The biggest goal of Patrick Sexton’s career gave the Penticton Vees the BCHL’s Interior Division championship (Ryan Hatfield Memorial Trophy) Sunday night before 3,203 fans at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
Sexton, a bruising defenceman who scored once during the regular season, had his shot hit a stick, flip into the air and beat Vipers goalie Danny Todosychuk glove side at 17:07 for a 1-0 lead. The play started when Tyson Jost won a face-off in the Vipers zone.
“Me and Fabbs (Dante Fabbro) talked before the draw, we just wanted to get the puck to the net,” said Vees co-captain Sexton, named the game’s first star. “I think it bounced off a skate. At this point I don’t really care, they all count. It’s a little sweet revenge for last year.
— Fraser Rodgers (@VeesVoice) March 23, 2015
“When I saw it flutter in, I didn’t even know, I just looked across and Fabbro had his hands up in the air,” said Sexton. “I just started yelling. I just started hugging my teammates.”
In the last 10 minutes of the third period with the match still scoreless, Vees fans did their part to give the home team a lift chanting “Go Vees Go.” That support didn’t go unnoticed.
“By far the loudest I have ever heard this building,” said Sexton. “It was awesome. They are unbelievable. Anytime they are making noise, the ‘Go Vees Go’ chant, those cowbells, we hear that stuff. That definitely gives us a boost.”
The Vees withstood pressure by the Vipers for the last 2:30 of the third period. Matthew Serratore put the dagger in the Vipers with an empty net goal at 19:56 in Game 7.
“Their season is on the line. You give them credit, they didn’t roll over and die,” said Sexton. “That’s why we got the best goalie in the league. Miska stood tall. Did a great job fighting through traffic to find pucks. Not giving up rebounds. Guys did a great job of staying in lanes, trying to limit the shots getting through.”
Miska turned aside 27 shots for the shut out and was named the second star, while Todosychuk made 28 saves that earned the third star. Both teams weren’t able to capitalize on the powerplay with the Vees going 0-for-3 and the Vipers 0-for-2.
Former Vee Liam Finlay, who was dealt for Dakota Conroy earlier this season, said it was an intense game. He was hugged by nearly every Vee in the handshake.
“I felt we played a heck of a game and battled all night,” said the teary-eyed Finlay. “We just didn’t get the bounce we wanted. To lose the way we did, it was extremely tough. We have a great group of guys here. It really sucks coming up with the loss.”
— Miles Gendron (@mgendron10) March 23, 2015
The Vipers had their chances to win. In the third period, Liam Coughlin broke in on Miska and put a backhand shot just wide of the net with Miska sprawled out. Later on Miska came up with another big right pad save to stone the Vipers.
“We’re proud of them,” said Vipers coach-general manager Mark Ferner. “They did everything that we asked them to do in this game. I told them sometimes the game can be cruel. We lose a draw, we go do what we’re supposed to do and block it. It’s just one of those things. We had one of them ourselves (Game 5). This game could have gone either way. We had some great opportunities. It just wasn’t meant to be.”
“They have been a bit of a thorn in our side,” said Vees coach-GM Fred Harbinson. “It seems like, you know last year to the day, we lose in overtime after giving up a 3-1 lead. All of a sudden the other night (Saturday, a 5-1 win in Vernon), we’re playing great and we didn’t sit back. We played our butts off. They are a hell of a team. They are one of the best teams in the league.”
Harbinson also mentioned the bounce the Vipers got to win Game 5 4-3 in double overtime when a puck hit a Vees player and fooled Miska, who was moving in the direction he thought the puck was going and was beat glove side.
“That could have been easy for our guys to fold the tent,” said Harbinson. “Before we could even get in the locker room that night, the doors were already shut. The captains grabbed hold of the team and they charged forward. The last two nights, the 20-year-olds, the captains, and everybody else followed right behind.”
On the first shift of the game, the Vees lost Lewis Zerter-Gossage to an upper-body injury. His status is unknown.
On Saturday in Vernon, the Vees hit the scoreboard first as Connor Chartier potted his seventh playoff goal on the power play at 18:49. The Vees made it 2-0 on a goal by Cam Amantea set up by DePourcq and Mike Lee. Amantea scored again on a setup by Jost, then Dakota Conroy made it 4-0. Viper forward TJ Dumonceaux made it 4-1. Patrick Newell added the Vees’ fifth goal. Miska turned aside 36 of 37 shots.
“We needed a desperate game from everybody and everybody gave it their all,” said Amantea, the game’s first star, who will attend the University of Alaska at Anchorage next season.
“For some of us, it’s our last year as juniors and you don’t get a chance to be on a team like this. It’s a special group of guys and we weren’t ready to say goodbye. We knew we weren’t going to go down without a fight.”
— Joey Holka (@Holks17) March 23, 2015
— Cam Amantea (@Amantea11) March 23, 2015
The Vees move on to round three, a round-robin featuring the three conference winners. Penticton, the No. 1 seed, hosts second-rated Nanaimo Clippers Wednesday night. The Clippers shaded the visiting Powell River Kings 3-2 on Sunday to take that series in seven games. The Chilliwack Chiefs are the other conference champion. On March 29, the Vees will travel to Chilliwack then host the Chiefs on March 31. Both games at the SOEC are at 7 p.m. Tickets are $17 for adults and $15 for seniors and those prices will remain the same if the Vees advance to the Fred Page Cup Final.