they want in the semi-finals. Cart before the horse, I know.
One thing that has been really good for the Vees so far in this tournament is their starts. They’ve scored first in both games and both times scoring inside the first six-minutes. So far they’ve outscored the opposition 3-1 in the first period and have doubled them in shots (31-15). Another strong start might be key, given that Carleton Place is playing their first afternoon game of the tournament; can the Vees take advantage?
With the healthy returns of Cam Amantea and Cody DePourcq, the Vees, for the first time in quite some time, have some line-up decisions to make, as they have 13 healthy regular forwards now at their disposal. Lewis Zerter-Gossage came out on Sunday, as Amantea and DePourcq played with Mitch Newsome. Does Zerter-Gossage draw back into the line-up? His size and abilities might come in handy against the Canadians who have a big and mobile defense. Other than that decision up front, the Vees line-up will look pretty much like it did on Sunday against Melfort.
Vees Projected Line-Up
11 Pat Newell 71 Tyson Jost 21 Demico Hannoun
17 Steen Cooper 48 Connor Chariter 67 Dakota Conroy
12 Matt Serratore 91 Riley Alferd 15 Jack Ramsey
74 Cam Amantea 19 Cody DePourcq 28 Mitch Newsome / 77 Lewis Zerter-Gossage
53 Patrick Sexton 2 Dante Fabbro
10 Miles Gendron 4 Gabe Bast
3 Mike Lee 27 Jarod Hilderman
35 Hunter Miska
1 Brendan Barry
So far, so good for Jason Clarke’s Carleton Place Canadians, as they’re perfect halfway through their RBC Cup round-robin schedule. The Canadians haven’t allowed a goal in 120-minutes of hockey in Portage la Prairie, and have scored seven goals in their first two games to sit along atop of the leader board.
I guess you could label this season as a “redemption tour” for the East Region reps. The Canadians are the two-time Fred Page Cup Champions, yes there’s TWO Fred Page Cups; there’s is the East Region trophy. Not many teams have made it to back-to-back RBC Cups but that’s what Carleton Place did this year, after losing a heart-breaker in the RBC Cup Final against Yorkton in Vernon last May. In that Championship game, the Canadians were leading 3-1 with under five-minutes left before the Yorkton Terriers scored twice to force overtime. Derek Fallon broke the Canadians’ hearts in OT, scoring the RBC Cup-winning goal for Terriers.
Nine players are back from that squad, including 2014 CJHL National Player of the Year Andy Sturtz and starting goaltender Guillaume Therien. The other seven that played in the 2014 RBC Cup are Owen and Tyson Stewart, Devin Campbell, Adam Lloyd, Vinny Post, Craig Pefley and Stephen Baylis.
Those nine were the nucleus that helped the Canadians to a 49-10-2-1 regular season record and first place overall in the CCHL standings. They then went 12-2-0-1 in the CCHL playoffs, sweeping Nepean in the first round, knocking-off Cornwall in six-games in round two, before brushing aside Pembroke in five-games in the league final. The Canadians then went on to the Fred Page Cup Tournament in Cornwall, where they won two of their three round-robin games, before beating the Dieppe Commandos in the Final, punching their ticket back to the big dance.
Andy Sturtz led the Canadians in scoring both in the regular season and CCHL playoffs. In the regular season, Sturtz had 30 goals and 72 points and only missed four regular season games. In the 15 CCHL playoffs, Sturtz had nine goals and 22 points. Right behind him was CCHL MVP Stephen Baylis. Baylis had 69 points in 62 regular season games and seven goals and 22 points in the CCHL playoffs. Baylis and Sturtz are two-thirds of the Canadians’ “Players to Watch” list put out by International Scouting Services for the tournament.
If you look at their line-up on paper, five of their top-six forwards and six of their top-nine played in the 2014 RBC Cup; you can’t buy that kind of experience. Other players to keep tabs on are Vinny Post, Adam Lloyd, Jordan Larson and Wesley Baker; to name a few. The Canadians have nine players committed to an NCAA Division l school; second only to Penticton’s 16.
One of their biggest strengths is there play away from the puck, as the Canadians, like the Vees, were the top defensive team in the CCHL. CPC allowed the fewest goals-against in the regular season, just 131 in 62 games; an average of just 2.12 per game. They also had the second-best goals-against average in the playoffs (2.40 per game). A big reason why is the man between the pipes.
Guillaume Therien is back from last year and that RBC Cup Final loss seemed to have sparked him. He had the third-most wins in the CCHL regular season (29), the second-best goals-against average (2.27) and the best save-percentage (.927). In the playoffs he kept his play up, owning the most wins (11), second-best goals-against average (2.27) and sixth-best save-percentage (.906). Therien was named the Top Goaltender in the CCHL and was great in the Fred Page Cup Regional, going 3-0 with a 1.92 goals-against average and owned a sparkling .933 save-percentage. International Scouting Services describes him as ” a quick, athletic goaltender with good size and good anticipation; very good post to post.”
This, like the other four teams here at the tournament is built for a run at the RBC Cup and like the Vees, the Canadians boast a lot of depth in all three major areas of their line-up.
Canadians Projected Line-Up:
9 Tyson Stewart 21 Jordan Larson 16 Andy Sturtz
26 Stephen Baylis 22 Craig Pefley 18 Vinny Post
10 Wesley Baker 12 Adam Lloyd 19 Bryce Van Horn
17 Connor Merkley 20 Andrew Dodson 25 Maxime St. Pierre
7 Devin Campbell 23 Owen Stewart
4 Willie Brooks 11 Alex Robinson
3 David Eccles 27 Ryker Killins
1 Guillaume Therien
35 Adrian Clark