Vees, Vipers and vendettas.
There is a lot of stories to tell within that alliteration but only one thing mattered in the first game of the first round of the BCHL playoffs — victory.
And for the Penticton Vees, it was their night to set a tone they hope will carry through the rest of the series with the Vernon Vipers after a 6-3 win on Friday night at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
“We knew they were going to come out hard and we came out with the right intensity, mindset and they started losing it once we got a couple of goals,” said Vees forward Scott Conway. “I have a feeling they are going to keep doing that.”
Can’t stay away from that bad blood when these two teams talk about one another. Perhaps it is because they have faced off in the post-season the past three years in a row. The most recent two playoff clashes between the long-time rivals have gone a full seven games. With so much familiarity between the Vipers and Vees, discipline was bound to come up in their first playoff game.
Right off the hop the Vees Dante Fabbro took a misconduct for a hit to the head. The only thing clicking for the Vipers on this night seemed to be the undisciplined play of the Vees leading to two powerplay goals. Liam Finlay gave the Vipers a short-lived 1-0 lead in the first period and midway through the game Odeen Tufto knocked the puck past Vees netminder Anthony Brodeur on the powerplay. The Vipers third goal came thanks to a deflection off a Vees skate, which was credited to Finlay.
The bad blood was punctuated by a bang up start to the second period when the Vipers Riley Brandt and Colton McCarthy tag teamed Vees player Dixon Bowen in the corner slamming him into the boards causing the glass to fall out.
The Vees weren’t the only guilty party taking unnecessary penalties. The Vipers were called for spearing and slashing among their six trips to the penalty box. That led to extra-curricular activity by both teams after the whistle late in the third period.
“That is always our goal, playing that physical role. That is our team and we will do that on Sunday too,” said Brandt. “Our emotions just got the better of us tonight.”
The Vees beat the Vipers in all six of their regular season matchups, including shutting out their north Okanagan rival twice and finishing 50 points ahead in the standings. Playing a big role in that was the Vees Conway who proved again to be the snake charmer netting two goals in the 6-3 win. He led the Vees with 17 points against the Vipers in the regular season series and said his team worked the Vipers down low in Game 1 wearing down their defence which created chances.
“We are not worried about Conway,” said Brandt. “Everybody is equal over there. Every one of them is our worst enemy. It doesn’t matter if it is Conway. It doesn’t matter if it is (Tyson) Jost. We are going to come out hard on every single person out there.”
Conway, Jost and Taylor Ward scored all before the end of the first to give the Vees a 3-1 lead. Before they could even announce the Vees fourth goal, Conway’s second of the night, Owen Sillinger put another puck in the back of the net. Nic Jones scored the final goal for the Vees in third period.
Vipers netminder Andrew Shortridge was singlehandedly trying to resurrect his team late in the second period. He made five consecutive saves before his team could get the puck out of their end. Shortridge then made a sensational pad save on a breakaway in the third period.
“Our goalie has been rock solid for us all year. They have a good team over there. They scored some good goals and have good goal scorers so it is tough for him but next game he will come out and stand on his head,” promised Brandt.
The Vees and Vipers will clash again on Sunday, March 6 6 p.m. at the SOEC. Games 3 and 4 will be played in Vernon on March 8 and 9.