by Fraser Rodgers
January 10, 2014, VERNON, BC (ISN) – Sixty-three seconds was all the Penticton Vees needed to better their Okanagan Valley rival. The two newcomers, Eric Benoit and Nic Pierog scored back-to-back goals in the second period, as the Vees topped the Vernon Vipers 2-1 Friday at Kal-Tire Place.
With the win, the Vees padded their lead to seven points atop the Interior Division, as the West Kelowna Warriors leap-frogged the Vipers for second in the standings.
Brad McClure, coming off a two-goal performance last Sunday, had a prime opportunity to break a scoreless tie midway through the first but his bid from the right-wing clanged off the post.
Vernon eventually opened the scoring late in the frame after turnover in the Vees end. Liam Coughlin scooped up the puck, cut to the middle and dished to Mason Blacklock, who slid the puck along the ice and through a maze of bodies in front of the Vees net; Blacklock breaking the ice at 18:27.
Down a goal, the Vees turned up the pressure in the second period, as they used their speed to create several chances off the rush. McClure again found himself in a position to score, as he got behind the Vipers defense but launched a wrist-shot up and over the goal. Max Coatta and Eric Benoit also came close but couldn’t get the puck past Danny Todosychuk.
The Vees finally drew even late in the stanza and all they needed was a little puck luck. Off a face-off, Nic Pierog corralled the puck at the bottom of the right-circle and spun a back-hand to the net. The puck appeared to glance off a skate in the crease before sliding underneath Todosychuk’s pad. Pierog credited with his first as a Vee and 27th of the year at 14:29.
Moments later, Eric Benoit put the Vees ahead when he pounced on a loose puck behind the Vipers net. Brett Beauvais’ point-shot sailed wide but the puck caromed right to Benoit, who tucked a wrap-around just inside the far-post at 15:32; Benoit picking up his first goal in Vees colours.
The Vees pressured paid off in the second, as they fired 20 shots at the Vipers net and scored the only two goals of the sandwich stanza. Hunter Miska kicked out the eight shots he faced in the period, including turning aside Demico Hannoun on a partial breakaway.
The Vees Max Coatta left the game in the second period and did not return after he collided with a Viper at the Vernon blue-line.
The Vees rebuffed the Vipers comeback attempt in the third period, including a late flurry in the dying moments when Vernon pulled their goalie, in favour of an extra skater.
Final Score: 2-1 Vees
Shots: 35-31 Vees
Power-Plays: Vees 0-2 Vipers 0-1
Three Stars: 1) Eric Benoit 2) Danny Todosychuk 3) Hunter Miska
Record: 26-9-2-3 / Road: 12-6-2-1
The Vees have now won back-to-back games and are undefeated in the New Year, sporting a 2-0-1-0 record in early January. Eric Benoit now has a goal and four points in his first three games with the Vees. Going back to his last start, Hunter Miska has stopped 68 of the last 70 shots he’s faced (.971 save-percentage). The Vees are now 13-5-1-1 against the Interior Division; 3-1-0 against Vernon.
The Vees finish their weekend in Trail tomorrow, when they tangle with the Smoke Eaters at Cominco Arena; puck drop is 7:30pm. The Vees are 3-0-0 against the Smoke Eaters this season; 2-0-0 in Trail. The Smokies sit sixth in the Interior Division, with eight wins and 20 points in 41 games.
Penticton is back at home Wednesday, January 15th when they host the West Kelowna Warriors at the SOEC. Its “Wicked Wednesday” at the SOEC, as game tickets are just $5 dollars, beer is $2.50 and Penticton Kia is giving away a mystery car; tickets for the car raffle are just $2. Tickets for the game can be purchased at the Valley First Box Office (at the SOEC).