by Fraser Rodgers
February 14, 2014, PENTICTON, BC (ISN) –Dexter Dancs scored the game-winning goal on penalty-shot early in the third and Austin Smith stopped 28 shots, as the Vernon Vipers grinded out a 2-1 win over the Penticton Vees Friday at the SOEC.
The loss halts the Vees three-game winning streak and is their first loss to Vernon in five games; the Vees had won the previous four meetings.
Dancs was hauled down on a partial break six minutes into the third period, after he got in behind the Vees defense on a breakaway pass from centre. Dancs moved in on the right-wing and from the circle, wired a wrist-shot over Olivier Mantha’s glove at 6:38; the penalty-shot conversion stood up as the game-winner.
The Vees were awarded three third period power-plays; all after Dancs put the Vipers ahead 2-1. But they couldn’t manufacture an equalizer with the man-advantage. The Vipers penalty-kill did well to get in front of shots and seal off shooting lanes late.
It was a dream start for Penticton, as stay-at-home defenseman Patrick Sexton opened the scoring just 17 seconds into the game. Sexton’s shot from the blue-line went off Vernon’s Riley Guenther and past a startled Austin Smith; Guenther inadvertently deflecting the point-shot with his glove.
It was a fast paced first period, as both teams traded chances and thanks to Olivier Mantha’s 10-save performance, the Vees took a one-goal lead into the intermission. Mantha’s best sequence in the opening frame was during a delayed penalty against the Vees, when he stopped both Michael McNicholas and Dylan Chanter, on two quick shots.
McNicholas wouldn’t be denied however, as he leveled the game midway through the second, putting the finishing touches on a pretty passing play. Dexter Dancs centered for Liam Coughlin, who quickly threw the puck back across to McNicholas at the bottom the right-circle; the equalizer coming at 10:14.
The Vees had their chances to double their lead minutes before McNicholas scored, including two great chances for Jack Ramsey and Max Coatta. Ramsey missed high and wide on a two-on-one rush after the Vipers were caught up ice. Coatta pushed a back-door feed agonizingly wide.
Brad McClure also had a great look on a Vees power-play in the second; he found himself with room between the circles but Austin Smith flashed the leather on a nice glove save.
The Vees threw 11 shots at the Vipers net in the third and pulled the goalie for the extra attacker late, but it was all for not.
Final Score: 2-1 Vernon
Shots: 30-29 Vernon
Power-Plays: Vees 0-6 Vernon 0-4
Three Stars: 1) Dexter Dancs 2) Olivier Mantha 3) Austin Smith
Friday marks the twelfth time this season the Vees have been held to one goal or less. The Vees record drops to 32-14-2-4 in the loss and they see their home record slide to 17-6-0-3. The Vees record moves to 4-2-0-0 against Vernon this season. Cody DePourcq’s four-game point streak also comes to an end in the setback. The Vees do however clinch a playoff spot in the Interior Division, after the Salmon Arm Silverbacks lost 5-1 in Surrey.
The Vees go right back at it tomorrow, when they host the Victoria Grizzlies (32-13-3) at the SOEC; puck drop slated for 6pm. Victoria knocked-off the West Kelowna Warriors 8-5 Friday. The Grizzlies come into Saturday’s contest tied for top spot in the Island Division. The Vees have won the first two meetings against Victoria this season; the most recent a 3-2 victory in the provincial capital on December 15th. Tickets are available at the Valley First Box Office (at the SOEC), or online at www.valleyfirsttix.com