- Did they win? Yes. Did they go about it the way they envisioned? No. The Vees had to come back from 1-0, 2-0 and 3-1 deficits to earn a single point before Scott Conway’s overtime heroics; more on him in a bit. If you’re keeping track at home, Wednesday was the third straight game the Vees surrendered the opening goal and fourth in their last five they either were tied or trail after the first 20-minutes. You do have to keep in mind they were missing five regulars last night, two defensemen and three forwards, but it wasn’t a Picasso.
- First off, have to acknowledge the desire by the group. They could have easily packed it in after going down 2-0 early in the second or 3-1 early in the third. For most teams that third Vipers goal could have been the death knell but the Vees aren’t most teams. They just had back-to-back power-plays from the tail end of the second to the early part of the third but couldn’t manufacture the equalizer on those two opportunities. Vernon gets back to even strength and comes back down the other way, and on their FIRST shot of the third, they score to make it 3-1; a punch to the gut. But instead of wilting, the Vees got a goal a minute and 14-seconds later from Chris Gerrie to cut the Vernon lead to one, which gave them hope. That was a big key for the Vees in their win, is how they responded to the Vipers goals; their second and third anyways. Hard-working shift by Gerrie and his line-mates in Nicholas Jones and Owen Sillinger, as they flooded the net and on the fourth opportunity, Gerrie tucks ‘er in after a scramble. Then, just after they pulled the goalie, Griffin Mendel gets his shot through and Scott Conway tips it in with just 1:36 left on the clock. This team has proven, time and again, they’re never out of a game.
- Gerrie, Jones and Sillinger were the Vees best line throughout the game. Yes, Conway scored twice and Jost had a pair of assists, but those three I thought were at their best from the second period onward. They had their feet moving, were hounding pucks on the fore-check and were around the Vipers net quite a bit. Jones had a goal and a helper, Gerrie scored and Sillinger had an assist and almost scored too; stopped on a partial breakaway in the third. These three could be or need to be a key piece for the Vees moving into the next month, especially when the Vees will be missing Jost at the World Junior ‘A’ Challenge. Assistant Coach Steve Cawley made an interesting comment after the game, saying you can tell how the team, and that line is doing, by how Sillinger is playing. Quiet first period for Silly and the Vees but once he had his feet moving, the Vees started to claw back. That “second-line” could be the x-factor moving forward and into the post-season.
- What more can you say about Scott Conway? He’s a gamer and poised veteran. Jost and him were missing their line-mate Easton Brodzinski but the two still combined for four points and Conway scored the game-tying and game-winning goals. Conway smartly put himself in front of the net to get enough of Mendel’s point-shot to tie the game, than scores the OT-winner on a well placed shot. When watching the tape on the OT goal, Conway moves off the right-wing boards to the middle, his momentum taking him to the blocker-side of the net, but he quickly fires a wrist-shot back on the glove-side of Andrew Shortridge, that went under the goalie’s glove. I think the shot surprised Shortridge, who was probably thinking blocker too, then saw the shot come back on his glove-side. I can’t divulge too much but lets just say where Conway’s shot ended up on the game-winner was not by fluke. He does his homework.
- Daivd Eccles, Griffin Mendel and Sam Jones. Three guys who stepped up when needed. Though he had that miscue on Vernon’s first goal, I thought Eccles settled in and was a horse on the Vees blue-line. He was given more minutes as the game went on but his play didn’t drop off. Mendel, 16, and Jones, a young 18, saw more and more minutes deeper into the game and didn’t show their age on the ice. Mendel and Jones were on the ice when the Vees tied the game at three and that wasn’t by mistake; they earned their minutes. Both picked up assists on that game-tying goal too. Mendel and Jones have been put into a larger role than originally anticipated with the Vees rash of injuries on the blue-line, but the two have risen to the occasion and have accelerated their development. Impressed by the young pups on the blue-line.
- The Vees did something Wednesday, that no other team has against Vernon this year: Beat them when trailing in the third. Vernon was 8-0 going into the game when leading after two periods this season but the Vees ended that streak. It was just the third time this year the Vees trailed after the first period and just the fourth time they trailed after two. Yeah, they’ve won quite a few games when they’ve been ahead by a few but Wednesday showed they can come from behind too. Well, they’ve shown that in the last month at home, beating Nanaimo and Cowichan Valley when trailing. This team can handle adversity. That was a question during their 23-game run, is could they be as good when it gets challenging. They answered that question last night.
- Impressive win when you considered the Vees never lead in regulation and trailed for nearly 54-minutes of the game.
- Earlier Wednesday Hockey Canada released Team Canada West’s camp roster for the upcoming World Junior ‘A’ Challenge in Ontario. Tyson Jost and Dante Fabbro were invited to camp but there was a few notable omissions and not just in Penticton. I was surprised Nicholas Jones or Owen Sillinger weren’t at least invited to camp; Chris Gerrie too. Remember, It’s a tournament for players 19-years-old and younger and you can only have five 19-year-olds on your team. Jones played in the event three years ago when he was with the Sherwood Park Crusaders and is a 41-goal guy in the AJHL. Sillinger is only a 18-year-old and can play both center and the wing. There was a few players around the league that was left off the camp roster that raised my eyebrows. Congratulations none the less to Jost and Fabbro on representing Canada once again.