Black Press Sports
PENTICTON – Chris Klack says the Penticton Vees used playoff mode to salvage a 3-3 double overtime tie with the Vernon Vipers before 3,009 B.C. Hockey League fans Wednesday night at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
The Interior Division’s top-two teams meet again Friday night at Kal Tire Place and the Vipers will be without speedy winger Hunter Zandee, injured on a low hit by Penticton forward Taylor Ward in the third period.
“I’m disappointed there was no penalty,” said Vernon head coach/GM Mark Ferner. “I’ve sent the video to the league. I’ve watched the video several times and you can call it a clip or a knee. He (Zandee) went to the hospital and he’s out indefinitely with a lower-body injury.”
Klack, named first star, felt the Vees cued their comeback with some post-season intensity and purpose.
“Sometimes things aren’t going to go your way,” said Klack, a Clarkson University Golden Knights’ commit. “I think we deserved a bit better fate than going into the second period down 1-0. They score another two there and we just said, ‘hey, guys we have a choice here.’ We got to believe in each other and that’s what we did. It was a huge point. I think we deserved it. We’re not satisfied with that. We’re proud of the way we worked. That’s the way it’s going to be from now on.”
After allowing three goals on 15 shots, Vees’ goalie Mat Robson turned aside the remaining 32 shots he faced, including six in 10 minutes of overtime.
The rally for the Vees, who are 12th in the Canadian Junior Hockey League rankings, started midway through the second period as Taylor Sanheim, Duncan Campbell and Grant Cruikshank all found net.
Sanheim tallied his fourth of the year with a shot that beat Viper Darion Hanson high glove at 10:36. The crowd went bonkers and Klack said that goal gave them energy.
“The momentum just swung our way,” he said. “All around just a great effort by the guys. We battled hard and won those 50-50 battles.”
Said Ferner, whose Snakes won 4-2 three weeks ago in Penticton: “At times, we looked good, but at times, we were soft on pucks. Give them (Vees) credit, they kept coming. We sat back.”
Campbell finished off a beauty play at 5:53 of the third. After entering the zone, he fed the puck back to Nicholas Jones, who made his way to the middle slot area where he hit Klack with a pass. Klack quickly made a backdoor pass to Campbell for an easy backdoor tap-in.
Two minutes later, Cruikshank took a long feed from Kenny Johnson, raced towards the Vipers net and fired a wrist shot blocker side past Hanson, who finished with 40 saves.
The Snakes opened the scoring 5:20 into the first when Steven Jandric set up Brett Stapley for his 11th of the season. Stapley beat Matt Robson gloveside.
Five minutes into the second period, the Vipers went up 3-0 on goals by Jagger Williamson and Ryan Brushett. Robson had made a huge pad save on Niko Karamanis, but Williamson doubled the Viper lead at 2:34 when he buried a bouncing puck past Robson. Williamson has 10 goals.
The Vipers scored their third goal at 4:45 as the puck went across the crease and Brushett was able to sneak it behind Robson for his fifth.
“We got off to a good start,” said Zandee. “We got a good lead, we just need to learn how to play with the lead and maybe get that fourth goal and it could be a different game.”
Zandee said they played hard against the Vees like they always do, but sloppy play on their part cost them.
“They were beating us to races and we just needed to tighten up a little bit,” said Zandee.
The Vees are 32-10-1-1 and remain 12 points ahead of the Vipers, who are 23-15-4-4. The Vipers took four of seven minor penalties assessed.
Vernon, who has 10 of their final 12 regular-season tilts at home, entertains the Nanaimo Clippers Saturday at 6 p.m. and host the Prince George Spruce Kings in a Sunday matinee (2 p.m.). Nanaimo is 17-23-5-1, while the Spruce Kings are 19-20-3-2.
Ex-Viper Blaine Caton supplied his 11th snipe of the season and added one helper as the Trail Smoke Eaters grounded the host Merritt Centennials 5-3 Wednesday night. The Smokies moved into third place alone, at 22-21-4-0, two points in front of the Cents.
Bo Didur recorded 43 saves, while Ryan Barrow and Gavin Payne each bagged deuces as the Langley Rivermen surprised the league-leading Wenatchee Wild 7-1 in Langley.
■ Team West got a pair of goals, including the winner, from Kale Howarth (Smoke Eaters) to trim Team East 4-3 Wednesday in the Canadian Junior Hockey League Prospects Game at Ed Lumley Arena in Cornwall, Ont., in front of 1,700 fans and more than 150 NHL, NCAA, CIS and CHL scouts.
Marcus Mitchell (Salmon Arm Silverbacks) and Desi Burgart (Surrey Eagles) completed the West offence. Both starter Connor Dochuck (Spruce Grove Saints, AJHL) and Ty Taylor (Vipers) faced 11 shots apiece. Taylor, who allowed two goals, was brilliant down the stretch.
CJHL player of the game honours went to D Matthew Kellenberger (Oakville Blades, OJHL) of Team East and Team West’s Ian Mitchell (Spruce Grove).
Team West captured their seventh President’s Cup Prospects Game title in the 12-year history of the event.