by Fraser Rodgers
March 20, 2014, PENTICTON, BC (ISN) – The Penticton Vees might have a feeling of déjà vu after Thursday’s game at the SOEC. For the second straight game the Vernon Vipers came back from a 2-1 second period deficit, to trip-up the Vees, this time 3-2 in game five of their Interior Division Final.
The Vipers now lead the best-of-seven series 3-2, forcing the Vees into a must win situation Friday at Kal-Tire Place in Vernon.
The Vees found themselves in a similar situation as to game three, leading 2-1 late in the second period, and again were victims of a rally by the Vipers.
The turning point of Thursday’s game came late in the second period when the Vees failed to capitalize on a two-man advantage. Up 2-1 with three and half minutes left in the middle stanza, the Vees were given a five-on-three power-play after back-to-back Vernon penalties. The Vees however, failed to convert on the lengthy power-play and the Vipers used the momentum of their penalty-kill to their advantage.
Inside the final minute of the second Dexter Dancs, from behind the net, tossed a backhand pass out to the right-circle. Liam Coughlin grabbed it, and then fired a low shot five-hole on a screened Hunter Miska to tie the game 2-2 at 19:15.
Vernon worked off of that goal in the third period, as they manufactured a late game-winning goal after a miscue at the Vees blue-line. A missed open ice hit by the Vees defender resulted in a two-on-one for the Vipers and Coughlin and Michael McNicholas played give-and-go, before Coughlin tapped-in his second of the game at 16:29.
Any late comeback attempt in the third period was muted when the Vees were dinged for a too many men penalty with less than two minutes left.
The finish wasn’t what the Vees wanted but the start was, as Erik Benoit opened the scoring on the power-play in the first period. Benoit batted in a rebound at the side of the net, after Brett Beauvais’ shot from the circle was stopped in front. Benoit’s first in eight games coming at 7:17.
The celebration was quickly muted however, as McNicholas equalized for Vernon just twenty-three seconds after the Benoit goal. Two Vees got their signals crossed at their own blue-line and Coughlin took the puck, went wide on the right-wing and threw a pass at the back-post for streaking McNicholas at 7:39.
The Vees bounced back, grabbing their second lead of the night early in the second period. Steen Cooper was first to a juicy rebound after a point-shot and from the right-circle he beat Austin Smith blocker-side at 3:35; Cooper’s fourth and second in three games.
Hunter Miska made a great glove save minutes later, helping preserve the Vees one-goal lead at the time. The puck was thrown out in front of the Vees net, where it was intercepted by Vernon’s Demico Hannoun. He tried to outwait Miska by cutting to the glove-side, but the Vees puck-stopper lunged out with his glove to take a sure goal away.
Final Score: 3-2 Vipers
Shots: 25-23 Vipers
Power-Plays: Vees 1-3 Vipers 0-2
Three Stars: 1) Liam Coughlin 2) Michael McNicholas 3) Erik Benoit
For the first time in this post-season, the Vees have dropped back-to-back games. Brad McClure’s assist on Steen Cooper’s second period goal, keeps him on top of the BCHL scoring race with nine goals and seventeen points. Hunter Miska suffered his first loss of the post-season in his fifth start; he’s now 3-1. Ben Dalpe and Shane McColgan returned to the line-up after both missed the last two games of the series with injuries; McColgan marked his return with an assist.
The Vees now travel to Vernon for game six and needing a win to stave off elimination; face-off is 7pm. Fans can listen to the game on the home of the Vees, EZ Rock AM 800, starting at 6:30pm with the pre-game show. There is a pay-per-view webcast available via www.fasthockey.com Game seven, if necessary, is schedule for Saturday, March 22nd at the SOEC; face-off is 6pm. Tickets are available at the Valley First box office, or online at www.valleyfirsttix.com