by Fraser Rodgers
March 6, 2014, PENTICTON, BC (ISN) – The Penticton Vees power-play was front and center Wednesday, in their 6-3 win over the Merritt Centennials, in game two of their Interior Division Semi-Final series.
Down 3-2 at the start of the third, the Vees scored four third period goals, three of which with the man-advantage, to come from behind and take a 2-0 series lead over the Centennials.
The power-play may have been great in the third but it had its struggles early, surrendering two short-handed goals to Merritt in the first forty-minutes.
The Cents’ James Neil opened the scoring midway through the first whilst short-handed. Neil stripped the puck from the Vees forward at the blue-line, before cleaning up his own rebound at the side of the net; his back-hand beating Hunter Miska up high at 9:56.
Brad McClure tied the game inside the final minute of the first, when he banged-in a loose puck after a scramble in the Merritt crease. McClure jammed the puck over Devin Kero’s arm at 19:35 for his first of two on the night.
Merritt however regained the lead, again short-handed, early in the second. Jeff Wight forced a turnover at his own blue-line, and then sprung Sebastien Pare on a partial breakaway. Pare outwaited Miska and beat the goaltender on back-hand deke at 7:33.
Scott Patterson put the Cents’ up by two four-minutes later, when he scored off a face-off in the Vees end. Pare won the puck over to Patterson who, from the left-hash mark, wired a shot past Miska’s blocker at 11:28.
The Vees chipped away at the two-goal deficit late in the frame, as Cody DePourcq scored his first of back-to-back goals with under six-minutes left. Nic Pierog slid the puck to DePourcq, and from the goal-line, he went upstairs on Kero at 14:17.
The game turned around for the Vees early in the third, when Merritt’s Malik Kaila was called for a four-minute high sticking penalty.
The Vees power-play quickly put its struggles in the rear-view mirror, as the man-advantage score twice on the extended power-play. First, DePourcq brought the Vees back level, when he tucked the puck around an out-stretched Kero for his second of the night at 7:48.
Merritt then went down two skaters after Jake Clifford hauled down Brad McClure behind the net. On the ensuing five-on-three, Shane McColgan wired a one-timer from the bottom of the left-circle after a great feed from McClure on the far-side; McColgan grabbing the Vees their first lead of the game at 8:52.
They didn’t stop there, as McClure scored again, twenty-five seconds later, on the same four-minute power-play. McClure hammered a one-timer from the left-wing up and over Kero at 9:17.
Nic Pierog capped-off the third period surge with an empty-net goal at 19:15.
Final Score: 6-3 Vees
Shots: 35-21 Vees
Power-Plays: Vees 3-7 Merritt 0-2
Three Stars: 1) Cody DePourcq 2) Brad McClure 3) Nic Pierog
Brad McClure finished with a game-high four points (2-2-4) and Erik Benoit (0-3-3) and Nic Pierog (1-2-3) each had three points. Cody DePourcq scored twice and fought Merritt’s Gavin Gould in the first period. Hunter Miska stopped 18 of 21 shots for his first career playoff win. The Vees have now scored 14 goals in two games against Merritt; they scored 18 in seven games against them in the regular season.
The series now shifts to Merritt for games three and four at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena, with game three set for Friday, March 7th; face-off is 7:30pm. The Vees are organizing a fan bus for game four on Saturday, March 8th. Tickets are $35 and can be purchased at the Valley First box office at the SOEC; only 45 seats are available.