by Fraser Rodgers
January 5, 2014, PENTICTON, BC (ISN) –Eric Benoit acquainted himself nicely to his new surroundings, as the newcomer picked up three assists, in the Penticton Vees 6-2 win over the Merritt Centennials Sunday afternoon at the SOEC.
With the win, the Vees (25-9-2-3) restore their six-point cushion atop of the Interior Division standings. The Cents’ (19-16-3-2) meanwhile suffered their second straight loss and come out of the weekend with just a single point.
Two days after scoring just once in a tie with the Cents’, the Vees managed to score three in the first twenty-minutes. Cody DePourcq got things going quickly, scoring just 13 seconds into the game, after he tucked in a wraparound. DePourcq was first to a loose puck behind the Merritt net and managed to curl around the goal and slide the puck into the open cage for his 14th and first in nine games.
After leveling Jason Bird with a solid hit, Travis Blanleil dropped the gloves with Scott Patterson, as the two engaged in a spirited tussle. That scrapped seem to give the Vees a boost, as they went on to score twice more before the period was out.
They doubled their lead when Erik Benoit forced a turnover on the wall, who then spotting Jack Ramsey in the slot. Ramsey settled the puck before sneaking a wrist-shot underneath the arm of Nathan Alalouf at 4:09.
Penticton kept coming and Ben Dalpe pushed the lead to three, when he was set up by Brad McClure for a one-timer in the slot. McClure raced down a dump-in and from the corner, spun a pass out to Dalpe who laced the puck over Alalouf’s arm at 16:55
Then it was McClure going from play-maker to goal-scorer early in the second on a power-play. McClure buried a pretty cross-ice saucer pass from Steen Cooper, who spotted the Vees Captain open in the left-circle; McClure’s 30th coming at 3:56.
Merritt stopped the bleeding, somewhat, midway through frame, when Daniel Nachbaur got the Cents’ on the scoresheet. Nachbaur cleaned up his own rebound in front of Olivier Mantha at 12:12 to close the gap to three.
Mantha then stopped Jason Bird on a penalty-shot after the Cents’ defenseman was tripped up on a partial breakaway. Bird tried to squeeze a shot through Mantha’s legs but fumbled his attempt.
McClure and Travis Blanleil teamed up to restore the Vees four-goal lead in the final minutes of the second. Fresh out of the penalty-box, Blanleil centered for a streaking McClure, who lunged out with one hand on his stick to poke the puck past Alalouf; McClure’s second of the afternoon coming at 18:46.
Both teams traded goals in the third, the Cents’ scoring first, bagging their second and final goal of the afternoon on a seeing-eye point-shot by Shane Poulsen at 8:13.
Steen Cooper quickly responded, capitalizing on a Cents’ turnover at their blue-line. Erik Benoit forced another turnover and sent Cooper in on a partial breakaway. Cooper pumped-off a wrist-shot that zipped over the shoulder of the Cents’ goaltender and quickly in and out of the net at 9:05. Merritt protested that the puck never did cross the goal-line but their complaints fell on deaf ears.
Final Score: 6-2 Vees
Shots: 27-26 Vees
Power-Plays: Vees 1-5 Cents’ 0-4
Three Stars: 1) Brad McClure 2) Erik Benoit 3) Steen Cooper
Record: 25-9-2-3 / Home: 14-3-0-2
Sunday marks the eighth time this season the Vees have scored six or more goals in a game. Brad McClure and Erik Benoit each finished with a game-high three points; McClure scoring his 30th and 31st goals of the season. The new look line of Steen Cooper, Erik Benoit and Jack Ramsey combined for two goals and six points. Four Vees had two or more points in the win and eight all together picked up at least a single point.
The Vees are off until next Friday, January 10th, when they travel to Vernon for a match up with the second place Vipers; puck drop is 7pm. The Vees don’t return home until Wednesday, January 15th when they host the West Kelowna Warriors. It’s another “Wicked Wednesday” at the SOEC, as tickets are just $5, beer is just $2.50 and Skaha Ford and Penticton Kia will be giving away a car! Tickets for the Vees next home game are available at the Valley First Box Office at the SOEC.