PENTICTON, BC-The Interior Division Final is now a best-of-three series down the stretch, after the Vernon Vipers blanked the Penticton Vees 3-0 Tuesday, evening the series 2-2.
Jagger Williamson’s two first period goals were the difference and Jesse Lansdell added an empty-net goal inside the final minute of regulation, as the Vipers bounced back after a 4-2 setback in Game Three.
Darion Hanson stymied the Vees’ offence, as he stopped all 32-shots that was fired his way for his second shutout of the BCHL playoffs, and was named the game’s first star.
Tuesday was just the second win at home in five games for the Vipers this season against Penticton, as they dropped two of three games in the regular season and Game Three on Monday.
Despite the loss, the Vees still have home ice advantage, as Game Five and Game Seven (if necessary) are at the SOEC. Vernon’s win Tuesday guarantees a Game Six back at Kal-Tire Place on Saturday, April 8th.
Williamson took advantage of a tough bounce against Mat Robson to open the scoring nine-minutes in. The puck was flipped in from the neutral zone and Robson went to field the dump it from his knees, but the puck surprised him with an awkward in between bounce, and it came right to Williamson who quickly put a backhand deke by Robson at 9:23.
Williamson and the Vipers were at it again not three-minutes later, as he doubled the home side’s lead in a more traditional way. The puck came back to Michael Ufberg and from the blue-line, the Vipers defenceman had his point-shot tipped down by Williamson and past Robson at 12:07.
Penticton tried to chip away at the two-goal deficit in the second period. Grant Cruikshank may have had the best chance up to that point for the Vees but he missed the target from the slot, and they didn’t converge of any of the three straight power-play calls.
The Vees had three second period power-plays but couldn’t find a way to slip a power-play goal by Hanson. Despite some good opportunities to break that goose-egg, the Vees went into the second intermission down two.
In the third, Penticton pushed and generated some their best scoring chances. Cruikshank broke in on an odd-man rush with Ty Amonte and Griffin Mendel, with Mendel being fed a cross-ice pass but his backhand attempt in-close was stopped by Hanson’s pad hugging the post. On that same play, Owen Sillinger ripped the rebound well above the net after setting up in the slot.
Maybe the best chance came during a sequence near the end of regulation when the Vees had Robson pulled for the extra attacker. A centering pass was put right onto the tape of Cruikshank’s stick in between the circles but his wrist-shot clanged off the cross-bar and out of play with 70-seconds left.
Jesse Lansdell iced the game with an empty-net goal from his own blue-line at 19:08.
Final Score 3-0 Vernon
Power-Plays: Vees 0-5 Vipers 0-2
Three Stars: 1) Darion Hansen 2) Jagger Williamson and Riley Brandt
Notes: Tuesday was the first time the Vees were shutout since October 15th, at home against the Nanaimo Clippers. The team that has scored first, has gone on to win every game of this series; Vernon is 6-0 when scoring first. Going into the game, the Vees had won eight of their previous 10 games in Vernon (regular season & playoffs) dating back to March of 2015.
The two teams have two days off before the series shifts back to Penticton for Game Five on Friday, April 7th.