PENTICTON, BC-Nothing a little Buckley’s couldn’t fix. Grant Cruikshank, battling the flu, scored twice as the Penticton Vees beat the Vernon Vipers 4-2 Monday, in Game Three in the Interior Division Final at Kal-Tire Place in Vernon.
Cruikshank opened and closed the scoring and the Vees also got markers from Taylor Sanheim and Ty Amonte, as they now lead the best-of-seven series 2-1, with Game Four Tuesday. Mat Robson was very good in the Vees’ net, kicking out 33-shots for his sixth win in nine post-season starts.
Vernon got goals from Jesse Lansdell and Steven Jandric but that wasn’t enough, as they lost their first game at home in the playoffs, after starting out 3-0. Darion Hansen was tagged with the loss, stopping 19 of 22 shots.
Penticton had a strong start, as Cruikshank opened the scoring on their first power-play not even three-minutes in. Cruikshank had his shot from the right-wing go off a defenders’ skate and up and over a helpless Darion Hansen and it at 2:46; Cruikshank’s second post-season marker.
Before that goal, the Vees had a great chance to crack the scoreless tie but Duncan Campbell was stuffed on a mini breakaway attempt.
Sanheim quickly added to the Vees lead 76-seconds later, taking a drop pass from Turner Ripplinger, before firing low underneath the glove of Hansen at 4:02 to make it 2-0; for Sanheim his third goal in the last four games.
Vernon climbed back into early in the second period, capitalizing on some Vees’ penalty trouble. Jesse Lansdell played give-and-go with Riley Brandt along the goal-line and finished the play by beating Robson on the blocker-side at 1:31 to make it 2-1.
Penticton got their two-goal lead back midway through the second, as Ty Amonte pounced on an errant pass. Shane Kelly tried to clear the puck up the middle but Amonte intercepted and fired a shot off the goalie’s glove and in at 12:32; Amonte scoring his first career playoff goal.
Vernon weren’t pushovers and responded almost immediately, as they turned a turnover into a goal. The puck came to the middle for an open Brett Stapley, who was stopped but Steven Jandric pushed the puck underneath the sprawled Robson with six-minutes left to make it 3-2.
Robson was called into action in the third, making a timely toe save on a wraparound attempt by Jandric and then late, he denied Brandt at the side of the net. Brandt tried to go between the goalie and the post with just over 80-seconds left, but Robson somehow managed to squeeze the puck underneath his pad and kept it from crossing the goal-line.
Cruikshank sealed the win with an empty-net goal with just 12 and a half seconds left. The Vees’ forward made a nice play to chip the puck out of his own end and then he won a footrace to a clearing attempt down near the Viper line.
Final Score: 4-2 Vees
Shots: 35-23 Vipers
Power-Plays: Vees 1-2 Vipers 1-2
Three Stars: 1) Grant Cruikshank 2) Jesse Lansdell 3) Taylor Sanheim.
Notes: The Vees are 5-0 when scoring first in the playoffs and undefeated against Vernon in both the regular season and playoffs when scoring three or more goals. With Cruikshank’s power-play goal in the first, the Vees are now 5-13 on the man-advantage in this series.
Penticton looks for a commanding 3-1 series lead tomorrow, Tuesday, April 4th, in Game Four; puck drop is 7 pm.