CHILLIWACK, BC- The Penticton Vees are going into their break feeling good about themselves again after shutting out the Chilliwack Chiefs 3-0 in their regular season finale at Prospera Centre.
Nicholas Jones broke the scoreless deadlock, midway through the third period and added another on a power-play, and Mat Robson stopped 27 shots for his sixth shutout, as the Vees leapfrogged the Chiefs for second spot in the BCHL overall standings.
Duncan Campbell added an empty-net goal, whilst short-handed, with just 48-seconds left to seal the Vees 41st win and their second against the Chiefs this season.
It was a spirited, hard-fought game that had a noticeable playoff feel, as the two Fred Page Cup contenders went toe-to-toe.
It may have surprised a few that the game turned into a defensive battle, highlighted by strong goaltending, given the fact the Chiefs started call-up Josh Bolding in net, as Mark Sinclair sat out due to injury.
In a scoreless first period, the Vees best chance to crack the game open was when Owen Sillinger, on the game’s opening power-play, fed Nicholas Jones in front from the goal-line but the Captain’s redirect just curled past the far post.
Chilliwack’s best chance to break open the deadlock in the first came on a backdoor pass by Jordan Kawaguchi to Tommy Lee, but Jonny Tychonick read the pass and reached in to get a piece off the tap-in by Lee and deflect it out of harm’s way.
Bolding, in his first even BCHL start, looked fairly comfortable in the Chiefs’ net, stopping all nine shots he faced in the first period; Robson stopped all six that came his way.
In the second, things opened up somewhat and the Chiefs’ leading scorer Jordan Kawaguchi had a great chance break the deadlock. Alone in front, Kawaguchi was fed the puck from behind the net but wrist-shot rifled off the cross-bar behind Mat Robson and went out of play.
Robson was called into action again in the second but this time he made a great left pad save on Koen Olischefski. The Chiefs’ Kane fired a rink-wide pass over to Olischefski on the left-wing but his shot was kicked out by Robson who, from one knee, flung his pad up and got a pad to the wrist-shot.
Owen Sillinger had the Vees’ best scoring chance in the second. Sillinger faked the shot in the left-wing circle, dragged the puck to the middle but his five-hole bid was squeezed by Josh Bolding.
Chilliwack started strong in the third and Ben Fanjoy had a great scoring chance to crack the goose-egg. After a miscue by the Vees, Fanjoy found himself all alone at the top of the crease, spinning back onto his forehand but he couldn’t push the puck past Robson at post.
Kawaguchi was up to his old tricks in the third but he too couldn’t solve Robson. The Chiefs’ Captain found some room on the right-wing and fired a shot from the circle but Robson managed to squeeze it against his body.
Robson held the fort long enough to allow the Vees to final break through midway through the third.
During a four-on-four sequence, Jones showed off some patience and slick puck work, taking a drop pass from Tychonick, before carving his way down to the goal from the top of the circles. After fighting his way to the crease he dished it off to Duncan Campbell at the side of the net and he feverishly jammed at the puck, trying to will it across the goal-line. After a short scramble, it was Jones getting the last touch on the puck before it squeaked across the goal-line; Jones scoring his 24th at 9:53.
Fanjoy almost had a response for the Chiefs, as he cut in from the right-wing but his backhand attempt was cleverly swept off away from the crease by the stick of Turner Ripplinger.
After Taylor Ward drew a high-sticking penalty with just over two-minutes left, the Vees’ power-play went to work. Chris Klack skated down the right side of the Chiefs’ end, before firing it over to an open Jones on the left-wing, who quickly fired it over Bolding’s glove at 18:10 for his 25th.
Emotions came to ahead less than a minute later, when Kale Kane got mixed up with Gabe Bast in the Vees end. Players on both sides got entangled in behind the Vees’ net and when the dust settled, it was the Chiefs who were handed a power-play.
On the ensuing face-off, Duncan Campbell chipped the puck out to centre then won a foot race to it, diving at it and chipping it into an open net with 48-seconds left on the clock; a great effort, shorthanded by Campbell to bag his 11th.
Final Score: 3-0 Vees
Shots: 27-26 Chilliwack
Power-Plays: Vees 1-4 Chilliwack 0-2
Three Stars (Radio Broadcast): 1) Nicholas Jones 2) Mat Robson 3) Duncan Campbell
Notes: The Vees finish the regular season with a 41-13-1-3 record and 86 points which is good enough for a tie for second place in the overall standings heading into the final weekend; Chilliwack needs at least a point Sunday versus Prince George to sew up the second seed. Friday was the Vees’ third shutout in their last seven games, and in the last two weeks, they shut out the top two scoring teams in the BCHL, in Chilliwack and Wenatchee. The Vees also finish the regular season as the best defensive team, allowing a league-low 129 goals.
Penticton is now off for the next three weeks, as their playoffs don’t start until Friday March 17th, as they have a first round bye in the BCHL Fred Page Cup Playoffs.