Ty Amonte learned long ago from his former hockey coach that putting a puck on net is never a poor choice.
The son of retired NHLer Tony Amonte, Ty’s former high school coach who was in the building Monday night, delivered the winner on a change-up as the Penticton Vees grounded the Vernon Vipers before 2,207 fans at Kal Tire Place.
Penticton takes a 2-1 lead in the B.C. Hockey League Interior Division best-of-seven final series which resumes Tuesday night in Vernon. Game 5 goes Friday night at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
As they did in Game 2, the first-place Vees grabbed a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes.
Leading scorer Grant Cruikshank garnered his second of the playoffs on a wacky pop fly which bounced off a few bodies in front and floated over Vernon goalie Darion Hanson’s right shoulder. The powerplay tally came 34 seconds into a roughing minor penalty assessed to winger Steven Jandric at 2:46.
The Vees converted just 1:16 later when Taylor Sanheim sped down the right sidewall and fooled Hanson with a low wrister, short side, glove hand.
Both teams enjoyed Grade A scoring chances in the opening minute with Hanson stoning Duncan Campbell in tight and Penticton net detective Mat Robson robbing Brett Stapley on his doorstep.
The Vipers, whose best period Saturday night in Penticton, was the second, continued that trend by outshooting the Vees 16-10 and counting two goals in the middle stanza.
Jesse Lansdell skated into a seam in the deep slot, took a gorgeous feed from captain Riley Brandt and went roof daddy on Robson 91 seconds into the period. The snipe came 39 seconds into former Viper d-man Mitch Meek’s boarding penalty on Jimmy Lambert.
The energy line of Luke Gingras, Simon Sagissor and Lansdell was the Vipers’ best most of the night, winning most of their shifts and generating multiple scoring opportunities. Sagissor struck the crossbar after Lansdell stripped the puck near the Vees’ blueline 6:30 into the second frame.
Penticton went up 3-1 when Amonte slipped a floater from the right hashmarks at 12:33. It was the Boston product’s first goal of the playoffs.
Just 87 seconds later, the Vipers made things interesting when Robson made a dazzling pad save on Stapley from 10 feet with Jandric burying the rebound. Lambert started the play when he fed a cross-ice pass to Stapley.
“It was a pretty tight game,” said Amonte, who rang up 30 goals and 70 points for his father’s Thayer Academy Prep Tigers last year. “I know they outshot us by a lot, but we outworked them and we limited their shots to the outside and we were able to finish and they weren’t.”
Supplying a huge goal at a time when the Vees were being badly outplayed was sweet for the 19-year-old.
“It felt good to finally get the monkey off my back and get one in the playoffs, especially against Vernon. Sometimes, they go in, the seven-hole.”
Vernon alternate captain Jagger Williamson, who left Game 2 after taking a check-from-behind by Vees’ blueliner Gabe Bast, returned to action and received a check-to-the-head minor and misconduct for a hit along the side boards on Penticton winger Chris Klack late in the period.
The Vipers and their fans felt they had forced overtime when Brandt’s backhander landed at Robson’s feet with 82 seconds remaining in the third period. The goal light flashed red but the referees ruled the puck had not crossed the line.
Cruikshank sealed things with an empty-netter with 12 seconds left after a turnover by Williamson at the Penticton blueline.
All three games were 50-50 lotteries and the Vipers certainly believed they could be leading the series.
“Everyone put in a good effort and we listened to (head coach Ferner) Mark before the game and did what we had to do and they got a couple of lucky bounces,” said Lansdell, named second star. “It’s hard to get that result when, as a team, we deserved more. Tomorrow’s a new day. We can keep playing the way we do; it’s going to wear them down and hopefully we can get some lucky bounces.”
Amonte felt the bigger Vipers flexed their muscles as usual on the speedy Vees.
“They always play physical and they’re a really hard team to play. It’s always a fun game playing Vernon.”
This is the 22nd time since 1967 that Vernon and Penticton have met in the league playoffs. The winner receives the Ryan Hadfield Memorial Trophy.
Sagissor, who played his finest game as a Viper since arriving here in late season, believes Vernon will be sharper in Game 4.
“We just have to come better prepared and come out a little harder tomorrow night,” said the Minnesota product.
The Lansdell line has just two playoff snipes but earn their shower every shift. Lansdell and Gingras both hail from Langley and like Sagissor, bring sandpaper to the Vernon lineup.
“We work really well together,” said Sagissor. “Jesse and Luke have known each other for quite a long time; they kind of grew up together and were close friends so they have good chemistry. We wanna go out there and do our best and win. It’s always nice to get rewarded (with extra ice time) when you’re playing well.”
SNAKE BITES: Viper grad Connor Jones rang up three hits, two shots and was a plus 1 in his NHL debut Sunday afternoon in Buffalo with the New York Islanders. Jones, who sparked Vernon to back-to-back Royal Bank Cup titles in 2009-10, was summoned from the AHL Bridgeport Sound Tigers. His twin, Kellen, and parents made the trip. The Isles won 4-2…Added Amonte on the Vees’ mindset: “We try to outwork the other team. We’re a very skilled team and it doesn’t always show some times, but I think if we manage to outwork teams we play, we’re gonna keep getting our chances to win games.”…Penticton F Duncan Campbell played for the Brandon Wheat Kings in the 2016 Memorial Cup in Red Deer. The Wheaties went 1-2…Penticton D Gabe Bast, who was given a major and game ejection for a checking-from-behind penalty on Williamson in the Vees’ 4-2 win Saturday night before 3,007 fans in Penticton, had his penalty rescinded by the BCHL so avoided suspension.