PENTICTON, BC –The Penticton Vees said goodbye to 2016 the way they said hello, and that’s with a win. Grant Cruikshank scored twice and the power-play stayed hot, as the Vees doubled-up the Merritt Centennials 4-2 Friday night at the SOEC.
Ty Amonte and Jared Nash also scored for the Vees who won for the fifth time against Merritt this season. Both of Cruikshank’s goals were scored on the power-play, as he scored his team-best 24th and 25th goals of the season.
Mat Robson turned in a very good effort, stopping 32 of 34 shots and was named the game’s third star.
Henry Cleghorn and Rylan Van Unen scored for Merritt whose winless skid stretched to six-games with the loss (0-3-1-2).
Cruikshank opened the scoring midway through the first period on the game’s first power-play. The Wisconsin product took the puck on the goal-line and from the right side of the net, quickly fired the puck underneath the pad of Jacob Berger at 11:08.
Just over a minute later the Vees ran into some penalty trouble, as the Cents’ were handed a two-man advantage for nearly 90-seconds, but the penalty-kill answered the bell, preserving the one-goal lead.
Early in the second period the Vees struck for two goals inside the first four-minutes of the frame to break the game open. Amonte made it 2-0 after he walked out from behind the net and fired a backhand up and over the goalie’s glove on the short-side at 1:39; his 12th of the season, matching the number on the back of his jersey.
Penticton went back on the power-play a short time later and again hit pay dirt. Jonny Tychonick crept down from the blue-line and then fired a dart over to Cruikshank, who hammered a one-timer from the right-wing circle at 3:54; his team-leading 10th power-play goal of the season.
Merritt got back into the game with a power-play goal from Henry Cleghorn. The Merritt forward followed the puck to the net and dove out to smack in a rebound past a sprawled Robson at 7:21.
Penticton had an answer for that goal and went back up by three early in the third period. Some great work down-low led to Ty Barnstable sliding the puck out front to Jared Nash in the crease, who forced the puck underneath Berger at 5:30; Nash scoring his second in three games to put the Vees up 4-1.
Controversy arose a few minutes later when Rylan Van Unen scored on a breakaway to make it 4-2; it’s what led to the breakaway that incensed the Vees. Mitch Meek got entangled with Van Unen at the Merritt blue-line before being taken down to the ice by the Merritt forward. However, the play wasn’t blown down and Van Unen skated in alone the other way, and picked the corner over Robson’s glove at 8:37. Penticton protested but it fell on deaf ears as the goal stood.
The Vees picked up a bench minor for their arguing but that penalty was killed-off and Penticton held off the Cents’ the rest of the way.
Final Score: 4-2 Vees
Power-Plays: Vees 2-4 Merritt 1-5
Three Stars: 1) Grant Cruikshank 2) Jonny Tychonick 3) Mat Robson
Vees Notes: Cruikshank’s two goals Friday moved him into second in scoring in the BCHL. Tychonick finished with a game-high three points, all assists, and now has 17 points in just 26 games. Friday was the Vees’ 12th straight regular season win at home against Merritt. The Vees finish December with a 6-1-0-1 record.
Penticton (29-6-0-1) is back in action on Wednesday, January 4th, as they ring in 2017 against the Trail Smoke Eaters at the SOEC; face-off is 7 pm.