Black Press Sports
PENTICTON – Grant Cruikshank sniped the winner and Mat Robson turned aside 28 shots as the Penticton Vees stopped the Vernon Vipers 3-1 Wednesday night at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
It was the Vees’ third win in four B.C. Hockey League games against their Interior Division rival and they improved to 25-5-1 with three new additions on their blue line.
Penticton native Greg Brydon and affiliate players Konsta Jaske of the Summerland Steam and Jackson Van de Leest, 15, of Kelowna who plays for the Okanagan Hockey Academy midget prep White team, bolstered the Vees’ back end.
“I liked that we had basically half a new D-core and a tough situation for them to come in. In my 10 years here, probably the best AP performances I’ve seen,” said Vees’ coach Fred Harbinson, whose team is ranked No. 4 in the Canadian Junior Hockey League. “They hung in there and battled hard.”
The Vipers had chances in the final frame to make things tighter but the Vees did what they needed to in blocking passes, clearing the puck out or sacrificing the body, especially captain Nicholas Jones, who blocked a shot in the final minute.
“I thought our whole group played a real smart game,” said Harbinson, “That’s what we challenged our guys to win battles. I thought we won just as many battles or more than the team that we played against and I thought special teams were good and most importantly we played really smart.”
Vipers’ captain Riley Brandt put himself in position for a shorthanded breakaway, but he was turned away by Robson. Ryan Brushett had a chance on a one-timer which Robson blocked with a right-pad save.
“It wasn’t a bad effort, but it’s tough off the start there getting that penalty (a bench minor to goalie Darion Hanson for staying on the ice a few seconds past the end of warmup) but, I thought it took us a while to get our feet into it,” said Brandt. “Other than that, it wasn’t too bad of a game. Their goalie played well and we just didn’t put the pucks in the net when we needed to.”
The crowd of 2,725 were given one final piece of action to talk about going home. Jones got into a heated exchanged with Cooper Watson, while Ryley Risling and Niko Karamanis rolled around on the ice trying to land shots on each other. Nicholas Rasovic was assessed a misconduct penalty at 19:59 while Jones received two for roughing.
At 6:51 of the second period, Matt Gosiewski intercepted the puck, raced into the Vipers zone and fired a wrist shot with precision high blocker past Hanson, who finished with 20 saves.
It was Gosiewski’s first goal as a Vee in 13 games. The Vipers (15-13-3) responded at 7:30 when Brett Stapley buried a shot from the slot for his sixth of the season.
Near the midway mark of the period, Jimmy Lambert had a partial breakaway going hard to the Vees’ net, but as he got close, Duncan Campbell knocked him off his skates and Lambert went crashing hard into the net.
The intensity amped up in the second period as Risling exchanged words when Rasovic and Gosiewski got involved in a shoving match with Connor Clouston and Austin Adamson. Taylor Ward was involved as well.
“Both teams battle hard against each other,” said Brandt, “It’s been a culture like that for God knows how long. It’s a physical game and it was fun to play in.”
The Vees outshot the Vipers 9-6 in the opening 20 and got goals from Risling, his 10th of the season, two minutes in just as the Vipers’ penalty expired, and Cruikshank. Cruikshank’s 19th tally came on the power play.
ICE CHIPS: Penticton defencemen Jonny Tychonick and Griffin Mendel made the Team West roster. Vernon G Ty Taylor was at the trials but did not get chosen. Team West opens the World Junior A Hockey Challenge Sunday in Bonnyville, Alta. versus Switzerland. Team West has five returnees from last year’s gold-medal lineup…Connor Webb of Vernon (Junior B North Okanagan Knights) backed up Hanson…Vees’ D Mitch Meek, a one-time Viper, returned to the lineup after missing two games with an injury… Injured F Jagger Williamson and D Chris Jandric were Viper scratches…Vernon visits the Salmon Arm Silverbacks tonight and entertain the Smoke Eaters Saturday night…Charlie Combs registered his 32nd and 33rd goals as the Wenatchee Wild ambushed the host Coquitlam Express 12-0 Wednesday night. The Express lost their 14th straight..The Silverbacks clipped the West Kelowna Warriors 4-3 Tuesday night at Royal LePage Place.