MERRITT, BC-Nicholas Jones certainly knows how to pick his spots. The Penticton Vees’ Captain scored four and a half minutes into overtime as the Vees edged the Merritt Centennials 2-1Tuesday in Game Four of their Interior Division Semi-Final.
Jones scored his second of the game, 4:25 into the first overtime period, as he managed to poke the puck past Merritt’s Jacob Berger, as he was falling forward.
With the OT win, the Vees now lead the best-of-seven series 3-1, with Game Five back in Penticton on Thursday night.
Jones scored the Vees only goal in regulation, midway through the first period but that was wiped out by Tyler Ward’s short-handed goal late in the second period, setting the stage for Jones’ OT heroics.
Mat Robson was very good a night after losing his first playoff game Monday, as he stopped 30 of 31 shots Tuesday. Jacob Berger took the loss in the Merritt net, stopping 37 of 39 shots fired his way.
Going into Game Four, the team that had scored first in the series had won every game, and Jones’ got the Vees off on the right foot nearly nine-minutes in. Chris Klack drove down the right-wing, before firing a backhand on net that was stopped, but Jones forced the rebound underneath the goalie’s pad at 8:47 for his second goal of the series.
Robson bailed out his team in the dying moments in the first after the puck was turned over right in front of their net. Chase Bell was staring at a lot of open net after the puck was coughed up but Robson quickly flashed his glove to stop the scoring chance.
Though the Vees outshot Merritt 16-8 in the second period and out chanced them, they found themselves in 1-1 tie through 40-minutes. Late in the second frame, during a Vees power-play, Tyler Ward was sprung on a short-handed breakaway and he made no mistake, scoring a highlight reel goal with just one hand on his stick; the goal coming with just three-minutes left in the second stanza. Fitting that Ward scored, as he was robbed earlier in the period by Robson on a two-on-one rush; Robson slid across to stop a one-timer from the right-wing circle.
In the third period the Vees ran into some penalty trouble early, as the Cents’ had back-to-back power-plays but the penalty-kill unit withstood the test, and went a perfect seven-for-seven on the night.
Taylor Ward and Ty Amonte each had great looks at the Merritt net inside the final minute but Ward’s shot caught a piece of Berger’s shoulder and Amonte’s a piece of the post.
The Vees came out flying in OT, as they outshot the Cents’ 5-1 and it was Jones ending it with a determined solo effort. The Vees’ Captain took a drop pass from Chris Klack at the blue-line and danced in down the middle, before falling forward and poking the puck underneath Berger at 4:25.
Final Score: 2-1 Vees (OT)
Shots: 39-31 Vees
Power-Plays: Vees 0-5 Merritt 0-7
Three Stars: 1) Nicholas Jones 2) Jacob Berger 3) Mat Robson
Notes: Tuesday Jones’ finished with two points and now has six points (3-3-6) in four games to lead the Vees in playoff scoring. The Game Four win was the Vees’ Fred Harbinson 100th in his BCHL playoff coaching career.
Game Five is set for Thursday, March 23rd, at the SOEC; puck drop is 7 pm.