- The Vees stumbled out of the blocks to start the 2015-16 BCHL regular season, dropping a 4-2 decision to the Salmon Arm Silverbacks. That was the Vees’ first season-opening loss since the 2004-05 season, when they lost to Trail 4-3 at Memorial Arena. So that’s the first opening night loss in Fred Harbinson’s tenure behind the bench. Though it ended Friday, the Vees under Fred Harbinson had won eight straight season openers. That’s quite the streak.
- If you were listening or watching last night, you would circle the second period as the Vees undoing. Three goals against, two in the last four-minutes and that all added up to a 4-1 deficit in a hurry. What I think really hurt the Vees was giving up that short-handed marker that made it 2-0 Salmon Arm. Six-minutes in, down just 1-0, the Vees were handed a power-play after Jared Turcotte was thumbed for hooking. But it was the power-play doing more harm than good. Sloppy play at the offensive blue-line led to a turnover and an odd-man rush for Salmon Arm. The two-on-one finished with Elijiah Barriga putting the puck in an open net for his second of the game. That’s a two-goal swing right there.
- If that was the biggest punch in the gut, it had to be the quick response by Salmon Arm to the Vees first goal. Easton Brodzinski, who was probably the Vees best forward Friday, made a great play to stuff a backhand five-hole and cut the deficit in half. BUT before the Vees could build upon the momentum boost, Josh Blanchard had the ‘Backs ahead. again, by two just 29-seconds later. Like the second goal against, this was another miscue in the Vees end, as Josh Laframboise had plenty of room to throw the puck to the net. Blanchard was left alone in front for the tip and compounding matters was the fact the Vees had a chance to clear the puck out of the zone before the goal.
- If that wasn’t enough, another lapse in their end resulted in a Silverbacks fourth goal. Ross Heidt was left alone in front and he took a pass from behind the net and roofed it. All three goals against in the second can be used as teaching tools for this team. It’s EARLY and you’re going to have growing pains and we saw that in the second. The silver lining in all of this is the fact these are correctable mistakes. It wasn’t like the Vees were flat-out outplayed. Most of their wounds last night were self-inflicted so they know they can be better if they can clean it up.
- Speaking of Ross Heidt, the second-year Silverbacks forward has blazing speed and showed it on the play he scored in the second. He had 16 goals as a rookie last year and I’m sure he’ll surpass that total with ease. He’s like Andre de Graase on skates.
- Another Silverback that impressed was goaltender Angus Redmond. Pre-game I wrote about how he’s considered one of the best returning goaltenders in the league and he proved it Friday. He made a few “Grade A” saves in the first and second when the Vee were really pressing. He had a great pad-save off of a Dante Fabbro one-timer in the second and same story in the first period against Tyson Jost. The Fabbro sequence might have been his best, as he also made a great chest-save on the rebound attempt by Scott Conway.
- I spoke about Brodzinski and why he was so good, is the fact he kept it simple. He used his big frame to his advantage on both of his goals and didn’t try to do anything too fancy. On the first goal his long reach helped shield the puck against the defender before shepherding it through Redmond’s legs. Then on his second, he got out of the corner, kept the puck away from the defender and snapped it short-side. Assistant Coach Nick Fuher talked about it post-game, saying the team could learn from those two goals. At times the Vees were guilty of trying to be too cute, especially on the power-play. At this early stage of the season, simplifying is everything. Brodzinski is showing a lot of promise.
- Lost in the defeat was the strong relief appearance by Anthony Brodeur. He came into the net to start the third and right away had to make a blocker-save off the face-off. He also had a smartly timed poke-check on Josh Blanchard that thwarted a sure scoring chance and was really good with his rebound control. He’ll likely get the start Wednesday against Vernon and I look forward to what he can do over 60-minutes.
- The Vees could stew about this loss until Wednesday but that won’t do any good. They do practice Saturday and the immediate focus will be correcting Friday’s mistakes. As New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick would say, “On to Vernon.”