(Photos Courtesy of: Garrett James Photography)
- Nine weeks, 65 days and 23 games later, the Vees win streak ends in Langley. The Rivermen came back from down 2-1 in the second and scored three unanswered to upend the Vees 4-2 at the Langley Events Centre. It was the Vees first loss since September 11th, opening night in the BCHL and just their second loss this season. Their win streak went from September 16th, all the way to November 20th. They went 70 days or 10 weeks to the day without a loss. Think about that. They’re still 23-2-0-0 on the year and still have an 11 point lead over second place in their division and in the overall league standings. Odd stat? The Vees only two losses have now come on the road, on a Friday night, by the same score of 4-2 and in the same black 3rd jerseys.
- Throughout this streak and this season for that matter, the Vees won the special teams battle, not Friday. Langley scored twice on the power-play, including the game-winner with 80-seconds left in the third, to break a 2-2- tie. How good has the Vees’ penalty-kill been? Well, last night was the first game this season they’ve allowed more than one power-play goal in a game. The FIRST GAME. 25 games in. Mighty impressive.
- The game-winner was pretty much a snapshot of the game for the Vees. Not to take anything away from the Rivermen, as they were very good, but the Vees were the victim of some rotten luck on that Max Kaufman goal. First, the puck goes back to the blue-line but Zach Blueler broke his stick as he tried to shoot. That dramatically changed the speed of the puck, and then before it got to the goal, it went off a Vees’ penalty-killer’s skate than right over to Kaufman for the tap-in. It was that kind of bounce that was going to derail the streak I guess.
- The first three goals by Langley had a weird bounce tied to it. Their opening goal by Zach Masson was mostly about out working the Vees at the side of the net but he was the beneficiary of a fortuitous bounce. His wraparound attempt hit a Vees’ skate in front and came right back to him at the side of the goal and he just slid it into the open net. Zach Driscoll was still sliding over anticipating his original attempt was going to the far-post. On the Rivermen’s second goal, on the power-play, it took two deflections before going in. Nice pass by Justin Fregona to find Dominic Franco in front and his redirect got the leg of Domenic Masellis before fluttering in over the blocker of Driscoll. The original tip attempt was going glove-side before catching the pant of Masellis, and bouncing back in on the blocker-side. Puck luck had been the Vees friend so far this season but it wasn’t on their side Friday.
- Can I say a dreadful start? OK, it was a dreadful start. Maybe a bit too strong but the Vees simply weren’t ready to play in the first half of the period; the Rivermen were. At one point the shot clock read 10-1 for Langley inside the first 10-minutes and it seemed for the most part, pretty accurate. If you look back at the last few games now, the Vees haven’t had good first periods. They were down 1-0 after 20 to Cowichan Valley last Saturday, were badly outshot early by Coquitlam on Wednesday and the same story against Langley Friday. Their starts had been an issue and it was a snowfall effect last night. Going forward, the Vees will need to get back to those fast-paced, energetic starts. Just look at their stats, when they score the game’s first goal, they’re 20-0-0-0. When they don’t they’re 3-2-0-0. Proof is in the pudding.
- Their power-play salvaged a tie after 20-minutes and I thought that Tyson Jost goal (video above), would give the team the shot in the arm it needed. It did, for the second period anyways, but didn’t translate into the third and manufacturing a win. Well, the goal itself was one that made you mouth the word “wow” under your breath. Scott Conway carried the puck in, cut to the middle but lost the handle when he tried to shoot. The puck darted back to Jost in the slot and from just inside the blue-line, he wired a wrist-shot into the top corner; water bottle went flying. All Rivermen goaltender Bo Didur could do was turn back and pick up the discarded bottle behind his net. What a shot by the Vees’ Captain, who was head and shoulders above any other Vee on Friday. Canucks GM Jim Benning was in attendance and I’m sure took note.
- As mentioned that power-play goal, with just 66-seconds left in the first seemed to give the Vees the polite kick in the butt they needed, as they were much better in the second but couldn’t really pull away. Yes, they got a lead courtesy of Scott Conway but then gave it right back on a Langley power-play 1:26 later. Didur has to be given some credit for keeping the Riv’ in it in the second. The majority of the period was spent in the Langley end but Didur didn’t let the Vees get ahead by two. First, he made a great save or saves on Owen Sillinger and Nicholas Jones, when the Vees were short-handed. Sillinger broke in on a partial break, defender draped all over his back, but his deke was stopped by the poke-check of Didur. The rebound came out in the slot for Jones but he couldn’t get a shot past two Rivermen players who were playing goalie; Didur was down on his stomach well out of the crease. Then his best save arguably was getting just enough of his glove on Chris Gerrie’s shot from the slot. Jones made a heck of a backhand pass across to Gerrie on the weak side but Didur lounged out with his arm to just redirect the puck away from the goal. Didur stopped 14 of 15 in the second and was a big reason why the Riv’ could rally in the third.
- Things did get a bit ugly at the end of the game, as Ben Brar picked up a checking from behind major penalty with 10-seconds left. Zach Blueler was going after the puck behind his net on the end boards. He turned to try to reverse his direction but as he did, Brar caught him in the numbers with his shoulder. Rotten timing on the hit, that shook up Blueler as he was helped off the ice. I don’t think it was as malicious as some might think, as Brar was committed to the hit before Blueler turned, but at the same time Brar needs to know to let up and try to avoid the defenseman’s back. Brar is automatically suspended for two-games under the Jr. ‘A’ Supplement because of the major penalty and will miss tonight’s game along with Wednesday’s back in Penticton against Vernon. I sure hope Blueler isn’t missing much or any time.
- Speaking of controversial hits, lets not forget the hit up high on Dixon Bowen on the game’s opening shift. Right at centre ice at the penalty-box, Bowen was hit in the head by the arms of Langley’s Will Campion. Yes, Bowen had his head down looking at the puck, a no-no but that was a hit, where the arms came up and the principal point of contact was the head. Textbook blow to the head penalty that wasn’t called. Unfortunately Bowen won’t play tonight and his status going forward is unknown. That hit changed the complexion of the game for the Vees, as they were down to 11 forwards and just three centermen the rest of the way. Not the reason why the Vees loss but a factor in the defeat. I hope Bowen’s injury doesn’t keep him out for an extended period of time.
- Credit Langley, they played a well structured game with a lot of speed and tenacity . They were quick on transition and were very good at getting into shooting lanes and blocking shots. They blocked quite a few shots both at even-strength and on the penalty-kill. But, I do have to question the announced attendance of 2012. There wasn’t nearly that many people at the LEC and I found it odd how they came up with that number. But I do hope more people come out and see the Rivermen in the future. They bumped a five-game skid and now have won back-to-back games. Maybe they’re turning a corner.
- In terms of the streak ending and the loss, I had a great quote said to me after the game that summarizes everything quite well. “Nothing that’s worth it, is easy.” Good learning experience for the team and now the pressure of the streak is off their shoulders. Time to start a new one in Coquitlam.