MERRITT, BC –The Penticton Vees regained their scoring touch Friday and they didn’t waste time doing it. The Vees scored four goals in the opening 19-minutes of the game, as the cruised to a 4-2 win over the Merritt Centennials at Nicola Valley Memorial Arena.
The bounce-back win follows the Vees’ shutout loss last Saturday at home against Nanaimo. Chris Klack scored the Vees’ first two goals and Ben Brar and Kenny Johnson scored the other two in the opening period; Johnson scoring his first career BCHL goal. Nolan Hildebrand kicked-out 26 of 28 shots for his third win of the season and his second in Merritt in 13-days.
Tyler Ward and Zach Risteau scored for Merritt who are now winless in three games against the Vees this season. The Vees chased Centennials starter Jacob Berger from the net after the first, as he allowed four goals on 19 shots.
Klack opened the scoring just over two-minutes into the game to get the visitors off to a quick start. On a delayed penalty against Merritt, Klack skated in on the right-wing, before beating Berger five-hole at 2:17. Then Klack found the back of the net four-minutes later. Joe Leahy’s point-shot was kicked-out but it came right to Klack who slid in the rebound at 6:17 for his fourth of the season.
The Vees padded their lead in the back half of the first after a nice individual rush by Ben Brar. The second-year forward darted down the wing, went onto his backhand, before tucking it underneath the sprawled goaltender at 14:17; Brar shedding the monkey off his back with his first in 14-games.
Tyler Ward cut into the Vees’ lead late, scoring at the side of the net after a pass from behind the goal from Michael Regush at 18:06. But Merritt didn’t have much time to enjoy that goal, as the Vees came right back.
48-seconds later, on the next shift, Kenny Johnson scored his first BCHL goal on another delayed penalty. Jacob Kamps cut to the net from the right-wing and as he got to the goal-line, he slid the puck back out front to Johnson who roofed the centering-feed at 18:54. The Vees played a near-perfect period in the opening 20-minutes, as they led 4-1 and outshot the Cents’ 19-6.
Merritt had a push back in the second and cut into the Vees lead in the latter half of the middle frame. Zach Risteau made it a two-goal game again with just over five-minutes left. Merritt settled the puck down in the Vees’ zone before the puck came across to Risteau for the backdoor one-timer at 14:23.
Klack also made a great defensive play late in the second, as he swept a rebound attempt off the goal-line in the Vees crease. Hildebrand made the initial save but Chase Bell’s rebound attempt got through the goalie’s legs. However, Klack was there to swipe the puck away from danger at the last second.
Though they were outshot 11-8 in the middle frame, the Vees still took a 4-2 lead into the third. Penticton buckled down in the final period and didn’t give up much in the way of quality chances.
Whatever intentions the Cents had of mounting a third period comeback were stamped out. Nolan Hildebrand was efficient in the crease, stopping all 11 third period shots that were steered his way, as the Vees shutdown Merritt’s offence.
FINAL SCORE: 4-2 Vees
Shots: 37-28 Vees
Power-Plays: Vees 0-3 Centennials 0-2
Three Stars (Radio Broadcast): 1) Chris Klack 2) Ben Brar 3) Joe Leahy
Brar’s first period goal was his first since December of last season, when he scored in Vernon against the Vipers. The Vees improve to 5-0-0 against the Interior Division and 8-1-0-0 on the road. The victory also increases their lead to five points atop of the Division standings.
Penticton’s weekend road trip continues tomorrow in West Kelowna; face-off is 7 pm. Tomorrow marks the Vees’ (12-2-0-0) second visit to West-K to face the Warriors (5-7-0-1) and first since September 30th; Penticton won 3-1 that night. Fans can listen to the game on EZ Rock AM 800, or they can watch on www.myhockeytv.com