Through 60 years, Penticton’s Junior A hockey squad has had several monikers.
Currently, they are the Vees. They began in 1961 as the Junior Vees, one of the original four members of the B.C. Junior Hockey League. They’ve also been called the Broncos, Knights and Panthers.
The Vees added a new nickname Saturday night, Nov. 27, in Vernon: Penticton Party Poopers.
On Parents Weekend and on Legends Night in Vernon – the Vipers’ BCHL Retro Theme game to salute the league’s 60th anniversary – Penticton staged a legendary comeback, scoring four unanswered third-period goals to stun the Vipers and a crowd of 1,459 at Kal Tire Place 4-3.
Both teams wore special jerseys for the games. The Vees saluted the Knights with a retro uniform while Vernon – also an original four franchise who have been called the Canadians, Blades, Essos, Vikings, Lakers and Vipers – paid homage to all of its hockey history with a home white uniform with blue trim, and the word VERNON in script in a pennant on the front.
The two teams will play at the South Okanagan Events Centre Friday, Dec. 17, in the Vees’ Retro Theme game.
It was the Vipers through 40 minutes who resembled the franchise that has won six Canadian Junior A hockey championships and share with Penticton the most BCHL Fred Page Cup titles with 12. Vernon bottled up the Vees defensively and got two first-period goals from Reagan Milburn, four seconds into a powerplay, and Ryan Shostak.
Luke Buss made it 3-0 with the only goal of the middle frame. Vernon could have led by as many as five after 40 minutes if not for the play of Vees goalie Kaeden Lane, who was outstanding.
Vernon held a 24-19 advantage in shots after two periods.
Cue the Vees’ comeback.
Brett Moravec got Penticton on the board at 4:53. Ethan Mann scored at 12:01 to cut the lead to one. Moravec tied the game on a powerplay at 15:30, and 67 seconds later, Josh Nadeau potted the game-winner.
Penticton outshot Vernon 19-4 in the final period. Roan Clarke finished with 34 saves for the Vipers while Lane made 25 stops.
Before the game, the Vipers paid tribute to the city’s long hockey history, introducing 12 former players, coaches and one owner.
Mel Lis, the owner and mastermind behind the Vernon Lakers’ franchise from 1986-1992 was introduced last and given a huge ovation. Lis was the architect of the franchise that won four BCHL titles in five years, and went to four straight Canadian Junior A championship tournaments, winning it all in 1990 and 1991. He was accompanied to centre ice by the man who coached both of those Centennial Cup titles, former Vernon Essos scoring star and NHL all-star forward Ed Johnstone.
Also recognized by the Vipers were Tom Williamson, Lyle Brewer, Marty Stein, Duane Dennis, former Lakers assistant coach Keith Chase, former Vipers player and coach Jason Williamson, Brad Farynuk, Chad Murray, Chris Crowell, current Vernon assistant coach Colton Sparrow and TJ Dumonceaux.
The Vees have won six straight (14-2-0-0) and sit second in the Interior Conference, one point behind the Salmon Arm Silverbacks. The reeling Vipers (4-9-3-2) have lost six in a row and have just one win in their last 10 games. Vernon is seventh in the conference, six points behind the expansion Cranbrook Bucks and three ahead of the Wenatchee Wild.
Both teams are in action Wednesday, Dec. 1. Penticton travels to Prince George while the Vipers entertain the West Kelowna Warriors, 7 p.m., at Kal Tire Place.
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