It was seventh heaven for the Penticton Vees.
In front of an energetic crowd of 4,033 at the South Okanagan Events Centre, the Vees sent their fans home happy with a 3-1 win over the Vernon Vipers clinching the B.C. Hockey League Interior Division championship Monday.
The Vees got off to a good start, which included getting the first goal. After taking a feed by affiliate player Cassidy Bowes, defenceman Gabe Bast flew down the wing and elected to shoot on the odd-man rush. It proved a good decision as Bast beat Darion Hanson five-hole at 7:51 for his fifth of the playoffs. Bowes entered the Vees lineup for Chris Klack, who was issued a one-game suspension from Game six in Vernon. He had a strong game and earned the FortisBC Energy player of the game.
Vees coach-GM Fred Harbinson said following the game that opening the scoring was the turning point in them getting the win.
“It has been important in this series. Both teams are so good with the lead,” said Harbinson. “Getting that first goal gave us the confidence. Got the crowd into it, which was outstanding tonight, over 4,000 people.”
Jones added to Harbinson’s comment.
“We’re a pretty good team with the lead. We fell behind early last game and weren’t able to get back into it,” he said. “It was nice to get up early tonight.”
After outshooting the Vipers 12-8 in the opening frame, the Vees doubled their lead to 2-0 on a great play by Jones. The Vees captain entered the Viper zone after taking a pass by Bast. Once in, he weaved around the Vipers at the high circle before dishing it off low to Duncan Campbell, who beat Hanson blocker side.
“They backed off a little bit so I thought I had some time. I was gonna shoot one,” said Jones. “I saw Campbell over there so he was able to make a good shot.”
With 6:40 left in the middle frame, the Vees put the dagger in. Sol Seibel, filling in for Chris Jandric, who was serving a one-game suspension, turned the puck over in the Vees end to Owen Sillinger. The Bemidji State commit, sprung Sanheim. The veteran forward broke into the Vipers zone, then slowed as he made an inside out move on Shane Kelly that looked like it wouldn’t work. Sanheim then snapped a shot high blocker that nearly blew the roof off the SOEC.
“Inserting Sanheim from Game 7 on from the last series, he has scored some big goals obviously in both those Game sevens,” said Harbinson.
Hanson finished with 30 saves.
In the final period, and fighting for their season, the Vipers outshot the Vees 12-5. With 9:34 remaining, Jesse Lansdell forced a turnover and fed captain Riley Brandt, who made no mistake beating Mat Robson high glove. It spoiled the shutout for Robson, who finished with 28 saves. The Vipers had their best chances in the third period.
Brandt was emotional after the game unable to hold back tears while talking about his teammates.
“The group of 20-year-olds that we had left their hearts out on the ice every single day,” said Brandt, choked up. “There is nothing I could have done any more to try to show my appreciation for this organization and to this group of guys inside this room. It’s obviously very disappointing to not come out on top.”
Harbinson said what he liked about his team is they never quit.
“Vernon is a great team. You’re in Game 7 and up 3-0 in the third,” said Harbinson. “You know that they are going to keep pushing. They got one. They made us turn the puck over. Now all of a sudden you are hanging on for dear life. I told our guys to act like a family. When you’re in tough situations with your family, you’re going to stick together and that’s what the boys did tonight.”
The Vees now move onto the Fred Page Cup and will face the Chilliwack Chiefs. Games 1 and 2 are in Chilliwack this weekend.
Video below courtesy of Jayson Moonie.