- Though it wasn’t a Picasso the Vees extended their BCHL-best win streak to 16-games Friday night, largely in part to the play of goaltender Zach Driscoll and their penalty-kill. Driscoll picked up his first career BCHL shutout, making 27-saves and improved his record to a perfect 5-0. The PK came up with a big kill early in the third period, when they had to kill-off a Centennials five-on-three that was more than a minute long. The coaching staff didn’t necessarily like how their team executed the game plan but credit them for working through their hiccups.
- The story, for my money, was Zach Driscoll and his performance between the pipes. He was tested early, as the Centennials pushed the Vees off the start and Driscoll made a great stop on Merritt’s Brett Jewell, in that initial surge by the visitors. Jewell broke down the right-wing, cut to the net and went backhand but Driscoll darted out the blocker lunging to his right; you had a feeling from there on, he was going to be good. He truly was that “last line of defense,” as if there was a breakdown he was there to not only make the stop but not give up a secondary chance. Driscoll, if he did let out a rebound, it was intentional as he steered shots to the corner and away from danger. His biggest test was that five-on-three Cents’ PP in the third, with the Vees still clinging to a 1-0 lead. Merritt had a few good chances but Driscoll had an answer time and again and was a big reason why the Vees kept their power-play off the scoresheet. Fitting he had to make a great kick-save, as time expired, on Jewell right at the end. He really did earn that shutout.
- After Friday, Anthony Brodeur and Driscoll are first and second in goals against average in the entire league and they’re first (Brodeur) and fourth (Driscoll) in save-percentage. Combined, they’re 15-0-0 and they’re hands down, the best one-two punch right now in the BCHL. The Vees have won the BCHL award for best goaltending duo for the past three seasons and they’re on their way to doing it again. These two have been the backbone during this stretch of injuries for the Vees.
- Not a bad debut by Nicholas Jones on Friday night. The 19-year-old scored what turned out to be the game-winner, on a penalty-shot no less, late in the second. He was then after the game, credited with a second goal after he was last to touch the puck on the Vees second goal. Great execution on the penalty-shot late in the second period, as he changed his speed, slowed down, then threw a dart off both posts and past Colten Lancaster. Here’s an alternate view of that penalty-shot:
- Speaking of the penalty-kill, not only did it go 4-4 on Friday night but it’s now a perfect 19-19 in the Vees last five games; you have to go back to October 17th against Langley, for the last power-play goal given up. What’s also impressive about that stat is the fact the Vees have only been short-handed 19 times in their last five games. Remove the seven penalties they took against Cowichan Valley last Saturday, and its only 12 power-plays given up in their other four games. The 19 over five games is an average of 3.8 power-plays per game. Pretty good considering how many penalties they were taking earlier in the season. The less time you spend in the penalty-box, the better your chances are winning on any given night.
- And some praise for the Vees defense last night, in particular the four regulars who put in some overtime Friday. Colton Poolman, David Eccles, Seamus Donohue and Sam Jones were taxed, again, with heavy minutes but found a way to get the job done. Poolman and Eccles are veterans and doing what veterans are expected to do. But man, what a progression in these last few weeks by Donohue and Jones. The two rookies, playing more than what was expected of them, have stepped up and risen to the occasion. I’ve noticed a real change in Donohue and Jones ever since the Island Division road trip last weekend. Both are making more confident plays with the puck, they’re both more physical and playing with a noticeable edge. This team has picked up two shutouts in its last three games and that’s with not having Gabe Bast and Dante Fabbro. Now, that’s something.
So, it’s round two between the Vees and Centennials, as they finish the home-and-home set at Nicola Valley Memorial Arena in Merritt, on Halloween. The Vees are trying to push their win streak to 17-games and the Cents’ meanwhile, are trying to snap a six-game losing skid.
The Vees one change to their line-up tonight is in goal. Anthony Brodeur will get the start tonight and is perfect to start his BCHL career. Coming into tonight’s game, Brodeur is 10-0 with a 1.55 goals-against average and a .940 save-percentage; he has one shutout too. If the rotation continues, we’ll likely see Driscoll get the start tomorrow afternoon in Trail.
There is also one more change on the blue-line, as Ryan Morrell, from the Osoyoos Coyotes, will draw into the line-up as an AP, replacing 15-year-old Mitch Prowse. Morrell is 18-years-old and hails from Red Deer, Alberta; he’ll wear number 97 tonight.
Playing off of last night, the Vees will have to be better tonight, and yes, that does sound odd seeing though they’ve won 16 straight. The coaching staff thought the team was a bit too individualistic last night and got away from the plan that was laid out before them. Good teams win, when they’re playing structured hockey. It’s hard to play with a lot of skill, or any in Merritt considering the cramped conditions. The Vees will have to win on effort and commitment to details tonight.