VERNON, BC –Taylor Ward couldn’t pick a better time to snap a five-game goalless draught. The second-year forward scored twice in the first period Friday, as the Penticton Vees doubled-up the Vernon Vipers 4-2 at Kal-Tire Place.
Ward scored early and late in the first to stake the visitors out to a two-goal lead after 20-minutes. Grant Cruikshank scored in the second and then again late in the third period into an empty-net, as the Vees won their fourth straight and first against the Vipers in their season series opener.
Mat Robson was very sharp, stopping 30 of 32 Vernon shots to pick up his 12th win of the season and second this week.
Carter Stephenson and Jimmy Lambert scored 10-seconds apart in the second for Vernon, to make a game of it, but the Vipers fell short in the end, losing for just the second time in regulation at home.
The ice wasn’t even dry when Ward put the Vees ahead in the first period. Just 72-seconds after puck-drop, Ward skated down the right-wing and fired a shot from the right-circle through Vipers’ goalie Ty Taylor’s legs at 1:12.
Ward was at it again late in the first, this time on the power-play, to double the Vees’ lead. Inside the final minute of the frame, Ty Barnstable’s shot was stopped but the rebound squirted over to Ward, who quickly wired the rebound past Taylor on the blocker-side at 19:32; his second of the game and fifth of the season.
Vernon had a prime chance to cut into the Vees’ 2-0 lead whilst shorthanded but Mat Robson came up with a great save. On a Vipers’ two-on-oh rush, Robson read the play perfectly, sliding over to his blocker-side to stop Hunter Zandee’s short-side attempt
Penticton padded their lead midway through the second period, as Cruikshank capitalized on a Vernon turnover. After a Vipers’ defenceman bobbled the puck at the Vees blue-line, Cruikshank rushed back the other way on a partial breakaway and squeezed a shot through Taylor’s legs at the 12-minute mark; Cruikshank bagging his team-leading 11th of the season.
Vernon didn’t fold however, and they fashioned together a late rally in the second to cut into the Vees’ lead. First, on their only power-play of the game, Carter Stephenson got the Vipers on the scoreboard after firing a shot upstairs from the circle at 17:20. Then, in a blink of an eye, the Vipers made it a one goal game.
Just 10-seconds after Stephenson’s goal, Jimmy Lambert was sprung on a breakaway from the Vees’ blue-line in, and after a quick deke, he beat Robson over the pad to make it 3-2 at 17:20.
Penticton rebounded well in the third, as they snuffed out any Vipers’ comeback attempt with a sound defensive effort. Cruikshank sealed it late, with an empty-net goal from the neutral zone with 55-seconds left on the clock.
Final Score: 4-2 Vees
Shots: 32-31 Vipers
Power-Plays: Vees 1-5 Vipers 1-1
Three Stars: 1) Taylor Ward 2) Grant Cruikshank 3) Jimmy Lambert
The Vees improved their record to 15-2-0-0 in the win and their road record to 10-1-0-0. The Vees are still perfect against the Interior Division too, now 7-0-0-0 after Friday’s win. Nic Jones’ assist in first period extended his point streak to four games.
Penticton’s weekend road trip continues across the border Saturday, as the visit the Wenatachee Wild at the Toyota Town Centre. It’s the first meeting between the two Division leaders, as the Wild sit in first place in the Mainland Division.