Scott Conway made good on his word, with help from his Penticton Vees teammates.
The Penticton native said after a Game 3, 2-1 loss Tuesday to the Vernon Vipers, in their B.C. Hockey League best-of-seven Interior Conference semifinal, that the Vees would show, in Game 4 Wednesday, why they were the best team in the league.
Conway opened the scoring 10 minutes into Game 4, Nicholas Jones added two shorthanded goals and the Vees held the Vipers to only 19 shots on goal in cruising to a 6-2 win at Kal Tire Place and a commanding three games to one series lead.
Game 5 is Friday night at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
“I think tonight was a great push-back game,” said Jones, the game’s first star. “Every time we’ve had a loss this year we’ve rebounded well and tonight was a good effort.”
After former Vipers forward Damico Hannoun took an interference penalty at 12:12 of the first period, Jones scored his first shorthanded marker 16 seconds later to make it 2-0 Penticton. Owen Sillinger scored just as Hannoun’s penalty expired for a 3-0 Vees lead.
Penticton, outshot 15-9 by the Vipers in the first period Tuesday, held the home side to just a single shot on goal in the opening 20 minutes while firing 13 shots at Vernon goalie Andrew Shortridge.
“We just came out hard,” said Jones. “We got some breaks and a couple of lucky bounces that we were able to capitalize on.”
Easton Brodzinski made it 4-0 Vees 54 seconds into the middle frame before Steven Jandric beat Zach Driscoll at 4:12 to give the Vipers a ray of hope.
That ray was dimmed nearly three minutes later as Jones scored his second shorthanded marker. Jones was the recipient of a bounce off the ends boards on a Penticton dump-in. Shortridge came out of the net to play the puck which hit something along the boards and went straight out to Jones who put the puck in the gaping cage before Shortridge could get back.
Hunter Zandee beat Driscoll with a shot from the slot 59 seconds into the third period for the Vipers before Tyson Jost finished the scoring on a neat deflection at 4:51.
Driscoll, who started Game 2 of the series, had to make only 17 saves as the Vees outshot Vernon 42-19.
“It wasn’t our best effort,” said Zandee. “We got away from the little things. We were turning over the pucks, which was the main problem, made too many mistakes and it cost us.”
Penticton goalie Anthony Brodeur, who looked to have suffered a lower body injury late in Game 3, did not dress for the Vees. He’s listed as day-to-day. Nolan Hildebrand was called up to backup Driscoll.
Shortridge was superb in the Vipers’ Game 3 victory, being named first star on the basis of a 43-save performance, including stopping all 26 shots he faced in the middle frame.
Odeen Tufto opened the scoring on a breakaway midway through the second period when he snuck behind the Vees defence and beat Brodeur low stick-side.
Conway equalized 44 seconds into the third, setting the stage for Jagger Williamson’s game-winner at 12:03 on a backhand past Brodeur.
The win snapped a 10-game Vipers losing streak against the Vees dating back to last year’s Interior Conference final, when Penticton won Games 6 and 7, then swept the six regular season games this year, and won the first two games of the series.
Vees forward Luke Voltin, who was with the Vipers in last year’s seven-game Interior Conference final loss, said the team kept things simple Wednesday.
“The message was we had to play 60 minutes, put the puck in the net and bang some bodies,” said Voltin. “There was nothing new. We knew we had to play harder. There was no panic.”
If the Vipers force a sixth game, it would be played in Vernon Saturday.