PENTICTON, BC-He wears the ‘C’ for a reason. Captain Nicholas Jones scored twice and finished with game-high three points, in the Penticton Vees 6-2 win over Merritt in Game Seven of their Interior Division Semi-Final.
Jones (2), Duncan Campbell, Chris Klack, Taylor Sanheim and Taylor Ward scored for Penticton Monday night in front of over 3,700 fans at the SOEC. Matt Robson’s workload was considerably less than Game Six, as he only had to make 14-saves for his fourth win of the post-season.
Zach Zorn and Cade Gleekel scored for the Cents’ who failed to advance to their first Interior Final since 2012.
The Vees special teams stepped to the forefront in the seventh and final game of their second-round series with Merritt, as they scored twice on the power-play and were a perfect six-for-six on the penalty-kill. Penticton killed-off two separate five-on-three Merritt power-plays and a four-minute high-sticking penalty to Ty Amonte.
Penticton also finally broke a series long trend, as it was Merritt scoring first just 75-seconds into the game. Zach Zorn fired a wrist-shot over Robson’s glove from jthe right-wing a few feet inside the blue-line at 1:15. Up until Monday, the team that had scored first won every game in the series.
The Vees tied it just before the five-minute mark and on their first power-play. Taylor Sanheim, in his playoff debut after missing the last six weeks with an upper-body injury, picked the corner from the left-wing at 4:49; Jones assisting on Sanheim’s first playoff goal.
Jones then gave the Vees a lead they would never relinquish just past the halfway mark of the first. Chris Klack, from behind the net, fed Jones out front and the Captain dug the puck out of his skates before buzzing one short-side at 10:14; his team-leading fourth playoff goal.
Shortly after that the Vees’ had to kill-off a four-minute Cents’ power-play, after Ty Amonte was called for high-sticking. The penalty-kill kept the Vees’ lead intact heading into the intermission.
Early in the second, while up 2-1, the Vees ran into more penalty trouble and Merritt was handed a five-on-three advantage for nearly two-minutes. The Vees PK again flexed their muscles and didn’t give the Cents’ power-play much of a sniff during the 1:50 sequence. That kill seemed to galvanize Penticton, as they finally broke through late in the second.
Jones capitalized on a turnover just outside the Merritt end, breaking back on an odd-man rush with Duncan Campbell. From the right-wing, Jones tried to center to Campbell but it took a deflection off the inside of the skate of Merritt’s Zach Metsa, and slid through the goalie’s pads at 17:24; Jones credited with his second of the game and Penticton wasn’t done there.
Just 56-seconds after that, Campbell made it 4-1 after he smartly redirected Mitch Meek’s shot from the slot. Capitalizing on another turnover, Campbell quickly turned back into the Merritt end and dropped the puck to Meek, who had his drive from up top tipped by Campbell and past Berger at 18:20.
Penticton kept coming in the third, tacking on two more goals. First, Taylor Ward scored his second of the playoffs at 6:21 after a nice setup by Matt Gosiewski. Gosiewski grabbed the puck behind the net, before centering to Ward out front who quickly fired it past Berger’s blocker. Then on a two-man advantage, it was Klack and Owen Sillinger teaming up for a quick give-and-go down low, with Klack letting go a one-timer at 8:41; Klack scoring the Vees’ second power-play goal of the game and his second of the series.
Cade Gleekel scored a consolation marker late for Merritt to stop the bleeding, as he banged in a loose puck from in front at 18:10
Final Score: 6-2 Vees
Shots: 28-16 Vees
Power-Plays: Vees 2-5 Merritt 0-6
Three Stars: 1) Nicholas Jones 2) Duncan Campbell 3) Taylor Sanheim
Notes: Monday was the Vees’ 13th (13-9) Game Seven win in franchise history; Merritt is now 1-6 in Game Sevens. Before their two power-play goals in Game Seven, the Vees power-play was just 1-22 in the previous six games. Before Monday, Taylor Sanheim last played on February 4th, in Victoria.
Penticton now advances to their sixth consecutive Interior Division Final and will face the Vernon Vipers, starting with Game One Friday, March 31st, at the SOEC; puck drop is 7 pm.