(Photos Courtesy of Jeff Hook / South Okanagan Events Centre)
- Anthony Brodeur, Anthony Brodeur, Anthony Brodeur. The Vees netminder stole the show on Friday in West Kelowna, stopping 45 of 46 shots, 18 in the third, and was named the game’s first star. He was nearly unbeatable, as it took a Jonathan Desbiens dart in the first period to beat him; that was the only puck to go by him though. He was so good in high traffic, high pressure situations throughout the game and especially in the third, when the Warriors emptied the tank. Plus he did this late in the game:
- Quite the sequence of saves by Brodeur, or should I say State Trooper Brodeur (his mustache is impeccable). I think the best part of that video is if you pause it at the four-second mark. The screenshot is him, on his knees, leaning forward, as the Warriors Nick Rutigliano is loading up his shot. Somehow Brodeur ends up making a glove save but whilst on his butt. Acrobatics.
- One more Brodeur nugget, because he was that good, in his last two starts, he’s stopped 81 of 84 shots for a mind-blowing .964 save-percentage. The bigger the stage, the better he plays. Guy seems to love the pressure.
- Opportunistic first? Opportunistic first. The Vees didn’t have the best first periods but found themselves ahead 2-1 after 20-minutes. Assistant Coach Nick Fuher put it best, saying the Vees didn’t necessarily execute the game plan to a “T” but they scored on plays where their guys were working hard; they earned the two goals. First, Ben Brar makes a great play to drive wide down the wing, throw the puck low on net hoping for a rebound. Meanwhile his linemate Owen Sillinger is driving the middle, gets past two defenders and bangs in the rebound off the goalie’s pad; that’s what they practice 100 times. Then late in the period, two skilled players make a play out of nothing. Nicholas Jones and Tyson Jost play give-and-go up ice, before its Jones firing a dart to the middle for Jost, who reaches out and tips the puck past the goalies glove / pad. Another play where the puck carrier drives wide as his linemate has the “middle lane drive” to the net. The two goals weren’t cheapies.
- Back to Ben Brar for a moment. The rookie really embraced the opportunity he was given Friday. He jumped up to the second line, after the Vees shuffled the deck with the absence of Scott Conway. Of the get go, Brar was flying, going hard in on the fore-check, making smart reads with the puck and doing the little things well. Coach Fuher said in the post-game show, that Brar is a quick study, as you tell him once what to do and he executes. A very accountable player. Brar gelled well with Sillinger and Chris Gerrie and I look forward to him building upon Friday’s performance.
- Brodeur was excellent but so too was the Vees penalty-kill. For the second time in three games, they shutout the BCHL’s second-best power-play. Saturday it was Nanaimo’s red-hot power-play that was shutout on eight chances and Friday West Kelowna came in with the best power-play outside of Penticton. They were stymied on four chances. As pointed out on the broadcast, the Vees did an excellent job at shutting down the middle of the ice, a very strong four-man box. The Warriors didn’t have much to shoot at and they couldn’t get to rebounds-if there were any. The forwards that play the PK were great at pressuring the point and not allowing the Tribe to roll into the middle and rip off one a one-timer.
- Speaking of the penalty-kill, the Vees have only surrendered one power-play goal in their last 10 games. That’s a run of 40-41 in those 10 games. phenomenal
- The Warriors had a pretty clear game plan of throwing a lot of shots toward the Vees net Friday. It was more about volume than quality and trying to find a rebound by bringing traffic. That’s how teams are going to play against a team as defensively sound as the Vees are. What impressed me was how well the Vees defensemen handled said traffic and didn’t allow their forwards to make life miserable for Brodeur.
- How about Easton Brodzinski. I half-jokingly called him “Mr. Power-Play,” on Twitter but that might just stick. He’s got 18 goals on the season with 11 of those coming on the power-play. I referred to him as the “garbage man,” in front of the net pre-game but Coach Harbinson made a great point. He said he doesn’t believe in “garbage goals” as it’s more of a reflection of a smart player knowing where the puck will be. Brodzinski has a knack for getting to pucks in front of the net. But Friday he made a great play off the rush to pad the Vees lead. He faked the drop pass as he was curling in on the right-wing. He then quickly turned the puck back on his fore-hand and surprised the goalie by squeezing the puck between the pad and the post. Heads up play by Brodzinski. Crucial goal late in the second, as the Vees carried a 3-1 lead into the third. If it was just 2-1, pressure ramps up a bit and that may lead to players gripping their stick a bit tighter. That goal gave them some comfort going into the final period.
The Vees pushed their win streak to 21 with a 3-1 win in West Kelowna over the Warriors Friday night. Owen Sillinger, Tyson Jost and Easton Brodzinski scored for the Vees, and Anthony Brodeur was sensational in net, stopping 45 of 46 shots and was named the game’s first star.
Friday was the fourth win in as many games for the Vees over the Tribe, as they improved their record to 10-1 against their own division.
Elsewhere, Salmon Arm came back from a 2-0 first period deficit, scoring five unanswered in a 5-2 win over Merritt; the ‘Backs remain 11 back of the Vees in the Interior. Cowichan Valley, tonight’s opponent, opened their road trip with a win in Trail, thumping the Smoke Eaters 6-1. Alberni Valley scored five goals in five and a half minutes, beating Nanaimo 7-3 at Frank Crane Arena, Wenatchee held off PG 2-1, Coquitlam edged Victoria 4-3 in OT, Chilliwack goose-egged Surrey 7-0 and Powell River crowned Langley 9-3.
It’s the second and final regular season meeting between the Vees and Capitals, as the two non-divisional foes square-off at the SOEC. The Vees beat the Caps 5-3 back on October 24th in Duncan in a very entertaining game at the Island Savings Centre. Scott Conway had two goals in that game and Tyson Jost had a game-high four assists.
It’s a stiff test for the Vees, as the Caps are first in the Island Division with a 12-6-1-2 record, two points up the Nanaimo Clippers. The Caps have won three of their last five games, with the only blemish being a pair of losses to the Victoria Grizzlies. After tonight the Caps are in Merritt tomorrow afternoon for a matinee encounter with the Centennials.
Like the Vees, the Caps pack an offensive punch, as they’re the sixth-highest scoring team in the BCHL and have seven players with 15 or more points on the season. Leading the way is Ryan Burton, Kade Kehoe and Adam Osczevski, the Caps top-line who’ve combined for 29 goals and 61 points.
The Vees are undefeated at the SOEC this season and as the home team this year, they’re 10-0-0-0; one win coming at the Bauer BCHL Showcase in Chilliwack. Cowichan Valley has been great at home also (9-2) but are a pedestrian 3-4-1-2 away from the “Big Stick” in Duncan.
The Vees will be without defensemen Gabe Bast, Seamus Donohue and now Domenic Masellis. Masellis is suspended an automatic two-games after he was handed a five-minute major penalty last night; the Vees will dress five defensemen. Scott Conway missing tonight’s game as well, as he’s on a school visit south of the border.
Zach Driscoll will start in net and will put his perfect 7-0 record on the line; Driscoll leads the BCHL is goals-against average (1.57) and save percentage (.948). Storm Phaneuf will start at the other end of the ice for the visitors.