(Photos: Randy Emery / Trail Smoke Eaters)
- The Vees didn’t look like a team travelling on a bus all afternoon, at least not early anyways. They scored three goals on their first four shots in just under seven-minutes, as they cruised to a 7-1 win in Trail Tuesday. It’s a four-hour ride, one way, but the Vees didn’t seem to have “bus legs” at the start, as they built up a three-goal lead in the first six-minutes. 97-seconds in Dom Masellis made it 1-0 and then they got two in 38-seconds just after the six-minute mark, on goals from Chris Gerrie and Demico Hannoun. That forced Bailey MacBurnie out of the net, the reigning BCHL Player of the Week, after he allowed three goals on four shots; MacBurnie stopped 81 of 84 last weekend in two games. It was a dream start for the visitors.
- Despite building up the 3-0 lead just under seven-minutes in, the coaching staff wasn’t overly enthused with the Vees first period. Assistant Coach Nick Fuher said post-game that they weren’t executing on the details they touched on pre-game. You look at it, and you can see where he’s coming from. The Vees had just six shots in the first and gave up 12. Credit them for adjusting in the second and third because they outscored Trail 4-0 and outshot them 24-15 in the final two periods. Despite not scoring in the second, I liked what the Vees did with the puck and they continued that positive trend into the third where they pulled away, with four goals in the final 20-minutes.
- Pre-game Head Coach Fred Harbinson said he wanted his team to do a better job with their in-game adjustments. He cited that as one area that needed to be improved upon and the stats above says they did just that as the game moved into the second and third. As Coach pointed out, what separates teams from winning and losing in the playoffs is how they adapt, adjust in games; the margin of victory is so narrow.
- Back to the start for a moment, the Vees made some smart plays with and without the puck on their first three goals. On their first, Masellis makes a nice pinch down from the point, finding a soft spot out front. He commands the puck and then blasts a shot short-side and upstairs; nice pass too by Gerrie from behind the net. On the second goal it was a sequence of inches. Trail almost tied it at the one end, as they just missed a tip in front. Nicholas Jones wisely races the puck quickly back the other way, catching the Smokies up ice and then fires a nice pass over to Gerrie. The goalie gave him up high on the short-side and a guy of his skill wasn’t going to miss. Boom. It was an inch or two from being 1-1 but it’s 2-0 just over six-minutes in. Inches. On the third goal it was a bit of luck and hard-work by Hannoun. He smartly pressures the point-man, who promptly fumbles the puck and falls at the Vees’ blue-line. Hannoun chugged down the ice the other way, held off a back-checker and he too went upstairs, short-side. Three savvy plays by veteran players.
- Back to Masellis, it was just his second game as a Vee but you could see how much more comfortable he looked tonight. He was much more assertive in his own zone, throwing that big frame around, flattening a few guys in front of his own net and was mean when it mattered. He had a really nice hip-check in the second period, as he came across and threw himself, perfectly timed, into the side of Kale Howarth; he isn’t a small customer either. Masellis is only going to get more comfortable as time passes and I look forward to what he can do. He was effective Tuesday.
- I talked about this post-game with Coach Fuher but I thought it was a good team approach to the defensive side of the things. The Vees played well in their own end for the most part and it wasn’t just the defense stepping up. I thought the forward group did a good job at back-tracking, coming back on plays and negating secondary chances in front. Gerrie, Hannoun, Jones, Sillinger all had notable moments where they got their butt back after being all the way down in the other end. Hannoun’s back-checking prowess led to his goalie and Gerrie had a nice break up in front of his net on a Trail chance. When the forwards are playing that “200 foot game” it takes an immense load of the defenseman’s shoulders.
- Nice to see guys like Gerrie and Hannoun start putting some points up. They’ve been playing well for a while but the points haven’t necessarily been coming steadily. Now, Hannoun has five goals in his last six games and is up to eight on the season. Gerrie had two points tonight and has quietly gone about getting 17 in 19 games. Those two will be key guys down the stretch and into the playoffs. When everyone is keying on the top-line, its guys like them that need to make hay. So far, so good.
- They were justly rewarded when they got on the scoresheet at the end of the game, as I liked the fourth-line trio of Mitch Brooks, Ben Brar and Desi Burgart. They worked their butts off on Tuesday, were a thorn in Trail’s side on the fore-check and got some power-play time at the end, which Burgart ended up scoring a goal. They’re not here to score but to provide quality minutes, be hard to play against and provide energy. I thought all three were impactful and played at good pace. Maybe we can call the three the “Killer B’s?” There’s competition for playing time up front and that will only force these guys to be better. I think we’ll see more nights like this going forward. You can never have enough depth.
- Scott Conway picked up a pair of assists on Tuesday, as he now has 16 goals and 40 points in 21 games. Pretty good day for him, as earlier Tuesday morning he was named the CJHL 2nd Star of the month of October. Conway’s point streak is now at 20-games and that’s tied for the longest active streak in the league with West Kelowna’s Liam Blackburn. Conway was dangerous on the power-play and was unlucky not have scored.
- A couple of guys that love playing in Trail? Zach Driscoll and Hannoun. Driscoll got his second win against Trail in as many starts. He’s now stopped 74 of 76 shots against Trail in the last nine days. He stopped 26 of 27 Tuesday and 48 of 49 on November 1st. He is so calm, cool and collected in the crease. Sometimes I wonder if he’s got a pulse. He made three nice stops on Cooper Leitch on Tuesday night and nice breakaway save, whilst on the power-play, against Max Newton. Leitch had a threatening wraparound attempt in the second that was kicked-out and a backhand attempt and rebound off the rush, but Driscoll kept both out. Newton early in the third was essentially on a two-on-oh rush after a turnover by the Vees at the offensive blue-line, but his breakaway attempt was turned aside by Driscoll’s blocker. At the time I believe it was still 4-1 and a goal would have made it very interesting, as there was a lot of time left. Hannoun scored in the first and now has four goals in two trips to Trail. He had a hat-trick on November 1st and a goal Tuesday. That’s four goals in six periods in Trail this season.
- Driscoll by the way improved his record to 7-0 in the win and shaved his goals-against average down to 1.57 and bumped up his save-percentage to .948. Going into the night, his even-strength save percentage was at .956 %, meaning he’s nearly unbeatable during five-on-five. Anthony Brodeur and he are now a combined 19-0. NINE. TEEN. AND. OH. Good grief.
- Remember a couple of years ago it was the infamous “The Ghosts of Cominco,” tagline when referring to the Vees luck, or lack there off in Trail. Well, if you go back to last season, they’re now 5-0-0-1 in their last six visits to Trail. They’ve won their two games there this season by a combined score of 13-2. A building that once was hard to get a point out of is now a home away from home almost for the Vees. They play there once more in late January.
- At the junior level, successful teams have great special teams and boy are the Vees firing on both sides. Their power-play was 3-6 Tuesday and now is just over 30 percent on the year; they’ve scored 13 power-play goals in their last six games. The PK has been stellar too, only allowing one power-play goal against in six and is 28 for its last 29. On the year it’s now over 90 percent, at 90.59, which is also a league-best. No shock to see those numbers and then see where the Vees are in the standings.
- 20 wins is mighty impressive but they still need one more-to get to half way of 42. Think about that for a moment. They’re still one win from reaching the halfway mark of the record setting win streak in the 2011-2012 season.