A five-minute major led to a six-game sweep for the Penticton Vees.
The defending B.C. Hockey League champions completed a perfect season against the Vipers with a 4-1 win Friday night in Vernon, and officially clinched a playoff spot.
The Vees (34-4-0-1) won all six regular season meetings.
“It’s definitely difficult beating a team six times, especially a divisional rival,” said Penticton forward Nicholas Jones, the game’s second star, who had two assists. “We knew they were going to come out hard. It was a good test for us and obviously somebody we could see in the playoffs in the near future.”
The Vipers (16-22-3-0) played in Merritt Saturday.
All of Friday’s scoring came in the third period in front of a season-high 2,576 fans at Kal Tire Place, the game turning on a five-minute Penticton power play after Vipers captain Colton McCarthy was whistled for a major blow to the head on Vees defenceman David Eccles at 2:11.
The call came after a lengthy discussion among the four on-ice officials.
Eccles left the game and did not return. McCarthy was also given a game misconduct.
“That’s a real tough one as we had some pretty solid efforts all around, we just can’t find ways to stay out of the box and that’s what’s killing us right now,” said Vipers forward and Fortis BC Energy Player of the Game Hunter Zandee, who ignited the partisan home crowd with an unassisted shorthanded goal at 3:54 to open the scoring.
Zandee chipped the puck past a pinching Seamus Donahue at the Vipers’ blueline, raced down the right wing and ripped a wrist shot past Anthony Brodeur stick-side into the top corner for his seventh of the year.
Vernon’s lead lasted all of 20 seconds when Easton Brodzinski took a neat pass from Jones and beat Vipers goalie Andrew Shortridge. Those three players, respectively, were the game’s three stars.
Tyson Jost scored the game-winner 45 seconds later on the same powerplay, taking another nice pass from Jones, cutting to the backhand and putting it past Shortridge.
“There was no panic after they got the shorthanded goal,” said Jones. “We knew we had another three minutes on the powerplay, our powerplay has definitely helped us through the season and it stepped up there.”
The Vees were 2-for-3 with the man advantage, Vernon went 0-for-2.
Owen Sillinger made it 3-1 Penticton at 10:31, the beneficiary of a fortuitous bounce off the end boards following a shot from former Viper Luke Voltin, and Scott Conway added another insurance marker into an empty net at 18:18.
Shortridge finished with 41 saves while Brodeur made 34 stops to pick up his league-leading 20th win of the year for the Vees, who have won four straight.
“After the second period, we were happy with the spot we were in,” said Zandee. “We wanted to stick our game plan, obviously stay out of the box which we didn’t do, just stay on the puck, do the right things, maybe get a lucky bounce.
“Personally, I’d love to have another crack at them. I’ve always loved playing against those guys. It’s fun to beat them, which we couldn’t seem to do. It would have been nice to beat them this year.”
The Vipers could potentially meet the Vees in the first round of the playoffs.
Vernon remains one point back of Trail in the battle for the fourth and final playoff spot as the Smoke Eaters lost 4-1 Friday in Coquitlam.
The Centennials pulled to within four points of the Vipers with a 4-2 win in West Kelowna.
Penticton maintains a 19-point lead on the second-place Salmon Arm Silverbacks, who went to Wenatchee Friday and blanked the Wild 4-0.
The league’s trade deadline wraps up at 4 p.m. today.
The Vipers, if they were to make any moves, have one player card remaining.