*PROGRAMMING NOTE: Dude to scheduling conflicts, today’s game WON’T be on EZ ROCK AM 800. Click the above “Listen” link for a FREE audio stream of today’s broadcast.
FACE-OFF: 4pm, Prospera Centre
The Penticton Vees roll into Chilliwack this afternoon for the fourth installment of the BCHL Bauer Showcase at Prospera Centre. Penticton starts their two-game Showcase schedule at 4 pm today against the Alberni Valley Bulldogs.
The Vees as a franchise have a bit of a streak going when it comes to the Showcase. Since it’s inception in the 2012-13 season, the Vees are 6-0-0 at this event and if I’m not mistaken, the only BCHL team that hasn’t lost in the three-year history. Also, this will be the third straight year the Vees face the ‘Dogs at the Showcase, the Vees winning the previous two encounters 3-2 and 4-3.
Last year Tyson Jost picked up a hat-trick in that 4-3 win but the Bulldogs nearly came back from a 4-1 deficit after two periods.
Penticton is off to a good start, again, as they sit second in the Interior Division, one point behind the Salmon Arm Silverbacks. After dropping their season opener to Salmon Arm on September 11th, the Vees have rattled off three straight wins, which all came last week in the span of four days. They beat Vernon 3-2 on September 16th, then posted back-to-back wins over Surrey (6-2) and West Kelowna (4-1) on September 18th and 19th.
That strong week earned the team some league-wide attention as forward Scott Conway was named the BCHL Player of the Week. Conway had five goals and seven points in the three wins. READ HERE. Conway is third in the BCHL scoring race and line-mate Tyson Jost is also inside the top 10 with seven points as well.
- Manage Momentum: The Vees were on a roll last week, running the table on their three-game schedule and climbing up to second in the Division standings. Now they have to keep that momentum rolling into Chilliwack and against two non-division opponents. Also they’re playing in a neutral site, in front of NCAA & NHL scouts and bipartisan fans. That means they’ll have to create their own energy and won’t be able to feed off a home crowd or hostile one at that. It can be easy to fall into a lull and come out flat-footed considering the circumstances. The Vees need to avoid that and find a way to continue where they left off last week.
- Don’t Get Pinched: From what I remember with last year’s Bulldogs, they like to involve their defense into their offense. Meaning their defensemen are aggressive at the points, not hesitating to pinch down in the offensive zone and take cracks at the net. Guys like Garrett Halls, Troy Dobbs and Taylor Derynck will have to be closely watched. There always seems to be a fourth guy lurking up high in the zone. That means the forwards will have to make a concentrated effort in dropping back and covering the points. Don’t let the Bulldogs out number you in your own zone.
- Transition: As I pointed out, the Bulldogs ‘D’ likes to be active but that means there will be opportunities to counter-attack. If the Bulldogs d-men pinch, the Vees will have chances at odd-man rushes the other way, IF they’re transition game is on point. That means quick exits out of their own zone, bump and run plays to get the Bulldogs defensemen turning. Prospera Centre seems to have a fast track, so the Vees need to find a way to take advantage of the aggressive blue-line the Bulldogs have.
Last year’s squad went 27-25-2-4, grabbing the fourth and final playoff spot in the Island Division. The Bulldogs almost came all the way back against Nanaimo in the Island Division Semi-Final, as they lost in seven games after going down 3-0.
Seven players are back from that team and they’re off to a bit of a slow start, dropping two of their first three games. The Bulldogs dropped their season opener 6-3 in Cowichan Valley on September 12th, before rebounding with a 3-2 win in their home opener against Victoria on September 19th. But they were left with a bad taste in their mouth last weekend, as the Powell River Kings handed them a 7-0 loss at home last Sunday.
Three of their top six scorers are back from last season, including Scott Clark, who finished second in team scoring behind then Captain Mitch Makin. Chris Schutz is also back and will be leaned on to help lead the offense with Clark.
Not only is the Alberni Valley D-core, aggressive but they’re big too. Only one of their eight defensemen is under six feet. They’re average height is 6’2 and five of those eight defensemen are 6’2 or taller. They have size but do they have speed? The Vees will have to try and get these big boys chasing the puck.
Last year Billy 20-year-old Billy Christopoulos was the backbone in net for the ‘Dogs. This year they’ve handed the keys to another 20-year-old in Chris Tai. The North Delta, BC, product was with the Express last year and had mixed results. This year his early numbers don’t jump out at you but he had success in the AJHL before landing in BC last year. Can he translate that success in Alberni Valley this year?