FORT McMURRAY, AB- The Penticton Vees are in the Western Canada Cup Final after holding off the Melfort Mustangs 3-1 Wednesday at the Casman Centre in Fort McMurray, Alberta.
Pat Newell scored what turned out to be the game-winner early in the second, as the Vees are one win away from the RBC Cup in Portage, Manitoba.
Dakota Conroy opened the scoring early in the first and line-mate Connor Chartier sealed the win with an empty-net goal in the dying seconds of the game. Hunter Miska was sharp, kicking out 22 of 23 Melfort shots; the only puck to beat it came on a deflection off his own defenseman.
Conroy broke a scoreless tie just before the five-minute mark, when he popped in a loose puck at the side of the Melfort net. Connor Chartier had a shot attempt in the slot but his stick broke, but in a turn of good fortune, the puck slid across to Conroy for the tap-in at 4:41.
The Vees had a couple of good looks to double their lead later in the first but both Demico Hannoun and Chartier were stopped on breakaways by Mustangs’ goaltender Richard Palmer.
Newell doubled the lead early in middle stanza on an odd-man rush after a great play at the Vees’ blue-line. Newell nudge the puck past a pinching Melfort defender and sent the puck ahead to Hannoun. Newell got the puck back from Hannoun and went upstairs on Palmer at 3:43; his first of the WCC and sixth point.
Melfort made things interesting late in the third period when they broke Miska’s shutout bid. Tristan Frei fired the puck towards the net from the corner and it bounced off a Vees defenseman and in at 13:53.
However, the Vees held off a Mustangs push late with the net empty, and Chartier iced it when he fired the puck into the open six by four from the Melfort blue-line at 19:50.
Final Score: 3-1 Vees
Shots: 40-23 Vees
Power-Plays: Vees 0-0 Melfort 0-1
The win clinches a spot in the 1 vs. 2 Western Canada Cup Final for Penticton. They’ll wait to see who opponent is after the conclusion of the round-robin on Thursday. Chartier, Conroy and Steen Cooper combined for five points in the win.
The Vees play in the WCC Final on Saturday, May 2nd, at 7:30pm MT / 6:30 pm PST. Fans can listen to the game on EZ Rock AM 800, or they can watch the game at the official viewing party at Tugs Tape House in Penticton.