PENTICTON, BC- A game removed from winning their league championship in overtime, the Penticton Vees (British Columbia Hockey League) found themselves punching the OT clock in their Western Canada Cup opener Saturday, knocking off the Battlefords (Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League) North Stars 2-1 at the South Okanagan Events Centre (SOEC).
Just four days ago, it was the Vees beating the Chilliwack Chiefs (British Columbia Hockey League) in Game Seven, in OT, in the Fred Page Cup Final.
Chris Klack scored the game-winner, five and a half minutes into the 10-minute OT period, as the WCC hosts started their tournament on a winning note. Klack followed Vees’ Captain Nicholas Jones to the net and poked his rebound past the goalie and just over the line at 5:32 to cap off the comeback.
After trailing 1-0 going into the third period, the Vees quickly tied it, 29-seconds in, on a blast from Gabe Bast on the power-play. Bast just stepped out of the penalty-box, as a Vees’ power-play kicked in and he wasted little time, hammering a point-shot through a crowd and past Joel Gryzbowski.
After a scoreless first period, it was the North Stars opening the scoring, as Reed Delainey threw a perfectly timed cross-ice pass over to Connor Logan for the ice-breaker late in second. On a North Stars’ odd-man rush, Logan reached out and fired the pass upstairs over Mat Robson’s blocker on the far-side at 18:57.
After Bast tied it early in the third, the two teams settled in, as it took another 25 and a half minutes to decide a winner. The third period wasn’t void of scoring chances however, as both teams had opportunity to grab the lead.
Their team’s best chances arguably came in the final minutes of regulation. First, Battlefords’ Kendall Fransoo wired a shot from the left-wing circle off the post, and then it was Grant Cruikshank robbed on a back-door pass, as Gryzbowski threw his body in front of the puck, diving to his blocker-side in the dying moments of the third.
In OT, the Vees outshot the North Stars 4-1 and it was a hard-nosed effort to win in for the hosts. Jones started the play off by creating a foot race after chipping the puck past a North Stars’ defenceman just outside of the Vees’ zone. He raced down the puck with a defender at his hip as he tried to go in alone. Jones was stopped in the crease but his line-mate Klack was right there, diving at the rebound and pushing it past a sprawled out Gryzbowski.
Final Score: 2-1 (OT) Penticton Vees
Shots: 38-25 Vees
Power-Plays: Vees 1-4 North Stars 0-6
Players of the Game: Vees- Nicholas Jones Stars- Reed Delainey
The Vees picked up the extra point with the OT win and now sit in second after Day 1 with two points, behind the Brooks Bandits (Alberta Junior Hockey League) who earned the full three points with their 5-2 win over Chilliwack earlier Saturday.
The Vees face the Bandits Sunday night, April 30th, in their second game of the 2017 Western Canada Cup, presented by Sun Life Financial; face-off is 7 pm. The North Stars have a quick turnaround, battling the Portage Terriers (Manitoba Junior Hockey League) at 2 pm Sunday; Portage did not play Saturday. Fans can watch both games on www.hockeytv.com