The Penticton Vees will head to the Okanagan Cup Final after earning a 5-2 victory over the Salmon Arm Silverbacks on Friday night at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
A slow starting opening period saw the Vees register their first shot of the game with just under 11 minutes remaining in the 1st frame but they were inches away from opening the scoring as the hot hand of Quinn Hutson narrowly missed the game’s opening goal. Hutson carried down the right-wing side and sent a shot off the cross bar on the glove side of Silverbacks goaltender Cole Schwebius from the right face-off circle as the iron kept the game scoreless.
Hutson later got his revenge and did open the scoring with his 10th Okanagan Cup goal to give the Vees a 1-0 lead at the 12:24 mark of the 1st period. Connor Bouchard sent a pass from below the goal line to the slot on the power play as Hutson took the quick pass in the slot and beat Schwebius on the blocker side to give Penticton a 1-0 advantage.
Salmon Arm forced more than double the rubber to the Vees net, outshooting Penticton by a 10-4 margin over the course of the opening 20 minutes but returning netminder Yaniv Perets made easy work of the 1st period, turning aside each of the 10 shots he faced to keep the Vees ahead by a goal heading into the 2nd period of play.
The Vees were quick to extend their lead in the middle stanza as just 1:42 into the frame, Jacob Quillan struck to push the Vees ahead by two goals. Ryan Upson made a nice play to shield the puck at the right face-off circle and send a pass across the ice to an open Quillan, who took the one-timer and beat Schwebius on the glove side for his 4th goal of the tournament and a 2-0 lead.
The middle of the period turned into a special teams battle as both sides got into a bit of penalty trouble and it was the Silverbacks who were able to capitalize on a 2nd period man advantage with a goal from Sullivan Mack to cut the deficit to 2-1.
Mack gathered the puck in the left face-off circle and had his seeing eye shot get through a heavy maze of bodies in front of Perets and beat the goaltender on his glove side at the 15:13 mark as Salmon Arm was able to push within a goal and cut the lead to 2-1 heading into the 3rd period of play.
Penticton jumped on a strong start in the 3rd period once again, as they did in the 2nd period, with Connor Bouchard tallying his first goal of the Okanagan Cup to give the Vees a two-goal lead once again. Liam Malmquist held the puck in at the blue line and sent a pass to the left face-off circle where Matteo Costantini pushed the puck to the right side where Bouchard finished off the backdoor play at the 2:27 mark to give Penticton a 3-1 lead.
Bouchard followed that effort up with his second goal of the game at the 6:57 mark of the final frame as he extended the lead to 4-1 on another power play marker. Costantini got the puck in the right face-off circle with Schwebius making a pad save before Bouchard followed up on the rebound and buried on the blocker side to push the lead to three goals at 4-1.
Logan Shaw got the Silverbacks within a goal at the 11:27 mark of the 3rd period on a sequence inside the defensive end. Perets made a pair of scramble saves, including a big stop on Daniel Panetta on the glove side, diving back to the goal line to make a stop, before the puck came back to the slot where Shaw punched a back hand shot to the net and over the goal line to get the Silverbacks within two goals at 4-2.
Just under two minutes later, at the 13:08 mark, Luc Wilson registered his 5th goal of the tournament to give Penticton their three-goal lead back. Owen Murray took a shot from the left point that was knocked down in front of the net by Wilson, who gathered the loose puck and beat Schwebius on the blocker side to finish of the scoring and guide the Vees to a 5-2 victory.
Yaniv Perets was terrific in the Vees net, stopping 35 of the 37 shots he faced in the game in his 9th win of the tournament while Cole Schwebius turned aside 18 of the 23 shots thrown his way in his 1st Okanagan Cup loss.
FINAL SCORE: 5-2 Vees
SHOTS ON GOAL: 37-23 Silverbacks
1) Connor Bouchard (2-1-3)
2) Matteo Costantini (0-3-3)
3) Yaniv Perets (35 saves on 37 shots)
Fortis Energy Player of the Game: Quinn Hutson (1-1-2)
The Vees (12-1-0-0) will meet the Vernon Vipers (3-6-1-2) in the Okanagan Cup Final on Saturday night at the South Okanagan Events Centre. Puck drop is slated for 6:00 PM with the game available with a FREE audio stream at mixlr.com/pentictonvees–2 as well as on pay-per-view at HockeyTV.com as well as on Shaw Spotlight.