Saturday’s game two was an impressive hockey game to watch – particularly if you are a fan of the Penticton Vees.
The Warriors didn’t play a bad hockey game whatsoever. Tyler Briggs struggled to some extent, the discipline wasn’t perfect, and the Tribe didn’t generate enough offence. But that doesn’t tell close to the whole story.
The Vees executed their game-plan beautifully in this one. They buried chances and showed some nice pieces of skill. But Pen also showed the structure, discipline, and work-ethic that has made them such an elite Junior ‘A’ squad. In game two, they had one of those performances that made their opponent look like they weren’t trying (which wasn’t the case). The Vees showed that rare combination of skill and smarts that is very frustrating (and maybe even humbling) to play against. They gave up very little in the defensive zone and effectively slowed the Tribe down on transition. And they also got the timely scoring they needed to outpace West Kelowna and hold serve at home.
I thought the first period of this one was probably West Kelowna’s best of the series, and also maybe the best from a fan perspective.
The Vees dominated the first half of the period, and at one point were outshooting their guests 8-3. Pen drew first blood when Ryan Gropp ripped one past Tyler Briggs from the high slot. The Vees got a couple more powerplays, including a 1:17 5-on-3. But the Warriors PK was very solid, and West K stayed alive.
The Warriors then dominated the second half of the period and really played well. They had some strong shifts of extended pressure in Pen ice, and also a couple of nice counter-attacks. WK also had two dangerous powerplays (which overlapped for 33 seconds) but couldn’t cash.
At the end of a very well-fought first period, the Vees led 1-0.
Penticton would (again) take the game over in the second, and (again) it was Louie Nanne who provided the swing goal. Nanne’s goal was a weird one, and I really don’t think this one should have counted. From my angle, the play began with Briggs kicking out a juicy rebound on a Thomas Nitsche bid. Driving to the net, Jedd Soloway missed the puck and then fell into the net. I didn’t see any contact between Soloway and Seb Lloyd, but the Vees forward lay in the crease preventing Briggs from getting to Nanne’s rebound shot. The way I saw it, Soloway didn’t deserve goalie interference, but the goal should have been waived off. Most people I’ve spoken to agree. **See a telling picture at Fraser Rodgers’ blog.
On the whole, I really don’t think the refs missed much in this game, and I think I’m being quite clear when I say the Vees deserved to win. But this was a bad decision and a back-breaker for West K. The Warriors never recovered.
Jedd Soloway jammed one past Briggs on a Vees powerplay midway through the second. Brad McClure deflected a Robert Mann slap-pass under the right pad of Briggs a minute later. 4-0 Penticton.
The Warriors got a lucky one back when a Josh Monk point shot bounced off Reid Simmonds and past Chad Katunar in the final minute of the frame. The Warriors had some life, but Penticton wasn’t about to let them back in it(like the night before).
The Vees did nothing sexy in the third. They dumped pucks in and changed. They protected their goal-mouth and cleared pucks out. They also put the final nail in the coffin when James De Haas fired another point-shot through Briggs’s legs with four minutes left. The Warriors looked deflated and frustrated as the clock ticked down – and the Vees cruised to the finish line.
Click here to listen to a post-game interview I did with ‘A’ Josh Monk.
The Vees have been full value for their two victories so far. The onus is now on the Warriors to see what they can do on home ice. Pen was the better team in their own barn, and the Warriors will need to make some adjustments and step up at RLP. A series doesn’t start till someone loses at home. It hasn’t happened yet, so there’s no need for this group to panic.
I’ve said a lot of good things about Penticton in this entry. But read the past few months. The Warriors are capable of that and more.
But West Kelowna must now return the favour and force the issue on home ice. This team can beat Penticton with a strong 60-minute performance. By playing tough but disciplined. By finding a way through Penticton’s forcheck, especially that 1-3-1 look that has been so effective in neutralizing West K’s great speed. By getting more pucks deep and keeping them there. By getting better goaltending.
And yes, they need to believe. I know I still do.