The Penticton Vees, for the third time this season, swept their three-game schedule last week, including taking all four points home with them from their Island Division road trip. Their win streak is now at 15-games and Monday they moved to 2nd in the CJHL Top 20 Rankings.
Here’ some random thoughts from the weekend that was:
- Impressive, a word I used quite a bit through the weekend and here I am using it again. What was more impressive? The 3-0 blanking of Powell River on Friday, or turning around the next day and beating Cowichan Valley 5-3 in the second of back-to-backs? Though I was…impressed with Friday’s win (shutting out the home team is always quite the accomplishment) but I’m leaning towards Saturday night. For starters, they were playing their second game in less than 24 hours and to compound matters, they had just 16 skaters at their disposal. You would have expected them to be a bit sluggish Saturday but it was quite the opposite. Outside of a couple gaffes, their energy level was high and they pushed the pace early against the Caps. The pre-game chat was about sacrifice and the team took that to heart. Guys were taking hits, laying down in front of shots and did everything they could to hold off the Caps. I was, impressed.
- With just 11 forwards and five defensemen on the weekend the Vees needed big contributions from their veterans, which they got but the younger guys stepped up too. Easton Brodzinski has been a great fit on the top-line with Scott Conway and Tyson Jost. The first year forward has seven goals and 14 points in six games since moving on that line. Once scoring corrections are submitted, Brodzinski will have 11 goals and 19 points on the year. I really like his game on Saturday against Cowichan Valley, not only did he put up three points but I thought he used his seize effectively and was noticeable at both ends of the ice; He was a nuisance in front of the Capitals net. Not a rookie but Chris Gerrie had a big night Saturday too and when the team was in need of it. He scored twice and both were at key times, including scoring the game-winner on the power-play in the third period. Gerrie had been a bit snake-bitten of late but after chat with the coaches, he bags two on the final game of the trip; that’s clutch. Nice to see Owen Sillinger score Friday, as he’s played well away from the puck and maybe that ignites things. Dixon Bowen has been flirting with a goal and rang one off the post in the game against the Caps; he’s knocking on the door. Though he didn’t have any points, I liked what I’ve seen from Ben Brar of late. He’s moved up the line-up and hasn’t looked out-of-place. One the back-end, it was a bit of baptism by fire for the greener guys, like Griffin Mendel, Sam Jones and Seamus Donohue but those three passed with flying colours. All three handled the extra work load and responsibility very well. I thought Jones and Donohue in particular had one of their best games to date on Saturday. Both were out their defending the lead inside the final minute. Both were more physical on the weekend and didn’t shy away from gritty aspect of the game.
- As a whole, the five on the blue-line deserve a lot of praise. Friday they handed the Kings their first shutout loss at home and last week the team only coughed up five goals in three games; two-thirds of which they played with just five D. David Eccles had one of his best games as a Vee Friday and Colton Poolman continues to be a stud in October. Poolman has points in nine of his last 11 games and 12 in the month of October. He had two assists on Saturday and was horse on Friday against Powell River. The team’s defensive numbers are still strong despite missing Gabe Bast and Dante Fabbro. Not sure how many other teams could cope with two top defensemen side-lined.
- The best thing to happen to Anthony Brodeur might be Zach Driscoll. Friendly competition can elevate a player’s performance and we’re seeing that with the Vees netminder. Brodeur was rock-solid against PR Friday and I thought did very well battling for pucks in front of his net Saturday. I thought he was shorted a few shots Saturday but when the Vees went up 4-3, he made sure the Caps weren’t getting another one. Brodeur is now 10-0-0, with a goals against just over one and a half and save-percentage of .940. Great numbers. Having Driscoll around has made him better in practice and that has translated to games. Driscoll has pulled his weight too, as he’s 4-0-0, with a .917 save-percentage and as a combo they’re 14-0-0 with a 1.75 goals-against average and a.933 save-percentage. Chemistry is crucial to every goaltending tandem and the two are a big reason why this team has rattled off 15 straight. With another busy weekend, three games in two and a half days, we’ll see both goaltenders and I would guess Driscoll goes Friday.
- The CJHL Top 20 Rankings came out today and the Vees have climbed up one spot to 2nd. They’re still behind the undefeated Powassan Voodoos of the Northern Ontario circuit. The complete list can be found here
- Griffin Mendel left Penticton Monday for Calgary to join up with his Hockey Canada teammates for the World Under-17 Challenge. Mendel is on Team White, one three Canadian teams, and the tournament starts on Sunday, November 1st, and runs through to Saturday, November 7th. It’s split between Dawson Creek & Fort St. John, BC. As I write this, the Vees are down to four defensemen but maybe we see the return of Dante Fabbro this weekend. If he can’t go, then the Vees will be looking at bringing up a couple of bodies. Best of luck to Griff and playing in a tournament against the best players in the world in your age group can only do you some good.
- Special teams are everything in junior hockey and no surprise the Vees are at or near the top in both categories, with their great start. After the weekend, the Vees now have the best penalty-kill in the BCHL at just under 89-percent, 88.71. That’s two full points better than the next best team in the Wenatchee Wild (86.30), and they’re one of just three teams to have only given up less than 10 power-play goals (7). They own the league’s best penalty-kill on the road too, sitting at an astounding 94-percent. The power-play has done its thing, sitting steady in third and they scored four power-play goals in two games; three against the Caps. It’s not how many power-play goals they’re getting, it’s WHEN they’re getting them. The PP is scoring at key times and that’s all you can really ask for.
- Above is Scott Conway’s power-play from Saturday. Take a moment to watch. Man, what a shot.
- The win streak, now at 15 which covers six weeks and one day. 43 days without a loss. That’s something