Thirteen isn’t an unlucky number for the Penticton Vees. Wednesday they extended their win streak to 13-games with a 4-2 win over the visiting West Kelowna Warriors. Wednesday might be the most impressive win in this run for the Vees. Stay with me here. For starters, they were missing Demico Hannoun and Jason Lavallee upfront and Gabe Bast on the blue-line. So, that’s two top-nine forwards and a top-four defenseman out of the line-up. They dress 11 forwards but not too long into the game they’re down to 10 after Desi Burgart was hurt after being struck with a shot up high. Then they find themselves short-handed inside the first two-minutes than they go down two skaters inside the first three-minutes and had to kill-off five-on-three West Kelowna power-play, which was second best in the BCHL entering the game. The Vees managed to work past these hurdles and build up a 3-0 lead en route to the two-goal win.
Critical moment was that two-man advantage for West Kelowna. The Vees were given a power-play half a minute into the game but then it was two penalties to Colton Poolman and David Eccles which created the 43-second five-on-three for West-K. Not only did the league’s second-best power-play get a two-man advantage but two of the Vees best penalty-killers were in the box. Zach Driscoll, who stopped 33 of 35 in the game, was excellent during that penalty-kill sequence, as he made several quality stops on dangerous West-K shooters. Also the forwards need to get some credit as they blocked quite a bit of shots not only on that five-on-three but throughout the game. The Vees ended up going three-for-three on the PK and that’s a reason why they won Wednesday’s game.
Give good teams an inch, they’ll take a mile. The Vees finished killing-off the two penalties, were outshot 7-1 because of it but they quickly capitalized on a turnover and turned the game on its ear. An errant pass by a Warriors defenseman slid out by their bench, Scott Conway picked it off and then fed Tyson Jost for a partial breakaway. Bing, bang, boom its 1-0 for the Vees midway through the first. Not like the Vees were under performing to that point but that goal was a huge boost and that got them on their way. Good players don’t need a lot of time and space but when they get it, it’s almost automatic.
How about Griffin Mendel? The 16-year-old defenseman was recently selected for one of the three Canada teams at the World Under-17 Challenge and then scores his first BCHL goal last night. Not a cheapie either, as Mendel hammered a drop pass from the blue-line that was a dart into the top corner. Luke Voltin with the heads up drop pass back to Mendel off the rush and he leaned into it. What’s most impressive for me is how little of a wind-up Mendel has for his heavy shot. Looks very efficient in his movement before pumping a shot off; half wind up. His mom and dad were down from Kelowna watching and his brother too, who was only seeing him play for the second time; special moment for the Mendel family. After this weekend Mendel goes to Calgary Monday to prepare for the U-17’s which are in Dawson Creek and Fort St. John, BC, in early November. Considering his age and what he does for the Vees, Mendel is becoming quite the player.
A pair of Vees extended their point streaks in the win. Scott Conway now has a point in 13 straight and I guess to no one’s surprise, the Vees have won all of those games. After a pointless opening night, Conway now has 13 goals and 27 points during his impressive run. Dante Fabbro picked up an assist and now has points in 11 straight; he’s the highest scoring defenseman in the BCHL. The Vees did end one streak on the other side of the puck as Jonathan Desbiens 5-game point streak came to an end; the Vees did a good job of keeping him relatively quiet. Liam Blackburn did extend his point streak to 14-games with his two points last night. Blackburn was the Warriors best player without a doubt Wednesday. He made a lot of plays happen on his own and his effort on the Warriors first goal was something. Sometimes you just got to tip your hat to a player.
Back to Driscoll for a moment or two. He was great in the first during that stretch of power-play time by West Kelowna and throughout the game his rebound control was excellent. As Assistant Coach Steve Cawley said in the post-game show, Driscoll is very calming influence in the crease. He never panics, even during scrambles in front of his net and he always seems to be in position. There were a couple moments when he lost his stick during the heat of the battle but managed to square up and make the save. Going into last night, Driscoll had a 1.33 goals-against average and a .938 save-percentage at even strength, that according to Director of Analytics Steve Cocker. That’s a new “Advance Stat” that teams now judge goalies on, as it takes out power-play stats (shots & goals-against). Driscoll has excellent numbers at five-on-five and if he keeps that up, the Vees will be winning more often than not.
No rest for the wicked and battered and bruised for that matter. The Vees left Penticton at 8 am Thursday as they head out to Powell River. The Vees land on the Sunshine Coast Thursday evening, before playing the Kings Friday and then jump on the Vancouver Island to Duncan, for a date with the Cowichan Valley Capitals. Time to get comfy.