April 5, 2013, Penticton BC, (ISN) – No one knew it at the time, but Brock Balson played hero again for the Vees in the Interior Conference Final.
Balson did indeed tip a James De Haas shot just 1:44 into overtime, as the Vees came from behind to upend the West Kelowna Warriors 2-1 in game five; the Vees winning their second straight Interior Conference Championship.
Balson was the hero in game three, scoring in double-overtime at Royal LePage Place to put the Vees up 3-0 in the Interior Conference Final. Three nights later he clinches the series on home ice and sets up a date with the Surrey Eagles in the Fred Page Cup Final.
Sam Mellor started the play when he rushed into the Warriors zone down the right –wing. Mellor then stopped in the corner and hit the trailer James De Haas with a pass at the top of the left-circle. De Haas let go a wrist-shot that was redirected by Balson at the near-post and past the blocker of Tyler Briggs, sending over sixteen hundred fans into a frenzy. When the dust settles, the scoring play will read Balson from De Haas and Mellor at 1:44.
The Vees needed some puck luck, something they haven’t had much of in the playoffs, just to force the overtime period. Down one at the start of the third, the energy line provided the spark the Vees needed. Cody DePourcq came down the left-wall and from the corner threw a pass out front in the Warriors crease. AP Josh Blanchard, playing in place of the injured Cam Amantea, drove the net and had the pass go off his skate and underneath Tyler Briggs at 3:09. The Warriors protested but the referees concluded that the puck bounced-off Blanchard’s skate and was not illegally kicked-in. Blanchard’s first career goal is one no one will soon forget.
In a period which they had the edge in play, the Warriors scored the game’s first goal. Near the midway mark of the second, after a scramble in front of Chad Katunar’s net, Reid Simmonds slid the puck past the fallen Vees goalie at 8:03. Simmonds scoring the Warriors last two goals, as he was the overtime hero of game four’s 5-4 win. The Warriors had a full-court press in the middle stanza and outshot the Vees 15-9 but Chad Katunar kept his team within striking distance.
Both teams held each other in-check in a scoreless opening twenty-minutes; the first scoreless period of the series. The Vees best chance came off a point-blank save by Tyler Briggs who robbed Wade Murphy. A pass came out front from behind the net and right to Murphy in the crease, but his reactionary shot was fought off by the blocker of the Warriors goaltender.
Max French had the best chance for the Tribe in the first when he rang his shot from the slot dead off the cross-bar. French worked himself free into the middle of the ice and his wrist-shot zipped past the glove of Katunar but not the pipe behind him.
FINAL SCORE: 2-1 VEES
Shots 34-28 Vees
Power-Plays: Vees 0-3 Warriors 0-3
Three Stars: 1) Chad Katunar 2) Tyler Briggs 3) James De Haas
Attendance: 1, 601
The Vees capture their second consecutive Ryan Hatfield Memorial Trophy as Interior Conference Champions and will play the Surrey Eagles in the 2013 Fred Page Cup Final. It’s the Vees seventeenth appearance in the league’s final; the Eagles fourth. The Vees are looking to defend their 2012 championship, whereas the Eagles are looking for their first title since 2005.
The series wills start in Surrey a week from tomorrow, Friday, April 12th at the South Surrey Arena. Game two goes the following night, Saturday April 13th; both games are at 7:15pm. The Vees play games three and four at the SOEC on Monday April 15th and Tuesday April 16th. Due to a scheduling conflict at the SOEC, the two teams will announce a schedule for games five through seven in the coming days.
Tickets for the Vees homes in the series are available at the Valley First Box Office at the SOEC, or online at www.valleyfirsttix.com