Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)

Kamloops, BC (ISN) – The University of Victoria Vikes Men’s hockey team overcame an early 3-1 deficit and skated to a dramatic 7-6 shoot-out victory over the Okanagan College Coyotes Friday night at Kamloops Memorial Arena and will advance to the championship final of the BC Intercollegiate (BCIHL) Hockey League.

The win was the second straight shoot-out win for the Vikes after their 4-3 upset win over the number-one ranked Simon Fraser Clan on Thursday, and along with their 6-1 win over Eastern Washington University Wednesday, puts them into the finals with a perfect 3-0 record – an unprecedented result given their fourth place seeding and 10-11-3 record coming into the tournament. They will play the winner of Saturday’s semi-final between Simon Fraser and Okanagan College, as the Coyotes will hope to regroup against the Clan.

IMG 6703
UVic’s Matthew Bell looks for an opening during first period action Friday. Bell would finish with two assists on the evening (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN).

On Friday night, the Vikes were in tough against the second seeded Coyotes and after the teams quickly traded goals early – Chris Glen scoring for Okanagan and Brent Sutherland for UVic – the Coyotes scored two more, one from Layne Stopanski and another from Dave Mann, and jumped out to a 3-1 lead.

IMG 6714
UVic’s Mark Prest would run the wall on a first period power-play during Friday’s action (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN).

The Coyotes would then find themselves in some penalty trouble, as with 3:32 remaining in the period, Okanagan’s third leading scorer, Stopanski, was assessed a checking from behind penalty and a game ejection and the team was assessed a second minor. The Vikes would capitalize on the 2-man advantage as Doug Evans would score with 3:05 remaining, to go into the intermission trailing by a goal.

IMG 6721
UVic defenceman Sam Siddall tries to make a move around Okanagan’s Chris Glen in the first period.  Siddall would have 3 assists in the Vikes win (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN).

The second period was all Vikes and at the 3:07 mark, Dustin Taylor would launch an awkward looking backhand shot that somehow found its way up and over the shoulder of Coyote goalie Sunny Gill to even things up at 3-3.

Penalty trouble would again impact the Coyotes, as Victoria would grab another power-play goal at the 10:33 mark when Mark Callaghan’s point shot would bank off the post and in, giving the Vikes a 4-3 lead. The Vikes had a prime opportunity to add to this lead with another two-man advantage with just over five minutes remaining in the period, but were unable to score.

IMG 6736
Dennis Pavlina carries the puck through centre during first period action Friday (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN).

This big penalty kill seemed to give Okanagan some life and with just under four minutes to play, the Coyotes hemmed the Vikes in their own end and despite a couple of goalmouth scrambles, could not put anything past Vikes goaltender Jason Margolus, and the Vikes held their slim 4-3 lead into the break.

IMG 6926
Jason Margolus got the start for Victoria and was pressured early but made some solid saves to keep his team in the game (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN).

At the start of the third period, the Coyotes displayed the kind of skill that earned them their 16-4-4 league record and for the first two minutes had the Vikes completely at their mercy, but could not find the net behind Margolus.

IMG 6801
UVic’s Francis Gonella tries to make life difficult in front of the net for coyotes goalie Sunny Gill and defender Brody Lynott (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN).

The Vikes would then score what could have been the death knell for the ‘Yotes at the 3:30 mark, when Mark Prest picked up a loose puck behind the net on the forecheck and beat Gill with a wrap around goal, putting Victoria up 5-3.

However, Okanagan College was not going to go home easily and with 13:50 remaining, after what appeared to be an offside at the Vikes blue line that was not called, Aaron Buat scored on a surprised Margolus to make it 5-4. The Coyotes kept pressing and would score again, this time a power-play marker by Buat that found the net with 8:00 remaining and the game was tied at 5-5.

IMG 6812
Mark Prest’s (right) two third period goals would help spark the Vikes to a 7-6 win Friday and earn him the game’s third star (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN).

Okanagan would then capitalize on a UVic turnover with 4:10 remaining to get the lead back at 6-5 on a beautiful passing play from Dave Mann to Shawn Mulcahy, but just 24 seconds later the Vikes would tie it in a controversial manner. With play heading to the net, a UVic player and a Coyote defender found themselves on top of Okanagan goaltender Gill and amidst the mad scramble in the crease the goal came to the Vike’s Prest on the wing and his shot managed to sneak in past a scrambling Gill, tying the game once again at 6-6.

The Coyotes argued to no avail that there should have been interference, or at the least, that Gill was obstructed from playing his position, but the call stayed and play resumed.

IMG 6895
UVic’s Brent Sutherland tries to muscle past Okanagan defender Miles Houston (9) and Kris Davis (23) during third period action (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN).

The final minutes of the game were not without drama as well, as the Coyotes came a crossbar away from winning with 3:10 remaining and then the Vikes took a questionable interference penalty with 1:54 remaining, however Okanagan could not score on the power-play, sending the game into overtime.

The overtime settled nothing and for the second straight game, the Vikes headed to a shoot-out. After Victoria’s Adam Klein and Okanagan’s Chris Glen missed, Mile Houston would score for the Coyote’s in Round 2. Needing to score to keep alive, UVic’s Dustin Taylor made a nice move to beat Gill and when Okanagan’s Aaron Buat missed, the shoot-out went into sudden death mode.

IMG 6943
UVic goaltender Jason Margolus makes a huge save off Okanagan’s Chris Glen in the shoot-out (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN).

Dustin Taylor shot again for UVic, missing wide, while Miles Houston missed the opportunity to clinch the win for Okanagan. Eli Wiebe then shot for Victoria, putting a deft deke past Gill and when Margolus stopped Buat’s shot, the Vikes clinched the win and poured on the ice to celebrate the 7-6 win.

UVic Head Coach Harry Schamhart could not have been happier for his team, “I’ve never been so proud of a bunch of boys, they’ve worked and stuck together through a tough year with lots of injuries, lots of ups and downs, financial issues, but these boys have come together as a team to overcome all of that. And that is what a team is about, there are no superstars here, they are 100% behind each other and they work very hard.”

IMG 6968
UVic’s Eli Wiebe (21) watches as his shoot-out winner slips under Okanagan goalie Sunny Gill Friday evening (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN).

“They did what they had to do today, they are just a great group that just want to work hard for each other. This was for them. Robin [Assistant Coach Robin Gomez] and I, we were watching that game and enjoying it just as much as they players were and we are both so happy the boys pulled it out.”

The Vikes now move on to their third ever BCIHL final. Game time Sunday is 3:00 pm at the Memorial Arena in Kamloops.