Black Press Sports
PENTICTON ‑ Both the Penticton Vees and Vernon Vipers delivered their share of nasty Sunday night at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
Things went sideways soon after big Vee defenceman Patrick Sexton rocked Viper dynamo and leading scorer Liam Finlay at the Penticton blueline 7:25 after the national anthem.
The Vees won 5-2 to take a 2-0 lead in the B.C. Hockey League Interior Division best-of-seven final series. Penticton took the opener 4-3 in double overtime Saturday night.
Both ultra-skilled teams were hoping to put the cheap shots behind them and stick to hockey as the series resumed tonight at Kal Tire Place. Game 4 goes tonight here.
Sexton, who left his feet to deck Finlay, was given a charging minor. Finlay levelled the score at 1-1 when his centering pass went off a Vee d-man and past goalie Hunter Miska on the powerplay.
Finlay soon after fainted at the Viper bench and left the game conscious. Vernon head coach Mark Ferner said the speedster was a “game-time decision” tonight.
Ferner asked BCHL officials to look at the video of Sexton’s hit but they said it didn’t warrant a suspension.
“Sexton’s six-two and Finn’s five-seven so there’s gonna be a hit to the head,” said Ferner. “We’ve got to move on and settle the guys down, play with structure and hit them hard.”
Former Viper Demico Hannoun led the Vees with 2+1 Sunday. Hannoun dished to rookie sensation Tyson Jost, who wired a one-timer past goalie Jarrod Schamerhorn 42 seconds into the game. Jost also finished with a deuce.
Cam Amantea, returning after being injured in Game 3 against the West Kelowna Warriors, and Connor Chartier supplied singles for the Vees. Riley Brandt fooled Miska with a wrister late in the third period before 1,972 fans.
”We didn’t have the best start. It just kind of went downhill from there,” said Viper forward Anthony Latina, who lost three teeth and had stitches on his lip from a high stick in the second period.
“There is a lot of emotions involved. It was a little bit of a war there for a bit. I think it got out of control, but when it gets back into control, we got to stick to our game and we didn’t.”
On the Sexton hit, Latina said: “First of all it’s a scary hit. Sexton is a lot bigger than Finlay, a little dirty but when Finlay passed out on the bench, the last thing we needed was a player on the other team chirping at our bench. It’s a little gutless and classless but whatever, you got to deal with it. Good thing he is OK.”
Just 10 minutes later, Viper forward Colton McCarthy punched Miska in the side of the net causing him to fall down and stay down for a few minutes. McCarthy drew a minor.
Vees’ head coach Fred Harbinson felt Sexton, who had one goal and 45 penalty minutes in the regular season, tossed a legitimate check on Finlay.
“They tried to say it was a charge,” said Harbinson. “I thought their guy (Luke Shiplo) put a soft pass into Liam’s feet. Obviously you don’t like to see anybody get hurt. I have a lot of respect for all the kids that play in this league. Nobody wants to see anybody get hurt. Hopefully he is all right. Sexton isn’t a dirty player. He throws big hits, there’s no question. He doesn’t have a track record of being a dirty player.”
Brandt, who had a feud going all night with Gabe Bast, said the Vipers failed to recover after losing Finlay. It was 5-1 Vees after 40 minutes.
“After Finlay got hurt there it kind of hurt our team a little bit. We couldn’t get back together. We showed more passion to our game in the third but it was just too late.”
In Game 1, Chartier scored 2:11 into the second overtime when he tipped a Miles Gendron point shot over the shoulder of Schamerhorn.
The Vipers clawed their way back from a 3-1 deficit that started with the Vees taking a 2-0 lead on goals by Dante Fabbro at 6:02 of the first period and Jack Ramsey on the powerplay at 14:39.
Latina got the Vipers on the scoreboard at 8:47. Fabbro put the Vees up by two again nearly four minutes later on the powerplay. The Vipers levelled things on back-to-back markers by Thomas Aldsworth, who scored his first with one second remaining in the second period before 2,217 fans.